The Lot

french cafe drinks

I’m sitting in a charming trailer, my makeshift room for a few days, parked alongside a serene canal surrounded by chickens and a few baby lambs roaming about here and there. So yes, I have to watch where I step. But it’s here that I’m unwinding after a rather curious weekend of wine tasting, which I’m slowly recovering from. Sure, there was a lot of wine, but as the temperature shot up to 38ºC (100ºF), and many of the events involved standing for a few hours in the blazing French sunshine, unprotected, it was hard to stay focused on task at hand.

french lot river

I’d been to Cahors before, which is in the region called the Lot, when I went truffle hunting, and to the amazing truffle market in Lalbenque.

chateau tower french banquet


This time around, I was a guest at Malbec Days, where I was fortunate to meet some wine bloggers, including Joe of 1 Wine Dude, Nick of Home Wine School, and Rémy of The Wine Case, who were kind enough to let me tag along with them and steer a neophyte toward the good stuff.

(One tip I learned from a local was to go for anything with 2005 on the label, which was supposedly an amazing year for wines from the region.)

duck

Indeed, malbec is rich and inky, and nicknamed “black wine” because it’s so thick, chewy, and dark. We drank as much as we could (well, I drank…most of the pros spit), and there were pairings with some of the regional specialties, like red-rosy slices of roast duck and small rounds of Rocamdour cheese.

rocamador

And like Saint-Marcellin, it just doesn’t taste the same as when you’re in the region where the cheese is produced. Which I had to verify, repeatedly.

pouringcahors malbec

These creamy disks of tangy goat’s milk cheese are eaten in various stages of ripeness, and unlike other cheeses in France, are often served as an appetizer, spread on crusts of levain (sourdough) toasts. Interestingly, at the local market, each small cheese sells for just 43 centimes. Who says there are no bargains left?

french ham

We did get to sample saffron-Rocamadour macarons, but after my initial bite of one, I was searching for a way to discreetly dispose of the rest. I’ll stick with the real deal.

frenchbread prunes

I did ‘go rogue’ and hit the outdoor market in Cahors. I didn’t pick up any cheese, since I was doing a bit of traveling, but I did pick up some lovely, quite bitter chestnut honey, slices of air-dried ham, and those luscious pruneaux d’Agen that are just so spicy-sweet, it’s hard not to eat too-many. (A decision I often regret the next morning, especially when we’re on the bus for an hour, en route to a winery. It makes for a rather anxious ride.)

salers

We had just a few sit-down meals, so I led the opposition to finger food (and cheese-filled macarons) at the buffets offered and headed to Le Marché, where we had a terrific repast that went into the late evening, enjoying icy Sancerre, which was a nice contrast to all the heavy red wine we’d been tasting, and Quercy lamb.

The Lot

My dessert had a tangle of cotton candy, called Barbe à papa in French, or “Daddy’s Beard.” I’m still undecided whether I like our title or theirs: hair doesn’t sound especially appetizing when related to food. But I’m not picky when it comes to cotton candy. I love the stuff.

malbec bottles french woman

Escaping the heat became quite a bit of my time; I guess I’m not as hardy as the locals. The food, the wine, and everything else became a bit of a blur. And not a wine-induced one. I eventually began to spit everything as well, and it was hard dumping the barely touched remains of an extraordinary vintage in the buckets, but it became necessary just to keep myself in a vertical position.

winemaker oak leaves

And after the weekend in Cahors, I headed west to Agen, to spend a few days with my friend Kate to recuperate before heading home. Where I am now plucking fava beans from her garden, checking the progress of the eggs underneath the fat hens, and waiting patiently for the rosé to chill.

malbec bottle

It’s hard work…which is why I’m sitting in my room, writing about the last few days, while the women are all outside digging dirt and tending to the flock. So I’d better get going and pitch in.

french flag

Even though life in the south of France is much slower, a certain vaguely Parisian fellow better get off his duff and help.

cafedrinks david relaxing

At least I have a souvenir of the weekend; a set of black teeth and tongue, a casualty of drinking too much malbec wine.

redwinespill

It might not be to everyone’s liking, but for those of us who were there, it was hard to care what the others looked like.

malbecmouth

So there.



55 comments

  • mmm, barbe à papa and cheese for 43 centimes sound like fun. The photos are picturesque especially #2. Glad you had a good weekend.

    Nisrine

  • Hi David, thank you for this wonderful tour. I have been invited to Cahors, by a blogging friend. I think I must take her up on the offer, looks fab. :-)

  • Ohhhhhh, I had Rocamadour and St Marcellin cheeses on my recent trip to Paris, and it hurts me inside that I can’t find anything comparable here in Canberra. I cry inside… but at least your photos are beautiful :)

  • Sounds like you are “Living the Sweet Life…Outside of Paris!!” I loved every minute of this. Friends, good food and wine in the south of France….parfait!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • rhaaa. I want a life where there would be 43cts wonderful goat cheese, a trailer in the roses, and part time writing, part time gardening…
    I think you just blew up the limit of your readers’ Jealous-O-meter, with this story :)

  • such time with friends is unforgettable, isn`t it? :)

  • I may have to take a break from reading your Blog so often. The urge to move is getting too strong too soon.
    Or, just maybe I should keep reading and throw caution in the wind?

  • I didn’t even realize Malbec’s could come from France – shows how much I know. So 2005, I’m on it! Beautiful post for a beautiful weekend…

  • Wonderful pictures that remind me of home.
    Thanks for sharing and enjoy your time unwinding in the country.

  • We’ve spent many weeks in nearby Saint Cere, and as the French always say, “They eat well in the Lot.” The Rocamadour cheese is also known as cabecou; one can find it various places in the US, although it takes only 3 days to make, and stays edible for 3 days, so you have to find it close to wherever it is made. A lovely local dessert is made by placing a cabecou on a small sheet of foil, top it will mint leaves and honey, then bake for a bit. Heaven.

  • I only spent a brief train stopoff in Cahors long ago…
    I remember buying a box of chestnut candies shaped like a giant chestnut!
    I think I better go back
    This all looks sumptuous!

  • i like the phrase “daddy’s beard” but only in the sense that “daddy” is used in the naughty, rather than literal, way. ;D

    here’s wishing you a speedy recovery!

  • I want to go to there. :D

    I fell in love with this region vicariously through a novel (The treasure of Montségur: a novel of the Cathars [Book] by Sophy Burnham), and sampling the imported food and wine when I lived in Paris cemented it for me. I love the rustic nature, and the castles, the handsome people and the decidedly non-delicate vin, must visit. Perhaps this will head up our “some day when we own a place in France” list. :) Thanks, David.

  • Ah, the glory of Cahors! So the ad for Totino’s Pizza Rolls (!) in the middle of your post is particularly jarring. You get Saint-Marcellin with crusty bread, we get a frozen mystery cheese food product.

    It would be funny but for the fact that I’m certain you work hard to create an authentic mood for us, only to have your posting somewhat vandalized by a “food” advertiser.

    Thanks for your message and sharing your thoughts. I use an ad network based in the states, and since I live abroad, I don’t see them. The site has substantial costs involved in the maintenance (web developer, hosting fees, and other back-end costs) plus I spend quite a bit of time on it, so I use an ad network… and like it when people buy one of my books as well! : )

    I prefer to have a hands-off policy, for editorial reasons (the blog content isn’t affected by the ads), and I trust readers can make their own decisions about products that the network features. Like ads that appear in newspapers and magazines, folks can ignore them, as they wish. For more information, you can check my Disclosure Statement. -dl

  • What a great experience, David! Remember, ease into it – small pours and the more you taste, the more tolerance you build. I learned that years ago when I met my husband – start slowly!!! Wine tasting is wonderful sport!

  • I just started reading a great book on the Cahors wine region called “Families of the Vine”. I’m not very far into it but it’s a good read so far- he focuses on three of the region’s winemaking families. It’s all making me very nostalgic for my year spent nearby (in Toulouse)- I want to go back! Maybe not in the summer though, it does get awfully hot. :)

  • If you ever decide you need a break from your life, I’d like to offer myself up as a stand-in. You have it sooooooo good!

    Oh and on the Malbec note…I’d like nothing more than to bathe in it. Love the stuff:) (although I’m sure it’s poor manners to refer to it as ‘stuff’.)

  • I’m sure you know why they are called barbe a papa right?
    http://www.barbapapa.fr/gb/barbapapa-family.html

  • I don’t know if it’s true, but I heard that Malbec got its name because the French used to “bad mouth” (mauvaise bouche) the grape due to the difficulties of producing a good wine from it.

    As always, I enjoyed the post and photos.

  • what a fun, and hot, trip! malbec is my very favorite wine :)

  • Shame I didn’t bump into you as I was there all each day. It was a bit hot at the soireé though. I was there as part of our push to promote our Cahor wine tours. But seriously it is really difficult to get visitors to the Lot. As you know it’s a fantastic place with no pollution, hardly any population and no real tourism.
    While you were there did you visit Clos Triguedina and meet Jean-Luc Baldes who has just launched a sparkling Rosé wine? 100% Malbec fab wine.
    Since my wife and I moved to the Lot four years ago we have drunk nothing except Cahors Malbec wine so a Malbec Rosé is great for the summer and for a change. I think a Bordeaux may be a bit “thin” for my pallette now.
    Anyway glad you enjoyed it and if you want to visit again come and stay with us!

  • Great post David – you are living “the life” extremely well!!! Thank you for sharing..and making me hungry and thirsty!

  • Thanks for the trip down memory lane; we spent a happy week in the Lot last autumn. Lovely area, very more-ish food and wine — not sure I agree about “no tourists”, but they are certainly kept to a manageable level!

    Next time you’re there, try the prix-fixe lunch menu at the restaurant opposite the station in Cahors (La Balandre) — well worth a visit!

  • I haven’t read the whole thing yet but the pictures alone made me say

    Now that’s the good life

    I say that frequently whenever I read your posts…

  • Veronica: There are a number of tourists in the region, especially from the UK, but that’s changing a bit. At least from what the locals tell me. Last time I stayed at the hotel across from the train station with the restaurant and I liked staying there a lot.

    John: The whole weekend wasn’t well-planned and it was difficult to navigate. I am still unclear as to why they don’t promote their very good rosé wines in this region. They seem intent on pushing their red wines, but rosé has become so much more popular in both France and in America that it’s a shame they’re not putting any energy into them. I sought them out at the tastings, but it would’ve been nice to have them more present.

    Will: Am not 100% sure of the origin, but ‘malbec’ means ‘bad’ (mal) ‘mouth’ (mouth). I wonder if it has anything to do with the color is stains your teeth and tongue?

  • Hi David,
    I have fond memories of the few inky-black malbecs we tried when in Cahors ten years ago. But here in this part of Canada, we have only two ’05 Cahors in our state-controlled liquor system. Do you recognize either of these and/or can you recommend either?

    CHÂTEAU ST DIDIER PARNAC PRESTIGE 2005
    Price: $ 16.95 12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
    By: Franck & Jacques Rigal

    and…

    LA FÉE VIOLINE MALBEC CAHORS 2005
    Price: $ 12.95 12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
    By: Château Armandière

    Thanks!

  • Gorgeous photos! Everything looks delicious, especially the breads and cheeses.

    Jenn

  • What I really like about these pictures and many others of yours is that the scene seems so unhurried and people just seem to be having a genuinely great moment and taking all the time they need to enjoy it. I miss that kind of lifestyle and savoir-vivre.

  • This made me laugh out loud! What fun! Don’t you just hate those black teeth! The wine sounded amazing.

  • David,
    I love reading about your life. The line about the rather anxious bus rides after indulging in some local prunes made me snort through my nose. I had a similar experience the first time I ate fresh figs right off the tree in the Bay Area. They were so luscious I couldn’t stop and then later I couldn’t stop. Well worth it, though.

  • Glad to hear that you were so very thorough in your tasting!
    Although it doesn’t sound like you would cope too well in a South Australian summer – very hot and very dry!

  • I am wondering, do the French not like to promote rosé wine, period? I had a difficult time finding rosé to lay in for an American visitor, at two stores being told it is not popular here. And when we ended up at a wine bar in the LQ and she ordered rosé, the joke was “We only have wine here.”

    I read in a book about good rosé in the Loire Valley, but don’t see that in Paris. I prefer reds to rosés, but I’d like to get better than Fran Prix quality rose for company.

  • great post!
    rocamadour is my favorite cheese and i eat it at least once per week; here in paris, at marche at blvd st raspail there is a seller who offers rocamadour of great quality. you can buy 3 disk for 3-3,50 Eur. much more money than in provinces; the same concerns bleu d’auvergne and cantal, which cost peanuts in the region where they are made.
    as regards rocamadour, we even checked details about the producer, as the quality is outstanding, much better in Le Bon Marche and other sophisticated fromageries. In Rungis market for professionals they sold for around 50-55 eurocents…
    i have, however, a remark to one sentence in your post: “These creamy disks of COW’S milk cheese are eaten in various stages of ripeness, and unlike other cheeses in France, are often served as an appetizer, spread on crusts of levain (sourdough) toasts…”
    to which cheese it refers too ? rocamadour is a goat cheese, but maybe i did not understand quite well what you wrote, as i am not a native speaker. st marcelin is made from cow’s milk, but it comes from different region.
    sorry for bothering you….

  • What a wondeful article on a heavenly region. No wonder the Queen of Denmark is the owner of a fine domaine there – at Caix – where her Frenchborn prince husband cultivates a wine used at state dinners in Copenhagen.
    For Cyndy and the rosé wine: remember that rosé is a wine for the summer months.
    The rest of the year one does not touch the stuff.
    Champagne however can be had at all times without snobbish remarks.
    Always remember to call a glass of champagne “une coupe de champagne”.
    re.
    I always go to my Nicolas wine store found all over Paris you will find the one
    nearest you on the Nicolas website. The staff is very knowledgeable.
    There are all kinds of rosé, I like mine to be extremely dry and Nicolas found me a
    wonderfully pale rosé for about 10 euros a bottle.
    If you like the rosé to be more full bodied there is nothing like the rosé from Corsica. Or you can just ask for a good rosé and see what the Nicolas people suggest for you within the price range you prefer.
    The Loire valley rosé wine is merely one of the regions producing the rosé.
    The classic Summer rosé is from Provence in partiécular the region of Var, Saint Tropez, Bandol .

  • David,
    sorry for all those language mistakes in my comment – I wrote it around 5 a.m., laying down in my bed with a notebook…. totally uncomfortable position to write comments :) in addition, the light was switched off….Have a nice day.

  • To Alan in Stratford

    I don’t know about the etiquette in answering a question to David is but….

    St Didier is an impressive looking Château about 200 m from the Lot in an area with at least another 10 producers. I have visited this Château three times but on each occasion have not been impressed either by the hospitality or the wine. However 2005 was a very good year and this wine was perhaps their best.
    Château Armandière is on the river Lot and when we first visited them they were harvesting. Fabulous wine at an affordable price. They have just started boat trips from their jetty with wine tasting afterwards. We also met and tasted the mat Malbec days on the Pont Valentré.
    Incidentally both these wines cost around 5 euros locally.

  • Above post should have said:
    We also met and tasted Chateau Armandiére at Malbec days on the Pont Valentré.

    Sorry forgot to say that we went to the annual Rocamadour cheese festival on Sunday afternoon – didn’t realise there were so many different types of cheese. Must have been about 6000 people there. Plus we bought Rocamadour rosé wine. 50% Malbec 50% Gamay.

  • To John Despard

    Many thanks for you response to my inquiry (I, too, hope David doesn’t mind).

    I’ve rarely been steered wrong by wine recommendations; I certainly appreciate yours’.

    The single biggest reason for the price discrepancy is taxation (the other reason is because they can).

    Sláinte,
    Alan

  • John & Alan: I encourage readers to leave responses in the comments, especially when folks are more familiar with their regions (and wines) than I am.

    Cyndy: There is plenty of rosé in France. But I think like in the states (and elsewhere) it wasn’t a wine that was given all that much attention or taken seriously*. And it is more of a ‘fun’ wine than others. That said, there are really good rosé wines and most wine shops I’ve been to in France usually have a pretty good selection in all price ranges.

    *I actually had a person here tell me that rosé has le glucose in it, and that it makes you fat—because he saw someone drinking a glass of it with a large belly. Um, okaaay…

  • *sigh* Just lovely. I really hope that one day I can escape Paris to see a region such as this one (lol — I know, some would give their pinky toe, and maybe more, just to be here in Paris, but there is more to France than Paris, as you remind us with this post, and one day I hope to get there). In the meantime, we have you to do it for us and tell us all about it. Thank you.

    And those fava beans you picked? I love ‘em — for me, much better than lima beans, about which you have already sung praises when roasted in beef fat, and then there was the other bean-y post not long ago. Anyway, I got inspired from those posts and last week decided to try to roast fava beans in the oven with olive oil and salt, and heeeeyyyy, they were gooood! I think they would go nicely with the chilled rosé. I served the roasted beans to family members who do not really eat Green Things, and they gobbled them up like potato chips. Just wanted to let you know that roasting them works and they are not unlike roasted chickpeas with their crunch. Not that favas need a lot of help. They are buttery smooth and delicious. I hope you enjoyed eating them as much as picking them. :)

  • I saw the photos on flickr and came here to read the post.
    Wonderful weekend :)

  • just had a thought that maybe the Japanese cream puff chain called Beard Papa was inspired by Barbe a papa??

  • Thanks for showcasing the area and Rocamadour! It is one of the greatest French cheeses and there are so many others from this region – the Lot & Aveyron…We love introducing all the cheeses, foods, wines, like the Malbec, and the friendly and welcoming people from this beautiful but little known area, that’s why it is one of our regular tours here at Domaines & Terroirs.

    debbi

  • Thank you to suedoise and David for your responses on rosé. I have seen the Nicolas trucks around Paris. I appreciate the information and will look for some of the Provence summer rosé.

  • beautiful photos! i laughed at the end. it looks like such a lovely trip!

  • What a nice trip and I cannot wait to hear more about your stay in the trailer!

  • These are some seriously wonderful photos.

  • It was a real pleasure meeting you and bonding over shared culinary joys and scheduling pains.

    Hoping to see you again in France sometime soon (only without the boat ride).

    Cheers!

  • Sounds like a fantastic experience. I so long to visit France again!

  • Sometimes, when it is hot, there is nothing better than a well chilled rosé in the afternoon…

    Personally I prefer the rosé’s from Tavel, Les Baux-de-Provence, or Bandol, but really almost any French rosé will do.

    Once again beautiful pictures, wonderful post.

  • Hi “Tout le monde”,

    Malbecs means: “A person who says bad things on another person”

    At the end of the 19th century, a merchant of Gironde region, near Cahors) marketed the wines worked out starting from type of vine COT (official name) like malbec (its patronym).

    Today, you have 1400 families named Malbec (see the french book phone), and 80% of them live in the South West of France …

    Jérémy (from Cahors !)

  • Mmmph! What a horrendous experience that must have been! I wish you a speedy and full recovery and look forward to more posts.
    Great stuff!

  • you had a really good time, well that’s what it’s all about, Truffles, wine, black teeth
    I would probably have been near horizontal myself had I been there, and the pictures are wonderful.

    Amazing Post

  • Ah, I’m getting “homesick” for a place I’ve spent less than a month in, over only a few trips.

  • My husband and I took our then-18-month-old daughter to the Lot for a week in the summer of 2004 and fell in love with the region. We can’t wait to go back – plus we want our younger daughter to experience it too. We loved Rocamadour and especially the cheese there. We ate incredible food and met so many lovely people. I can’t properly describe how peaceful and beautiful it was there. So nice to read your wonderful words about it too. I hope to be able to go back very soon!