Cahors is a wine region in south-western France specializing in the production of intense, dark-colored red wines from the Malbec grape variety. AOC Cahors is the appellation under which most of these wines are sold.
Cahors wines have been famous for centuries for their inky 'black' color, and were once used to add depth to the lighter-colored wines from Bordeaux. This uniquely 'Cahors' characteristic is sometimes purposely emphasized by wineries, where heat is used to extract maximum amounts of pigment from the Malbec grapes.
The key vineyard sites for Cahors wines are roughly divided into two categories. Those located on the limestone plateaux of the area (known as the Causses) produce more-tannic, longer-lived wines, while those positioned on the gravelly slopes between the plateaux and the rivers turn out more-approachable, fruiter wines.
As the main grape variety here, Malbec must constitute at least 70% of the blend in any wine that claims the appellation AOC Cahors. A combination of Merlot and Tannat must make up the remaining 30%, with Merlot being favored for softer wine styles and Tannat for those which are more tannic and robust. Until recently, the obscure variety Jurancon Noir was also permitted as a minimal proportion of the blend. Cahors is unusual among the appellations of the South West in not permitting the use of either Cabernet Franc or Sauvignon.
Cahors is equidistant from the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea (about 130 miles/210km), and is moderated to some extent by both. The winters are certainly colder here than in areas closer to the coast, such as Bordeaux or Bandol, but the sunshine levels and summer temperatures are correspondingly high, providing an excellent ripening season and highly concentrated wines.