The Buyer was on the road again and visited Cahors, home of Malbec, where we discovered a winemaker, Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux, who is striving for elegance in his red wines at two domaines – Château de Mercues and Chateau de Haute-Serre. Not only is Vigouroux making Malbecs of elegance, power and distinction but there is one that will become a real head-turner.
The Château de Haute-Serre 2010 is an outstanding example of how good Malbec from Cahors can be. Just one of many impressive Malbecs from winemaker Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux.
Power and elegance are characteristics that Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux says he is striving for in his red wines.
The two are not always the most compatible bedfellows, especially in Cahors, given its reputation for inky blockbusters, but Vigouroux consistently carries it off with his Malbecs from Château de Mercues and Chateau de Haute-Serre.
And the good news is that British on-trade and consumers alike should find the wines easier to source as Vigouroux is hoping to increase his exports to the UK from 2-3% per annum of his production to 5-10%.
When Vigouroux’s father, Georges, authorised his son in 1990 to make the estate’s wines for the first time, he was taking a chance, according to Bertrand-Gabriel.
“1988 was my first vintage,” he told The Buyer. “After a good ’89 and an experimental tank, my father told me to go ahead and make the ’90. It was quite dangerous for him to give me all the cellar but I won an award for my Mercues Malbec at the Concours General de Paris. We did not know until we opened the paper one Sunday morning and saw the wine had got a gold medal.”
Your correspondent was lucky enough to drink some of the 1990 over dinner at the Château de Mercues on a visit to Cahors in mid-October. It showed brilliantly, and could easily have been mistaken for a top Right Bank claret of that year. It was indeed powerful yet elegant, with its tannins seamlessly melded and its fruit still vibrant.
“Elegance is of primordial importance to me,” Vigorous said. “More and more producers in the Cahors appellation are aiming for this style. I like balance, of course, but the dark colour and high tannins are still quintessentially Cahors. The Argentinians have helped raise the profile of Malbec. Cahors couldn’t have done it on its own. I think Malbec is a varietal people like.”
The Château de Mercues 2009 was, Vigouroux declared, “the epitome of what Cahors can be. I want people to say ‘Wow’ when this is opened.” It was hard not to do so – the wine’s power and elegance had been complemented by soft and superbly integrated tannins, as well as tremendous concentration.” Low-yielding vines yield provide 35 hl/ha.
Vigouroux and his family choose not to live in the Château de Mercues, now a five-star hotel located just outside Cahors with magnificent views over the River Lot, but, instead, 20km south-east of Cahors at Haute-Serre. Vines there enjoy not just higher altitude but an excellent south-facing aspect on argilo-calcaire soils.
The Château de Haute-Serre 2010 is an outstanding example of how good Malbec from this part of France can be. Gorgeous fruit (black mainly but some red), silky tannins, massive concentration, fabulous intensity of flavour and exceptional length were in evidence. It is still too young, but will be a head-turner in a few years.
Vigouroux’s Geron Dadine label (named after the 14th century owner of Haute-Serre) is another top-class single varietal Malbec (the vines being on Kimmeridgian clay). The 2014 was extremely dark in colour, being long and voluptuous. The depth of violet fruit was extremely marked. Once again, the tannins were silky (“what I strive for,” added Vigouroux).
“My main worry here is over-extracting: I want elegance,” he stressed.
Despite the imposing colour and high abv (15%), he had managed not to over-extract. Indeed, this is one of Vigouroux’s hallmarks.
Clearly, his sharing of knowledge with Paul Hobbs, the well-known Californian winemaker, with whom he has produced a joint label, Crocus, has reaped benefits. For Vigouroux is crafting some beautifully balanced wines not just of power and elegance but real distinction.