Cahors Crash Course Part 2: Terroir and Terraces

When getting to know Cahors Malbec, it helps to learn about the terroir.

Sure we can go into detail on the geology, terrain and soil depth or type, but today we’re boiling it down to an easy to understand concept – terraces.

These layers of alluvial deposits are what make for such a variety of wines in the Cahors region. Knowing about terraces is the key to understanding the different styles and aging potential of Cahors Malbec.

Most of Cahors wines (two-thirds of vineyards) are from the four terraces that border the Lot river.

Picture it this way: the first terrace is closest to the river, the second is farther away with a slightly higher elevation, and so on.

The closer to the river, the more clay, gravel and nutrients in the soil. Generally, red wines from the first and second terraces are fruity, easy to drink and meant to be enjoyed young. Some winemakers will blend this Malbec with Merlot or Tannat.

The farther away from the river, the more limestone in the soil. For rich, intense and complex Malbec that benefits from time in the bottle look to the third and fourth terraces. Iron also influences the character of these wines.

Clay soil at Château du Cèdre
Clay soil at Château du Cèdre

Some Cahors wines are a mix of grapes from vineyards on multiple terraces, while others focus on a single terrace to best showcase the terroir.

Above the terraces is the plateau. Situated at an elevation of 300 meters (900 feet), the limestone plateau has clay, marl, chalk and iron in the soil. It is less fertile than the valley terraces, and is less influenced by the river.

The saying that better wine comes from vines that have to struggle is very much on display in Cahors. If you’re searching for that standout wine that will wow you today or in years to come, look to the fourth terrace or plateau.

Like the celebrated wines of Bordeaux, a Malbec from Cahors has the ability to age for 10, 20, even 30 years and beyond.

Now that you know about the history, terraces and plateau, it’s time to get to know the wines.

Next: Guide to Cahors Wineries

Earlier: Cahors Crash Course Part 1: History

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Headline image: view from Luzech plateau