Bringing Home Cahors with Clos d'Audhuy (#Winophiles)


Clos d’Audhuy was one of my favorite stops on my trip to Cahors in southwestern France last fall. 



Map courtesy of Wine.com

My visit to this winery was initially based on a completely impartial and unbiased selection on my part. The majority of winery visits made on this press trip were based on preferences emerging from a big blind tasting of the region’s wines. The visit further solidified it as one of my favorites. 




Winemaker and owner Benoit Aymard was so personable on my visit that I really couldn’t help but like his wines all the more for it. He’s fairly young, and while his father and grandfather were growers, his winery is pretty new. He was in his third year when we visited, and his winery facilities had just recently been built (actually, sections were still in progress).



On our visit, he came across as very down to earth. He has 12 hectares of land and he intends to stay small. He’s a dad with young kids and described to us that he wants his winery to remain at a size where he could really maintain his strict quality standards, while still leaving him time to spend with his family. Full respect.




His land is in the town of Lacapelle-Cabanac and had belonged to his family. In 2014, he had the opportunity to take over a piece and he jumped on it. When he took over the vineyards, he decided to rip up a lot of the vines and replaced them with what he considers to be a better clone of Malbec, planted at high densities. In addition to Malbec, he has also planted some Sauvignon Blanc, although of course, this falls outside the AOC.


The average age of his vines is about 30 years. His vineyards are split between the limestone Causse and the 4th terrace with alluvial and gravel soils – the soils in his vineyards date back up to 500,000 years (Read here to understand what I’m talking about regarding the Causse and the terraces. In that post I focused on 3 terraces, but the 4th terrace would be even closer to the top of the plateau.)

He farms organically, although certification is still in progress. Grapes are harvested in small trays, and are picked only when they’ve reached optimal ripeness. After the grapes are selected, they’re carefully destemmed and crushed, and are handled gently during vinification. All lots are vinified separately. He uses very little sulfur, and so works super clean to ensure the pure flavor of the fruit. I can attest that the place was spotless!



Grapes from each of his lots go each into a separate tank.

For the Clos d’Audhuy Cahors 2015, the vinification occurs in small, temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Afterwards, wines are matured in large (400 L) barrels for 12 months, to maintain the fruity, freshness of the wines. (See the tech sheet here for more details.)

For me, the Clos d’Audhuy wines were demonstrative of a style of wine quite different from the very rustic style the region is best known for (several wines in this post fit that style). Earlier on in his career, Benoit worked with Paul Hobbs in various places. Paul Hobbs is a partner for the Crocus wines I’ve shared a couple of times before (here and here), which are representative of a more polished international style. Clos d’Audhuy's wines are in a different camp from those as well. In addition to being terroir drive, he prefers a fresher style that shows off the fruit even more.


This wine was a sample I had leftover from a small tasting seminar that I put together and led earlier this year. It was provided by O'Donnell Lane and Vin de Cahors. Please note that all opinions are my own.

I’ve now had the chance to try the Clos d’Audhuy Cahors 2015 (average price $22) several times and I’ve always been struck by the pretty fruit quality. On the most recent tasting,  Greg and I picked up notes of fresh blackberries, violets, light spice, and hints of green herbs. Greg called it a “green chocolate forest.” Plums joined in on the palate. The fruit was rich and mostly fresh, with some lightly sauced notes. There were spice notes of black licorice and pepper, as well as stony earth, and some light herby green notes. It's a dense wine, definitely full-bodied, and it's high in tannins, but with acidity that cuts through. While there's a brighter quality to the fruit in this wine than in many others from Cahors, I still would recommend decanting it. It is Malbec, and Malbec tends to be big. I found the wine to be a little tight at the beginning
during this last tasting, and the fruit came more alive with air. I'm also very interested to see where this wine goes with a little age, so I'm going to have to find myself another bottle.

I think this wine really delivers a lot of bang for the buck at this price point. It's an Overachiever in my book.


For an even more easy-drinking take on Cahors, try Clos d'Audhuys Les Polissons (Avergae price $16). I tried the 2017 at the winery and it showed beautifully pure black and blue fruits–boysenberry, blueberry, blackberry. There were also light notes of lilacs and hints of earthiness. There was a pretty current of acidity bolstering the fruit, and soft, dusty tannins. This is a wine that is meant to be drunk young to experience the fresh, vibrant fruit..

There's a little  word play going on behind the name "Polisson." It comes from a combination of his kid's name – Paul and Lisson. The word also means "tricky," while also connoting cuteness. The drawing on the label is a sketch of them.

I bought this saffron gelée at Clos de Chêne, one of the other lovely estates I visited.

I brought home a trove of culinary goodies from Cahors (see this post to glimpse some of the amazing food in the region) and I still had some waiting in the kitchen cabinet, including a tin of foie gras terrine and a jar of saffron gelée. Now seemed like the time to bust into them. I decided to create a cheese spread around these treats, and see how the wine fared with different cheeses. The foie gras terrine paired pretty easily, while the saffron gelée paired best when added lightly to the cheese.




Here were our findings:

 

Brie


This was just a basic one I had from Trader Joes. Since it was around,  we decided we might as well try it. It was smooth, creamy, and mild; you know, you’re basic brie.

Sadly, this pairing did not work. The wine became a little bitter with this cheese.



Brebis Pyrenes Hervé Mons


I was aiming at finding cheeses from the area, but couldn’t find any from the immediate vicinty, but I found a couple from elsewhere in l’Occitanie. Pyreness Berbis is from the Basque regions near the Pyrenees mountains for over 1,000 years.

This is a sheep’s milk cheese. It was nutty, tangy, had a nice hint of saltiness, and light notes of hay, as well as fresher grasses.

The wine wasn’t bad with this one, bringing out the saltiness in a nice way.
 


Roquefort Papillon Révélation


Roquefort is also from l’Occitanie. I found this charming story on Wikipedia:

Legend has it that the cheese was discovered when a youth, eating his lunch of bread and ewes' milk cheese, saw a beautiful girl in the distance. Abandoning his meal in a nearby cave, he ran to meet her. When he returned a few months later, the mold (Penicillium roqueforti) had transformed his plain cheese into Roquefort.

This blue cheese is also from sheep’s milk. It’s aged for 60 days or more. The cheese was salty, with a floral funk like fading flowers. It had a pleasant sharpness which was smoothed out by the buttery quality of the texture.

This was hands-down our favorite pairing. The sharpness of the cheese rounded out alongside the wine, and in turn, more fruit came out in the wine
.





*****

The rest of the French #Winophiles are also exploring Cahors this month. Be sure to check out their posts.



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6 comments

  1. Nothing like a good French blue cheese with Cahors malbec!

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  2. I love the added perspective your experience in the region adds! I agree with you on the blue cheese - it was great with the Cahors wine I paired it with as well!

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    1. Thanks so much Cathie! And good to know that pairing worked on your end as well!

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  3. I also found blue cheese to be a tasty pairing with Malbec! I am very curious about the saffron gelée. Did you just add a little on top of the cheese? Thank you for hosting!!

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    1. Good question. The saffron gelee worked best when was, as you guessed, just add a little on top of the cheese. Thanks so much Jane.

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Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!