DOMAINE DE VINSSOU
UN CAHORS ARTISAN, PUR MALBEC, PUR PLAISIR!
Occasionally, when visiting wineries, one discovers a gem! It may be a special wine; or a glorious location; a beautiful building; wonderful, passionate and committed people; and more. Sometimes, one, several or all of these Holy-Grail-style finds are made in the most unlikely places. Once in a while, one has ‘a feeling’ before arrival that one is about to experience something exceptional.
Perhaps it’s a sixth sense that we wine-types have? More likely, it’s probably just luck, but it’s definitely true that an atmosphere of anticipation was building in the car as we wound our way around the beautiful, tree and fruit bush lined roads of the countryside near where we were staying recently in the Cahors, Le Lot, France, area. The fact that our GPS couldn’t locate our destination added to the air of exciting mystery.
Located in an area containing an abundance of magnificent Chateaux and truly beautiful architecture, Domaine De Vinssou, Mercues, Le Lot, France, (firstname.lastname@example.org), from the outside, is perhaps the most unprepossessing of all the wineries I have ever visited. Yet, before one even enters the converted byre, which now serves as their tasting room, an undeniable bucolic charm oozes out of the plaster that holds together the ancient stone, old brick, antique timber and modern breeze-block. There’s even a friendly sheepdog, to complete the picture!
Inside, the rusticity (which includes the manger where the cows used to eat during bad weather) is complemented by artwork representing, in colour and style, the various stages of fermentation as well as decorated bottles which have been cleverly crafted into light-shades. Like joint owner and winemaker Isabelle, it’s all thoroughly enchanting!
I became a fan of Cahors wine during my two weeks there. Although other varieties are permitted, it’s Malbec that rules the roost here. Once, the ‘black’ Malbec wines of Cahors were more highly praised that those of Bordeaux, with the English buying as many as they could.
However, things became (and stayed for a while!) tough for producers when the Hundred Years War started, and when hostilities were ended they didn’t ever reclaim the market share they’d once enjoyed. Plus, at the end of the 20th Century the dreadful wine pest, Phyloxera, decimated all the vineyards and it looked like curtains for Cahors.
Indeed, several Vignerons gathered together as many of the young, as yet unplanted and therefore Phyloxera-free vines, and sailed for foreign parts. Guess where? Yes, to Argentina, where Malbec was adopted and over the decades became synonymous with top Argentinian wines!
Others stayed home. Another generation of winemakers was born, the Phyloxera problem was defeated (by grafting Malbec on to American rootstock, resistant to the pest) and Cahors wine started again. However, since the hundred Years War, and in the meantime, Bordeaux, Burgundy had become famous and Cahors has never regained the ground it lost. Yet! AOC Cahors wine rocks!
And it’s not just me who says so, after just a measly two weeks there! In 2013 Mr. Anthony Rose MW (Master of Wine) was invited to Cahors to taste lots of the famous ‘Black Wine’ – I’ve read his report from the time, and he was indeed impressed. He tasted many wines from different producers, waxing lyrical about several, including – yes, you’ve guessed again, Domaine De Vinssou!
I don’t remember the details, but I think Mr. Rose attended a tasting where many producers presented their wines. I’m sure he also visited some of the great Chateaux whose wines he’d tasted, but I doubt he had the time to visit all the small scale producers. And if he did, I doubt he even found Vinssou. A shame, as I’m certain that like me, he would have been similarly charmed!
His notes in 2013 praised the 2009 Falhial, giving it 90 out of 100 points, with the 2010 Falhial coming a very close second, with 89! He also said that he felt both wines were drinking very well but were also ‘vin de guard’, wines to lay down for further development. Now, I’m not putting myself in the place of an MW, but it seemed an ideal opportunity for me to assess the progress of these two wines, following his favourable comments.
However, our host, Isabelle, and later, the other half of the team, her husband, who had been out selling the wines (in fact he almost sold out!) on a local market, would have none of that – not just two wines, mon ami, you must try several! Well, it would have been dreadfully rude to resist!
There are two Malbec Rosé wines made, though as this is not permitted according to AOC Cahors rules (why do we persist with all these regulations in Europe?!), so these wines must be classed simply as Vin de Table. However, regular readers will know that here in Spain, Vino de la Mesa, can be excellent, it just can’t be labelled a DO wine as it infringes the (archaic?) rules. It’s the same en France.
The dry rosé wasn’t chilled – you must take a bottle away with you, Monsieur! The off-dry was perfectly cold and a real treat – it was 30º outside. There’s a certain sweetness, but it’s not a ‘sweet’ wine. You’ll find (and I do urge you to take a trip there!) ripe redcurrant and rich red cherry on the palte, plus a rose-hip nose which follows through as you swallow. Perfect for those who like a rosado aperitif in the Summer!
Domaine de Vinssou also makes a red Vin du Pays du Lot wine. Bottled in Burgundy style bottles it looks impressive. It’s made with Merlot – there’s good fruit, some plum and a light note of damson, with a little minty finish. A wine which again would be refreshing chilled – as an aperitif or to drink later. Some red wines are lovely when chilled!
Falhial 2010 (just 12·80€!) is 100% Malbec from vines that have been happily growing around the property for over 50 years. Even though with such age, vines do not produce a lot of grapes, Isabelle still performs a ‘green harvest’ in July, and this after several of the flowers (which in time morph into grapes) were cut off in the Spring!
There is very good blackcurrant fruit to the fore – all these wines are fruit driven, it’s the house-style, and I love it! Very dark in colour, opaque in fact, there is some vegetal fennel on the nose as well as a flash of Violets and a little menthol note. On the long finish the brambly fruit is accompanied by the typical Cahors Malbec liquorice flavour. Fresh acidity and mature tannin, along with 14·5% abv will ensure that the wine lasts at least another five years.
Now here’s a surprise(?) for you – this wine, nor any of the others, including the aged 1999 we tried later, is not aged in oak. All the Vinssou wines are made and aged in the traditional way – in lined, cement tanks of at least 40 years of age! Therefore what you have with these wines is a pure, unadulterated expression of the fruit, Malbec, and nothing else!
Falhial 2009 has developed well, as Anthony Rose, predicted, and as Isabelle tells me that her wines are happy to age for more than 10 years, I’m sure there is plenty of life left yet. It’s still fresh, and yet elegant too. Serve this wine with dinner and your guests will be most impressed. The fruit is still to the fore – well it would be, here, of course. There’s a little more liquorice with a faint whiff of tar, but the finish is all fruity elegance.
Our final two wines were older vintages of the same wine, under different labels. The 2004, with limited stocks was lighter in colour, naturally after eleven years in bottle! Elegance for sure, yet still the characteristic fruit delivery, a slight dark red rose fragrance, and a more pronounced liquorice flavoured finish. After time in the glass, a curious, and enchanting faint raison aroma, with memmories of Christmas Cake appeared!
The 1999, practically sold out, is less powerful, though still alive with less pronounced fruit flavours, and exuding grace and elegance!
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