Chateau du Cedre Cahors, South West France.
Château du Cèdre is widely regarded as the leading estate in Cahors. Brothers Pascal and Jean-Marc Verhaeghe, both qualified oenologists, can trace its history back to their grandfather Léon who left his native Flanders to settle in south-west France in the early 1900s. In due course Léon’s son Charles and his wife Marie-Thérèse started a mixed farm in 1958 and began planting one hectare of vines in three different plots every year.
Today, Château du Cèdre comprises 27ha of vineyards planted at 4000-5500 vines per hectare on some of the most prized terroirs in Cahors, most notably the famous troisième terrasses. In keeping with the long history of Cahors, 90% of the vineyard is planted to Malbec (known locally as both Cot and Auxerrois), with 5% Merlot (now known to be a half-sibling of Malbec) and 5% Tannat. There is also 1ha of Viognier and a little of the Bordeaux whites, Sémillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc.
After a disastrous hail storm in 1995, the brothers decided to re-evaluate their mode of operation in the vineyard, with a goal of bringing to an end the long term use of synthetic chemicals that had plagued the entire world of wine for 50 years (and had directly contributed to the untimely death of the brothers’ father Charles). By 2002 they had eliminated all chemicals from the estate and by 2012 Château du Cèdre was certified organic.
‘The 24-ha estate of Pascal and Jean-Marie Verhaeghe has done as much as any to improve the recent quality of Cahors and provide the challenge it should be giving to the most profound Malbecs of Argentina – and some of the other great wines of France. Not only does the Domaine lead by example, but Pascal Verhaeghe has also been the driving force behind the Cahors “Quality Charter”.’
Andrew Jefford, The New France.
‘The sheer number of good producers now makes Cahors one of the most reliable red-wine appellations in France.’
Tom Stephenson, The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia.
NEW WINES – CHATEAU DE CEDRE EXTRA LIBRE (ZERO ADDED SULPHUR)
Following on from the conversion to organic viticulture, it was only natural that Pascal and Jean-Marc would continue on a path towards reducing any additives in the wines. All the wines are now fermented with indigenous yeasts and sulphur additions are kept to an absolute minimum. Indeed even the ‘regular’ Château du Cèdre Cahors today contains as little as 3-5ppm free SO2 and only 30ppm total.
In 2014 they took this one step further, with the creation of the Extra Libre range: Vins Naturels with no added SO2 at all. There are three wines in the range, each a direct parallel to a ‘regular’ estate wine, respectively the Château du Cèdre Cahors, Le Cèdre and GC.
Drawing on their shared research into lees contact with Luc de Conti in Bergerac, the brothers make each wine from the same parcels of fruit as the regular wines, simply without sulphur and then mature them on lees in large oak casks for 12 months, 18 months and 24 months respectively. The results are a triumph of organic viticulture, pristine fruit and intelligent winemaking.
‘When we first started working with lees a decade or more ago we had typically 50mm or more of lees and we would get quite a bit of reduction. Today with healthier fruit from organics, we start with less than 30mm of lees, but after 18-24 months we have only 1mm of lees remaining and no reduction at all. Amazingly, the lees have been assimilated back into the wine.’ Pascal Verhaeghe, November 2017.
WINE REVIEWS AND TASTING NOTES
CHATEAU DE CEDRE EXTRA LIBRE
2016 Château du Cèdre Cahors Extra Libre
‘A fine perfume of cassis, blackberries and blueberries mixed with yellow peach and mango. A touch of iris and daffodil flowers gives the wine an elegant, floral character. On the palate, it is a true delicacy: Fresh fruit juice from the nose-scented fruits, enriched with lemon peel and white pepper. Playful tannins make the fruits even crisper, changing the palate into an explosion of fresh fruits, quenching the thirst of the deeply impressed taste buds. An extremely lively wine, whose delicate fruit immediately convinces.’ In Vino Veritas Belgium, January 2018.
2015 Château du Cèdre Cahors Extra Libre Le Cèdre
‘On the nose, fresh bread, with delicate marmalade of raspberries, cassis and strawberries, still refined by some floral scent. Spicy aromas of black pepper, cardamom and anise complete the picture. The palate is dense, young tannins in the foreground, but surrounded by fresh, soft juiciness. Still a bit closed, the wine already offers a clear sketch of its complexity.’ In Vino Veritas Belgium, January 2018.
CHATEAU DE CEDRE REGIONAL
2016 Château du Cèdre Marcel Malbec IGP Comté Tolosan (Screwcap)
100% Malbec from purchased fruit grown on the 1st and 2nd terraces close to the river. The fruit is 100% de-stemmed and crushed, then the juice given a 3-4 day cold soak, to extract colour and a little tannin, before being pressed and cool-fermented in stainless steel. Matured in concrete tanks for 6-8 months.
‘This shows the soft, juicy side of Malbec. No serious tannins here, just red berry fruit and fine acidity. That means it’s ready to drink this winter.’ 86 points, Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast, December 2017. Wine Enthusiast Best Buy.
2015 Château du Cèdre Cahors Héritage (Screwcap)
Made from a blend of 95% Malbec and 5% Merlot, including fruit grown by local producers that Pascal consults to. About 70% is lighter and finer material from the limestone plateau (the causses) and 30% richer and denser fruit from the iron-rich gravelly terraces of the Lot River valley. The vines average 25-30 years and about 85% of the fruit is currently certified organic, with one grower at year 2 in conversion.
Fermented for a total of 20 days, with regular punch-downs for the first 3 or 4 days only. Malolactic conversion is carried out in tank, then the wine is matured for 18 months in 90% concrete tanks, with 10% aged in 2 year-old barrels. 2015 was an excellent vintage, mostly sunny and dry and not too warm. The fruit was harvested from 24th September in pristine condition.
‘This is the young fruity wine from the Cèdre estate that also produces some of the most serious wines in Cahors. It is soft, packed with black fruits and with layers of spicy acidity. There is just a touch of tannin, which will make the wine a great barbecue accompaniment this summer.’ 86 points, Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast, July 2017.
CHATEAU DE CEDRE ESTATE
2014 Château du Cèdre Cahors
90% Malbec, 5% Merlot and 5% Tannat from certified organic estate vineyards. 100% de-stemmed and fermented for 30 days with daily punch-downs for the first few days. Malolactic conversion occurs in barrel and the wine is matured for 24 months in 25% new French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, with minimal sulphur.
‘This wine is ripe in spicy black-currant aromas on the nose and intense in juicy black fruit on the dense palate. The rich, generous layers of fruit perfectly balance the tannins that build up to a harmonious whole. Still young, it will be best from 2019.’ 93 points, Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast, December 2017. #57 Wine Enthusiast 2017 Top 100.
CHATEAU DE CEDRE PRESTIGE
2014 Château du Cèdre Cahors Le Cèdre
100% Malbec from 30-50 year-old vines located on the prized 3ème terrasses and cropped at yields of less than 20hl/ha. 100% de-stemmed and fermented for 40 days with daily punch-downs for the first few days. Malolactic conversion occurs in barrel and the wine was matured on fine lees for 26 months in two-thirds new large format oak (pictured above) and one-third seasoned barriques. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, with minimal sulphur.
‘Organically grown grapes go into this very fine wine. Its structure and balance confirm that it’s still young, bursting with juicy ripe berry fruit and with firm background tannins. Its great fruitiness is contrasted with the strength of those tannins and with its concentration. Drink from 2020.’ 94 points, Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast, December 2017.
2014 Château du Cèdre Cahors GC
100% Malbec from 50-67 year-old vines located on the prized 3ieme terrasses and cropped at yields of only about 15hl/ha (just 3 bunches per vine). 100% de-stemmed and fermented for 40 days in open-top, 500 litre demi-muids, with daily punch-downs for the first few days. Malolactic conversion occurs in these same barrels, followed by 30 months maturation on fine lees. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, with minimal sulphur.
‘This top wine from a major Cahors estate shows the potential of great Malbec. With its dense tannins, rich black fruit flavors, acidity and restrained power, it is a major force. Even with all its weight, it’s stylish, complex and ageworthy wine. Drink from 2021.’ 95 points, Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast, December 2017.
‘It’s a sleek panther of a red, mouthwatering, silky, suave and polished yet with a warm country soul. Initially it invites you in with aromas and flavors of sweet spices – primarily cinnamon and mace – and light balsamic notes as well as the accents of oak in the vanilla range. It’s surprisingly fresh for a red this rich, with appetizing bitter undertones and bass notes of eau de vie de quetsch. As the wine aerates, flavors of prune, black olive and black cherry emerge.’ Jacqueline Freidrich on the 2000 vintage, October 2007.
CHATEAU DE CEDRE FORTIFIED
2011 Château du Cèdre Vin de Liqueur 500ml
100% Malbec made from late harvest grapes, foot-trodden in three parcels in the Portuguese manner. Each parcel is fermented separately and then fortified to arrest the fermentation at three different times: at specific gravities of 1.090, 1.060 and 1.030. The three batches are then blended to give a residual sugar of about 100g/l and matured in seasoned 500 litre demi-muids for 12 months.
‘This is as close as Malbec gets to a Port-style wine. It is rich, lightly nutty and well balanced between sweet black fruits and acidity, with firmer tannins that promise aging. Drink at the end of a meal, like a vintage Port.’ 88 points, Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast, November 2014.
WINE REVIEWS AND TASTING NOTES – PRIOR VINTAGES
CHATEAU DE CEDRE PRESTIGE
2014 Château du Cèdre Cahors Le Cèdre
‘One of the special cuvées from du Cèdre, this impressive wine combines intense black fruit freshness with a powerful structure. It is full of cidity, ripe fruits and a core that is immense. It deserves considerable aging and certainly should not be drunk before 2020.’ 95 points, Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast, August 2015.
2014 Château du Cèdre Cahors GC
‘Very rich and solid, this is a wood-laden wine with equally powerful fruit. Acidity is strongly present to keep the jammy black fruits fresh, while the tannins are big, concentrated and still young. The wine needs aging, so drink after 2018.’ 93 points, Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast, June 2014.