The Story of Cahors Wines

One of the oldest wines in Europe

The conquests of the Roman Empire brought grape vines to the Quercy region over 2,000 years ago. The resulting wines rapidly became so good as to damage Italian wine production. In 92 A.D., the emperor ordered the Cahors vines pulled up, but he was not obeyed.

An exporting pioneer

In 1152, the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine with Henry Plantagenet, the future king of England, encouraged the development of winegrowing in Southwest France, especially in Cahors. The production of “The Black Wine of Cahors”, extremely appreciated by the British, grew considerably during this period. Henry III of England “enjoined in 1225 the authorities of Bordeaux not to stop nor to impose a tax whatsoever on the wines that the merchants from Cahors, under his protection, were bringing to Gironde” (“Patent Rolls of the Reign of Henry III. A.D. 1216-1225,” p.528). In addition, the pilgrims of Santiago de Compostela would enjoy the wine of Cahors during their stopovers at Rocamadour, and contributed to its renown throughout France and elsewhere. Cahors wine sales reached their apogee in 1310 with a production of 850,000 hl, representing 50% of exports leaving from the port of Bordeaux (Study on Cahors Winegrowing Terroirs by the Association d’Expérimentation de la Ferme Départementale d’Anglars-Juillac).

Rivalry with Bordeaux

Unfortunately, this long period of prosperity came to an end with the One Hundred Years War. Cahors wines were discriminated against in favor of wines from the Gironde until the 18th Century. However, Cahors remained a renowned wine, appreciated by the likes of François I, who asked for a vine bearing “Cahors” grapes to be planted at Fontainebleau, and Peter the Great of Russia, who imposed it upon the Orthodox Church.

Fall from grace

The region represented some 58,000 ha in 1866 (Study on Cahors Winegrowing Terroirs by the Association d’Expérimentation de la Ferme Départementale d’Anglars-Juillac). But starting in 1865, a microscopic aphid, phylloxera, infested all of France’s growing regions within less than twelve years, destroying the entire wine region of Cahors.

Rebirth

Despite this disaster, the wine sector survived, but the hybrid grape varieties that were planted only produced pale copies of the original Cahors wines. Fortunately, in 1947, a group of winegrowers decided to establish the Parnac Cooperative Winery with the objective of restoring the Malbec variety, the grape originally used to produce Cahors. Seedlings were acquired from an estate in Bordeaux, and the current vineyards originate from these plants. As a result of these efforts, the wine of Cahors was promoted to V.D.Q.S. (Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure) in 1951. Alas, the frost of 1956 once again ruined many winegrowers in the area. But none of them despaired and all got quickly back to work, founding the Cahors Wine Brotherhood along the way in 1964. Finally, in 1971, Cahors’s mere 440 ha of vineyards were elevated to the prestigious rank of Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. Presently, the AOC Cahors includes some 4,500 ha.

The Story of Chateau du Cayrou

The origins

Mentioned from the 14th century, Cayrou belongs to Guiscard, Lords of the Coste from Grézels, until 1659; their blazon is registered on the main facade. The term "Cayrou" means both the heaps of stones in the Limestone plateaus, the gravel and pebbles of the ancient alluvial terraces at the origin of this gravely soil.

The clergy

From 1659 until the Revolution, the Castle of Cayrou is the property of the regular canons of Saint Augustin in Cahors. The castle tower of the castle could have been used to store the taxes for the Bishop of Cahors.

In 1791, the domain of Cayrou is seized from the Clergy and sold as national property to a merchant of wines of Bordeaux.

The good time

In 1830, it is acquired by Eugène Lafon, rich landowner. His grandson Eugène Delard lives there until 1930. "Prince of letters and perfect gentleman", he receives numerous hosts in an "Epicurean" atmosphere with a lot of "spare time" : " the croquet and the pious exercises remain essentially optional ".

The war

In 1940, Raoul Chambert, entrepreneur of Nancy, fleeing the occupant, stops in Cahors and acquires the Castle. His son Jacques, officer, just escapes an arrest in 1944 by crossing the Lot. Of this period, it is necessary to indicate October 12th, 1943: this day was held in Cayrou a meeting of the organization of the resistance of the Army (O.R.A) ; five of the participants were arrested and deported. A memorial stone commemorates this event.

The revival

In 1971, the Jouffreau family, winegrower in Prayssac for 7 centuries, is seduced by the potential of the ground of gravels. It develops the current estate by replanting 30 hectares of vines.

Since 2009, the Castle of Cayrou belongs to the family Georges Douin, native of Luzech, who spent all its career with Renault and was elected " Man of the year " in 2004 by Le Journal de l’Automobile.

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