Lot’s little-known vineyards

Quercy, Lot © T.Joly
If you like to discover wines no one has heard about, or very few people only, then Lot is a destination made for you. All around this south western department of France, winemakers revive vineyards sunk into oblivion after phylloxera destroyed them at the end of the 19th century.

[ Practical ]

Getting there
- By road
Towns from Lot are located between 500 and 600 km from Paris and you can reach this department by autoroutes A6b, A10, A71 and A20.
- By train
Teoz trains from Paris Austerlitz to Brive-la-Gaillarde, just north of Lot, and to Cahors. The journey takes from 4 h hours 30 mn to 5 hours 30 mn.
- By plane
Airlinair flights from Paris Orly to Brive-la-Gaillarde.
Getting around
It’s necessary to have a car to get to the vineyards.
Beau Site Notre Dame, in Rocamadour.
Pont de l’Ouysse, in Lacave.
La Bouriane, in Gourdon.
Domaine de Borie (B&B), in Bretenoux.
Mas Azémar (B&B), in Mercues, near Cahors.
Pont de l’Ouysse, in Lacave.
L’O à la Bouche, in Cahors.
Table de Haute-Serre, near Cahors.
Le Croque Note, in Gourdon.
- Rocamadour
Tel : 0678556568
- Coteaux de Glanes
Tel : 0565397342
- Coteaux du Quercy
Tel : 0565635966
- Vin de Grenier
Tel : 0565413969
Lot Tourisme
Tel : 0565350709
You might have heard of Rocamadour. Topped by a castle, this fortified village nested at the foot of a cliff is indeed one of the most picturesque and photogenic in France. Located along one of the ways leading to Saint James of Compostela, it also boasts a beautiful medieval abbey attracting pilgrims since the 11th century. But, have you ever tasted the red and rose wines produced on the surrounding hillsides ?..

Rocamadour © T.Joly
 First harvest in 2006
Probably not as the present vines have only been planted in 2003 and the first bottles marketed in 2006. Moreover, these wines can’t be called “Rocamadour” because the name is since many years used as a brand for a goat cheese protected by an AOC. So, they are labelled with the status IGP “Vins de pays du Lot”. Besides, the vineyard covering only 8 ha - against 200 ha at the end of the 19th century - the production is limited to around 41 000 bottles a year. Carried out by a cooperative grouping together 7 members, it consists for bit more than a quarter of a rosé made of gamay grapes. It is named Amadour, like the best rouge, a blend of 70% merlot and 30% malbec grapes processed in stainless tank that can age for five years. Another red called Marcaillou is also produced but has to be drunk within two ears.

Rocamadour © T.Joly
 Wine and local specialties
Sold less than €5 a bottle, these wines are only available in few shops of the village, in the Leclerc supermarkets of neighbouring towns (Saint-Céré, Gramat, Souillac,..) and at the farm of the three members of the cooperative where find other local specialities. The Ferme des Campagnes, that also produces foie gras, ducks and local dishes. The Ferme de Raillette, in Alvignac, that sells walnuts during the harvest period. The Ferme des Bories, that produces several cheeses including the Rocamadour.
At the same time, a winemaker from Cahors, Dominique Perrin, has since 2001 also developed a 10 ha vineyard in the area, the Domaine Lafage Rocamadour where he produces excellent 100% viognier and 100% chardonnay white wines. Sold €150 for 6 bottles, they are only available on internet or at his estate near Cahors, the Chateau Lagrézette.

Gourdon © Jérôme Morel
 A unique wine
A little bit further west, near the town of Gourdon, known for its picturesque old district, the production of quality wines resumed thanks to the willpower of a single man : Christian Roch. Previously a cook, he decided to take the plunge in 1997 with one idea in mind : make a wine with no equivalent in the Lot department. So, he searched for an original grape variety and decided to choose the liliorila he planted on 1 ha. Also called Fleur de Mai, it’s a cross of chardonnay and baroque created in the 50s. He also took over a half ha vineyard planted with local red grape varieties.
Besides, the winemaking process is very particular too. Grapes are hand picked up and placed in cases without touching each other. Then, they are stored in a poly tunnel and turned over each day in order to evenly dry.

Christian Roch © T.Joly
 Pairing with foie gras
Lastly, after two months they are gently pressed, then the juice is turned into wine and aged in acacia casks for a year. It gives sweet wines that are perfect as an aperitif and pair well with foie gras, acid fruits pies, cheeses like Roquefort and Rocamadour. The red also pairs well with chocolate. Produced in a similar way to straw wines, they can’t be labelled with this appellation reserved to some areas. So, Christian Roch decided to call them Vin de Grenier (Attic Wine) to remind the narrowness of the production that is limited to four thousands 50 cl bottles of white and two thousands of red. Priced at €12, they are only sold in some neighbouring supermarkets and by Christian Roch.

Bretenoux © Jérôme Morel
 Winemakers and farmers
Also in the north of the department, the Coteaux de Glanes wines are barely better known even if they have a longer history. It’s indeed in the 70s that a group of seven farmers decided to bring back to life this vineyard that covered 150 ha in the late 19th century. Forty years later, their sons grow 36 ha of vines located on the territory of the villages of Glanes and Bretenoux, the latest being one of the most beautiful and largest bastides in Southwestern France. Cattle farmers and walnuts producers as well as winemakers, they work together within the frame of a cooperative producing wines of all three colours. An 80% gamay – 20% merlot fruity rosé. A light and easy to drink red made from 50% merlot, 35% gamay and 15% ségalin. Two 100% merlot reds including one aged in oak casks that develop black fruits aromas and have more structure, power and complexity. And a 100% chenin blanc white launched in 2009 that is so good that all bottled are sold out within 6 month because it counts for only 5% of the 300 000 bottles produced every year.

Lot © Jérôme Morel
 South of Lot
Sold from €4 to €8 a bottle, these wines are available at all winemaker estates as well as in the main towns of the Lot and neighbouring departments.
South of Cahors, the Coteaux du Quercy VDQS appellation is slightly better known and its reputation is probably going to grow as it should be awarder the AOC status quite soon. Covering around 400 ha, the vineyard spans over southern Lot and northern Tarn-et-Garonne, a sector where winemakers labelled their wines “Cahors” before the arrival of phylloxera. This region is made up of green hills and valleys as well as of limestone plateaux whose white stones were used to build the fortified villages, the windmills and the farms dotting the landscapes. Hence its name : Quercy blanc. The main grape variety of the appellation is cabernet franc that must count from 40% to 60% in the wine composition. Other cultivated varieties are merlot, auxerois, tannat and gamay but each one must not exceed 20%. of the total.

Domaine de la Garde © T.Joly
 Excellent white wines
This blend gives wines developing red fruits aromas with pepper and spice notes that reach their fullness around the fifth year. As to the rosés, they are fruity and tangy. The production comes from two cooperatives and around twenty winemakers and one of the best place to taste these wines in Lot is the Domaine de la Garde, in Labastide-Marrnhac where they cost around €6-7 a bottle. The estate’s old cellar is also worth a look.
Lastly, the production area of the worldwide known Cahors wine boasts hidden treasures too. Indeed, the AOC status only applies to red wines but several winemakers also produce excellent white wines sold under the IGP “Vins de Pays du Lot” status. Taste the Albestos from Château de Haute-Serre, l’Esprit de Latuc from Domaine Latuc or the Blanc des Croisille from Château Les Croisille, you won’t be disappointed.

July 09, 2011
Thierry Joly