The Cahors vineyard is one of the oldest in south-west France if not the entire country. Its origins can be traced back to Gallo-Roman times. The wines produced on the hillsides overlooking the Lot were the most highly prized and had the great honour of gracing the tables of Roman Emperors.
In the Middle Ages, the Cahors wine-growers maintained their good reputation as the city of Cahors became an important commercial and financial centre thanks to its strategic location on the banks of a then navigable river at the intersection of several roads, an equal 200 km from the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees.
In the 13th century, the city even provided loans to kings and popes. The wines of Cahors, sold in London as early as 1225, were widely exported in the Middle Ages, the volume exceeding 40,000 barrels by the beginning of the 14th century. In 1316, a boy from Cahors became Pope John XXII of Avignon. In 1325, he brought wine-growers from his homeland in the Lot to grow wine in Châteauneuf. Later, François I ordered a grape variety from the banks of the Lot to be planted at Fontainebleau. In spite of protectionist obstacles put in place by the Bordelais in an attempt to stymie Cahors wine (hefty tithes and duties and restricted access to the Bordeaux port), its reputation spread to Germany, Holland and the Nordic countries. It was even popular on the great maritime routes to the East Indies and the Americas.
But the leading ambassadors of Cahors wine were the priests of the Russian Orthodox Church who adopted it as a communion wine. It was thanks to them that the tsars discovered it and made it their ceremonial wine. A staunch supporter of Cahors wine was Peter the Great who favoured its high tannin for its beneficial effect on his stomach pains. A wine by the name of "Kaorskoîe", based on grape varieties from the Lot, is still produced today in Azerbaijan.
In those days, the wines of Cahors were reserved for the officers while the Bordeaux wines were served to the ranks! Moreover, the colour of many Bordeaux wines is improved by the addition of Cahors wines.
Alas, the history of Cahors wine has not always been so rosy. Witness the ravages of the Hundred Years War, the impoverishment of agriculture, widespread unrest in the wake of the death of Henri IV, harsh government measures and boycotting by the Bordelais. To cap it all, at the end of the 19th century, the phylloxera crisis killed off a large part of the vineyard. In 1956, it again suffered serious damage, this time from frost, so much so that, a few years later, it was reduced to one hundredth of its former size. Although Cahors wine seemed doomed to disappear for ever, a handful of enthusiasts led by wine-growers from the Parnac cellar and a few wine merchants, set about reviving it. Gradually, the vines reclaimed their terroir and now cover an area in excess of 4,000 hectares.
The wine's development has undoubtedly been well served by the beauty of the Quercy region. In 1951, Cahors wine was made a Vin Délimité de Qualité Supériere (VDQS) and finally, twenty years later, it earned the much-coveted label of Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC). It has since gained a number of prestigious ambassadors, like the former French president, Georges Pompidou, who has a country house in the region, and the Queen of Denmark, married to the Compte de Montpezat who was born in the Lot and owns a château there.