Cahors, a region located just 150km southeast of Saint-Émilion, is worlds apart from its Bordelais neighbours. It is one of few viticultural areas where polyculture still reigns; forests, fields of grains, cereals and herds of cattle all border pockets of vineyards.
It is also here that the Malbec grape variety, capable of producing intense and long-lived cuvées that became known as black wine, built a global reputation. However, the region is also home to lesser known but equally enticing varieties, such as Valdiguié and Jurançon Noir, which somewhat unfairly have been forced to take a backseat in recent years…
... But not if Jérémie Illouz has anything to say about it.
Jérémie is on a mission to celebrate Cahors in all its guises; from celebrating Malbec’s greatness, to working to preserve and unleash the potential of Valdiguié and Jurançon Noir, to also planting varieties for the future, such as Cinsault.
With a dedicated, hands-on approach to viticulture, and a light and respectful touch in the cellar, he is achieving extraordinary results. Capturing the raw beauty of Cahors in a bottle, Jérémie is creating new benchmark cuvées for the region.
People: Jérémie Illouz & Paul Parlange
Place: Villesèque, Cahors, France
Varieties: Malbec, Jurançon Noir, Valdiguié, Cinsault, Merlot, Ugni Blanc & Chardonnay
Did You Know? Jérémie is particularly enthusiastic about what the future will hold for the Cinsault variety in his area. He says,
“I love Pineau d’Aunis. I was speaking to Eric Pfifferling (of L’Anglore) about how much I love the variety, and he said to me, if you like Pineau d’Aunis, plant Cinsault! You’ll see. So, I followed his advice.”
As we stand with Jérémie amongst 75-year-old Valdiguié and Jurançon Noir vines in the middle of June, the only sound we can hear is that of the cicadas and the leaves of neighbouring trees moving in tandem with the wind.
“See?” Jérémie breaks the silence after a few moments. We nod.
"When people ask me, why here: why Cahors? Well, here you feel like you’re on an island. There are trees all around, and that is wonderful. People speak so much about organics, biodynamics and all the various types of treatments. But when you’re here and look around and see this landscape of polyculture, that is what it’s about, and it is rare in the world of wine."
Having fallen in love with wine, he decided to pursue an oenology degree in Bordeaux (it was there that he met his business partner, Paul Parlange). He also travelled extensively through French wine regions to learn more, and also travelled abroad to California and Azerbaijan to do harvests.
He soon realised that it was the wines which had been made naturally which resonated the most with him. He was greatly inspired by the wines of Domaine L’Anglore, Les Foulards Rouge, as well as the natural wine movement in Beaujolais, via winemakers such as Jean Foillard.
Having travelled to South West France frequently on holiday as a kid, this area of France already had a special place in his heart. When he met Fabien Jouves of Mas del Périé, he saw a different side to the kinds of wine that can be produced in the region. He began experimenting and making some wines here from purchased fruit in 2008, with his first whole cluster Malbec produced in 2009, and by 2012 he had taken on his first plots of vines.
Fast forward a decade, and he is now tending six hectares of vines, both old and young, as well as a flock of 11 sheep, with...