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Thursday 5 June 2014

Cahors: One of France's best-kept wine region secrets

So you've done Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy and still want more. How about a French wine region that specialises in just one grape variety: malbec. 
Pretty Cahors in the Quercy district, is the capital of the Lot department, famous for the ‘black’ malbec wines that have been grown in the region since the Middle Ages.

It dubs itself the global ‘Capital of Malbec’ and Château de Haute-Serre and Château de Lagrezette are two local producers who welcome visitors. 

Lagrezette has a tasting facility right on the riverbank in Cahors, while Haute-Serre offers tastings (and has an on-site restaurant) at nearby Cieurac.

The medieval quarter of Cahors, with its many narrow streets and alleyways and the unique 14th-century fortified Valentré bridge, is popular with history buffs and it hosts a major blues music festival each July. 

Surrounded on three sides by the River Lot, Cahors was founded in the 1st century BC and was once home to a massive Roman amphitheatre. Pope John XXII, who was born Jacques Duèze, was born in Cahors in 1249.

The Valentre Bridge, the symbol of the town, was completed in 1378 after 70 years of work. The Tourist Office offers walking tours that take it in, along with the Saint-Etienne Cathedral, a national monument surrounded by lovely gardens, that dates back to the 12th century.

There is, inevitably, a petit train (May to September), while street markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the shadows of the cathedral – and are considered one of the best country markets in France, which is no mean feat. Many sell local wine, a perfect match with regional charcuterie.

The Grand Hotel Terminus, near the railway station, offers rooms from 70-160€ and has free wi-fi in public areas. It is also home to the upmarket Le Balandre, regarded as Cahors’ finest dining room, where young chef Alexandre Marre is building quiet a reputation. 

We also much enjoyed the atmospheric Auberge de Vieux Cahors (try the duck foie gras tart or the scallop salad), while Le Marche comes highly recommended and Le Vinois is surrounded by vines. 

Qantas Airways and its partner Emirates offer access to 33 European destinations, including daily A380 flights to Paris and Rome. 

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