Wine is an invitation to travel: Richard Esling October 6

A phrase coined by Bertrand Gabriel Vigouroux, who knows a thing or two about both.

Richard Esling with Bertrand  Vigouroux at Chateau Haute Serre SUS-200510-141137001
Richard Esling with Bertrand Vigouroux at Chateau Haute Serre SUS-200510-141137001

A winemaker ‘par excellence’, his family has been involved with making wine in the Cahors region of south-west France for four generations. The so-called ‘black wine’ of the region comes from the Malbec red grape variety, often more associated in the UK with powerful red wines from Argentina. In fact, the Argentinian Malbec was brought originally by pioneers from south-west France, where it was once the dominant variety in Bordeaux.

Move on a couple of centuries and Malbec is now the dominant grape variety for red wines in Argentina, has all but disappeared from Bordeaux and has re-established itself in the Cahors region of France, both areas being particularly suited to the slightly fussy Malbec. A hot, dry climate and stony, clay and limestone soils contribute to the ideal factors for the variety to thrive.

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Originally wine merchants, Georges Vigouroux, Bertrand’s father, was the first in the family to plant vines and make wine in 1971. With a combination of vision and passion, inherited in no short measure by his son, Malbec vines were planted in carefully chosen sites, the family now owning four prestigious vineyards in the area. Having been almost wiped out by a combination of phylloxera and the invention of the steam train, which took workers away from the region, the Vigouroux family are key players in the revival of the Cahors wine region.

Nearly 50 years later, the vineyard area has increased tenfold, led by the inspiration of Georges Vigouroux and his son Bertrand. Standards of winemaking and quality have also come on massively, and amongst the leaders of the Appellation are the wines of Chateau de Haute Serre and Chateau de Mercuès, two of the family’s vineyards which undoubtedly raise the bar as far as quality is concerned.

Always wishing to push the boundaries, Bertrand has visited the vineyards of Mendoza in Argentina many times and has formed a working relationship with the world Malbec expert Paul Hobbs. Together they have produced some outstanding small batch wines, both in Argentina and in Cahors, with frequent exchanges of ideas and exchange staff visits. Travel and Wine. But also close to the owner’s heart is wine tourism, a first-class way of promoting a wine and its region.

Having re-built the vineyard and reputation of Haute Serre, the Vigouroux family acquired the thirteenth century Chateau de Mercuès, now a luxury Winery Hotel, part of the Relais & Chateaux group, with a courtyard bistro and fabulous Michelin starred restaurant. A haven of peace, it is an expertly run fairy tale retreat, the sort of place you only normally dream of. The gardens were excavated to build a state-of-the-art winery and barrel cellar beneath, achieved with artistic flair and technical expertise.

So, when at last we can travel again, hopefully in the not too distant future, there are a multitude of reasons to stay at Chateau de Mercuès, taste the wines of the Vigouroux family and visit Chateau de Haute Serre and the other surrounding vineyards, to immerse yourself in Malbec and its fascinating history and culture.