The principal climatic influence in Cahors…
is Atlantic, yet occasionally the warm, dry wind called the Marin, comes in from the Mediterranean, making the region a transition zone between influences and providing vintage variation in the wines. As a result, Cahors can be an intensely unforgiving climate in which to make wine. Cayrou has lost multiple vintages in the past decade due to hail and frost. One of the primary challenges in producing balanced wines in Cahors is avoiding the hydric stress brought on by Mediterranean vintages, which can cause the malbec vines to shut down their phenolic maturation, while sugar continues to rise in the grape. The result is highly alcoholic wine with under-ripe flavors, which is prone to oxidation and off-flavors. One of the keys to avoiding this scenario is understanding which vineyards have the right percentage of easily penetrable gravel, allowing the roots of the vine to dig deep for the moisture they require as the engine for phenolic maturity. Some of the vineyards on the limestone terraces of Cahors are simply too shallow and do not allow the water-stressed vines to access suitable moisture for their proper development. The issue is only compounded by climate change and warmer summers, making well-drained gravel vineyards essential for those looking to make wines with freshness, acidity, and balance.
Some of the other changes Julien instituted included converting all of the estate’s vineyards to organic practices; Château du Cayrou has been certified organic since the 2012 vintage. He is also a great believer in the region’s indigenous malbec grape, known locally as cot, which constitutes the entirety of the plantings at Cayrou.
As for the winemaking, the philosophy is quite clear: Julien makes wines that are light framed, fresh, and elegant. In practice, this means careful control of the temperature during maceration and fermentation. It also means no use of oak barrels at all in the winery, with the goal of making wines that are pure, transparent expressions of the site. In addition to the namesake Château du Cayrou Cahors, Julien makes an old-vine selection from his favorite vineyards called La Tour du Cayrou, showing that Cahors is an appellation of the future, not simply an anecdote from the past. We can’t wait to see what the next decade at Château du Cayrou brings for the Cahors appellation.