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First ‘icon’ Cahors Malbec to be launched on La Place

Maison Georges Vigouroux is releasing the first Malbec from Cahors onto La Place de Bordeaux since phylloxera decimated the grape variety in France nearly 200 years ago – making it the first global “icon” wine from the appellation, db can reveal.

Vigouroux will release its grand vin, Château de Haute-Serre Grand Malbec 2022 onto La Place this September as part of the hors Bordeaux campaign. Five negociants have already been lined up: Barrière Frères, Ballande & Meneret, Louis Vialard, and Veyret Latour, with several others yet to be confirmed. The courtier will be Excellence Vin courtier, which launched the Masseto on La Place in 2008.

The move is being spearheaded by the company’s managing director Tim Banks, who joined the team in April 2021. Banks was previously sales & marketing director at Masseto, the first Italian wine to be distributed through La Place de Bordeaux, in 2009 and sales & marketing director at Ornellaia, since 2015, the year it first launched on La Place.

Speaking to the drinks business, Banks said the project “all the right prerequisites” to succeed on La Place and become the first “iconic wine” from Cahors.

“We would like this Grand Malbec to bring attention to the wines of Cahors and show what is possible,” he said. “We believe it’s the first great French Malbec capable of standing with the great fine wines of the world.”

He argued that the family-run company “can show there is a future through quality and that the area is able to produce wines of great quality – provided they do the work.”

The terroir of Cahors has always had great potential, he noted and Vigouroux is keen to challenge the outdated and preconceived ideas of Cahors to prove that it can produce an iconic fine wine.

“Up until now, we haven’t had the wine of the right type to go to La Place, but now we do. And the fact that Bertrand-Gabriel Vigoroux was recognised as the world’s Best Malbec producer this year by an expert panel  [he won the drinks business best Malbec Winemaker of the Year 2024] means it has all come together at the same time,” Banks said.

He added that the launch was not born out of  “a marketing meeting”, but something that Bertrand and his family company had been working on for 30 years, “which is what winemaking is all about”.

“People buy wine not only because of the quality of the wine but also because of the story behind it – what is the intention of the wine grower? What are they trying to achieve? And that is you have it here in spades.”

Jeremy Quievre of Excellence Vins said it was a natural progression for a Cahors Malbec to take its place on La Place.

“No other network has either the reach of the depth of offer as the Place de Bordeaux. Argentinian Malbec producers are already present, it is natural that Cahors, partiularly Malbec, is also represented by one of its most illustrious families,” he said.

Historic project

Although the family has been growing Malbed since 1887, this project really started when fourth generation winemaker and owner of Georges Vigouroux, Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux made a conscious decision in the late 80s to rebuild the quality of the Malbec in response to the then the low-quality Malbecs being produced in Cahors that had “no future”.

“The only way out is to replant in higher density,” Banks said, and see what it could do in the region’s unique terroir. Château de Haute-Serre Grand lies on the Kimmeridgian plateau 300m above Cahors and the soil, with its iron concretions and a vein of blue clay is  similar to that of Romanée-Conti and capable of producing great wines on its native soil.

“A Malbec of excellence is the reflection of the virtuosity of his terroir and all the care and attention that we bring to the vines,” Vigouroux said. “The wine of Chateau de Haute-Serre has its style and personality, synonymous with elegance and great finesse.”

He therefore went right back to basics in the vineyard, preparing and boosting the soil with compost and vegetal matter, finding the right rootstock and clones for each individual sites, and restoring the rows to a North-South orientation in order to optimise the quantity of light that the leaf receives during the day.

Once the quality in the vineyard had been addressed, the team invested in smaller tanks to make the wine process more precise (“for Georges Vigouroux we work with 400L barrels but for the grand vins it’s 225L”). The result was the launch of Château de Haute-Serre Malbec Icône WOW, which was produced between 2009-2020.

“After ten years, we are ready with the winemaking – we understood the process, the grapes from Cahors, we knew how to manage the quality and also the mission we have about the Malbec,” Vigouroux said.

“Many people think Malbec is full-bodied, not easy-to-drink, heavy, with too much tannin, too oaky sometimes, I want to show them another face of Malbec. I like to say Malbec is a diva (variety) it could give you the best or the worst, it depends on how you manage it! But when you put the plant in the right place, and take care of many details of winegrowing and the many details of winemaking, and when you respect the grape’s variety, the style of the wine, you can produce a huge wine.”

The result of this work is “ripe wine with elegant tannins, fruit, complexity, great length and full of power, Vigouroux notes. “This kind of wine has the potential to be very desirable, and that is my goal.”

The team has also toned down the amount of new oak used to correct the “over-oaking trends of the past” and better show the purity of the fruit. This has gone down from 100% in 2009, when Icône WOW was launched, to around 50% now, after introducing amphoras in 2018. Now the team used around 30%-40% new, 20% -30% amphoras  and the rest in one year old oak..

Currently, around 500 cases a year of the Grand Malbec is produced, but depending on how the market reacts, it will be possible to scale up over time. The estate at Haut Serre comprises 60 hectares and “at least half” could go into the production of the Grand Vin if the market was there to support it.

“That’s the long term dream of that is that this becomes what the estate is known for. The terroir is there to support a much larger production,” Banks said.

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