Forbidden Foods and Stinky Cahors #Winophiles

The French Winophiles Tackle Cahors
September is a great time for our French Winophiles group to tackle Cahors, a wine region in the Sud de France. Cahors wines are big, bold, often rustic red wines based on the Malbec grape. They’re taylor made for the cooler days of autumn. Cruise down further in this post to see links to all the Winophiles posts, and if you see this soon enough, join our chat on Saturday, Sept. 8.  Details below!

Find Cahors in this map of the Occitanie region in the South of France. It’s the red region in the upper left section of the map. Courtesy of

Regional Confusion for the Non-Native
The regions of France can be a bit confusing for wine enthusiasts.  There are general geographic regions, then there are wine regions. Sometimes they have the same name, but the wine region may be a small subset. Then there’s the IGP or regional designation. The AOC and AOP specific regions with a specific certified origin product (not just wine). Finally, the grape name is usually not involved in any of this! Can you blame us?

Our subject today is Cahors. Start at the large region of Occitanie, which encompasses several large wine regions. Inside that you’ll find Sud-Ouest. Cahors is a small AOC wine region within Sud-Ouest. Cahors is also located just to the south of the Bordeaux region. The grape? Malbec. Yes, Malbec is not unique to Argentina. While Malbec is grown in a few other places in France, it is most prominent in Cahors, where it is the main grape used in the AOC wines of that name.

Unfortunately, Malbec was particularly vulnerable to the phylloxera pest and was virtually wiped out in all of France in the late 1800’s. The winegrowers in Cahors never gave up, and today the grape is flourishing again. The UIVC, or Union Interprofessional de Vins de Cahors, has a nice website with lots of good information for your exploration. However, the English language tab doesn’t work.  If you use Google Chrome, it will automatically translate the French version.

Chateau Eugenie Cahors "Tradition"

The malbec grape produces a dark wine with rich dark blue and black fruit flavors.

Chateau Eugenie Tradition Cahors AOC 2014 ($13 at Sunfish Cellars or online here)
Chateau Eugenie is a member of the French organization of Vignerons Independant, a group of smaller, non-corporate owned vignerons all around France. Once you get to know the organization, you’ll look for their symbol on French wines in your local wine shop. When you do, you’re supporting the smaller, independent winemaker.  Chateau Eugenie can trace their heritage as winegrowers all the way back to 1470, so you know they have it in their blood. The Tradition Cahors is composed of 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot. Listed at 12.5% abv (alcohol by volume), it’s a bit less ripe and extracted compared to your typical Malbec from Argentina.

My Notes
Eye: Clear, deep ruby with a cool garnet edge. Deeply colored almost to the edge of the wine. Lightly stained legs
Nose: Immediately on opening, you need to be prepared for some serious funk, straight from the barn. Deep dark black fruit, blackberries, ripe blueberries, with mint and eucalyptus behind that. If you enjoy a very earthy wine, you’ll enjoy this. If not, you may want to steer clear as the earthy nose doesn’t disappear after a few hours, it’s here to stay.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ flavor intensity. Medium+ acidity, medium+ tannins, the tannins are smooth and resolved but present. Deep blue fruit, ripe blackberries with a bit of tobacco and leather. Medium finish, with the non-fruit notes lingering.

(click on any photo for a full size slide show, hit “escape” to return)

Forbidden Foods Paired with Cahors
Whenever Julie is out for the evening, I dig out the foods she doesn’t care to eat.  Lamb chops are a favorite of mine and Julie can’t tolerate the aroma, so they are forbidden under normal circumstances. Looking for more non-favorites of my lovely wife, I first thought of figs. I found a recipe for lamb chops with fresh figs, score! Alas, no figs in the local co-op or the grocery store. We only see figs in Minnesota on rare occasions in the late summer, early fall. Racking my brain, I remembered polenta. Perfect!

I keep my lamb chop preparation pretty simple. Salt and pepper and some chopped fresh rosemary before grilling, then just a few minutes on each side to preferred level of doneness. I’m a big fan of Bill Buford’s method of preparing polenta (recipe here) from his excellent narrative in Heat. It’s a little like risotto, where you simply cannot rush the dish, you just need to be patient and wait for it to be ready.

If you’re ok with a wine where the earthy aroma is the first thing you sense, you’ll be very happy with this pairing. Lamb chops have their own distinct aroma and flavor and they seems right at home with the Chateau Eugenie Cahors. Creamy polenta with roasted brussels sprouts and carrots completed the delicious combination. Note that not every Cahors wine will have that distinctly old-world funky nose! Your choice may showcase the deep blue-black fruit notes.

Ready to eat!

Winophiles Uncover the Secrets of Cahors
Want to learn more? Follow the Winophiles Twitter chat on Saturday, September 15, 2018 with our hashtag: #Winophiles.

18 Responses to “Forbidden Foods and Stinky Cahors #Winophiles”
  1. Sounds like a delicious dinner for one!

  2. Amber says:

    Great post, Those lamb chops look like perfection. I’m not a polenta fan either but the presentation is fab! I didn’t know Cahors is made from Malbec.

  3. culinarycam says:

    Oh, my goodness! Lamb and figs!?!? You can come cook at my house anytime, Jeff. I laughed when I realized to what your title referred. I have forbidden foods at my house, too. Darn picky spouses. Gotta love ’em, right?

  4. Odd Bacchus says:

    Ah, I wish I’d visited Château Eugénie while I was in Cahors! I love a wine with deep fruit, earth, tobacco and leather.

  5. wendyklik says:

    I think we should get together. My husband and your wife have the same dislikes in food and you and I have the same likes.

  6. Payal says:

    The lamb chops, polenta, and the grilled vegetables sound terrific, especially with the Cahors malbec! And the story made me chuckle 🙂

  7. I will be on Julie’s side here, I can’t do lamb (it’s about eating baby animals, not the smell, I just can’t do it) but this does look absolutely delicious. I am inclined to try this with another chop of sorts. And thank you for the introduction to Vignerons Independent! I will be researching and then searching out their labels. Supporting the little guys is always the way to go in my book!

  8. lizbarrett says:

    I love that you made a divine meal for yourself composed of things your wife doesn’t like – and it sounds like all those things went great with smelly Cahors! I also was put off a bit by the nose on the Cahors I bought but after tasting it, I tolerated the stink b/c it tasted great!

  9. Jill Barth says:

    The atmosphere of this post feels so very Autumn! Nicely done — I’m glad we had the chance to cover Cahors, I think it is relevant at this time for the region as well as the consumer perception of Malbec and Argentina — new and old world seem to be finding common ground. Thank you for the post!

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