The majority of the Cahors vineyards are to the west of Cahors along and above the Lot valley. Because of the deep, intense colour of Cahors wines it is sometimes known as “Black Wine”. The Malbec grape is the main variety grown in this area and makes up 70% of an AOC Cahors wine. Malbec is locally known as Auxerrois, Côt or Côt Noir. The varieties of Merlot and Tannat make up the remaining 30% of the Cahors AOC. The Cabernet Franc and Gamay varieties are also grown here. However not all wines produced in this region are red, the vineyards of the Lot valley also produces some excellent rosés with more body than those produced further south and also some good crisp white wines too.
Rocamadour cheese is a creamy goat cheese and has been made in the Rocamadour area since at least the 15th century. It is produced from the goat’s milk and is shaped into small flat discs and has a wrinkled skin and is mild flavoured. The goats thrive on the limestone plateau that runs through the centre of the Lot, as the grass here is short and sparse. The cheese can be eaten just with some crusty bread, or can be cooked in a quiche or flan or grilled and served with toast.
The black truffle, tuber melanosporum, or black diamond as it is sometimes known, is the most expensive of the regions delicacies. These truffels grow underground on the roots of the stunted French oaks and are mature and ripened by the first frosts to be harvested by the farmers and their dogs. From December to March truffle markets are held on Tuesday afternoons in the village of Lalbenque and on Friday mornings in Limogne-en-Quercy. These are best sampled in one of the many gourmet restaurants of the region served to enhance many menus.
Fields of ripening melons can be seen while driving through the Lot in early summer. The full flavoured Quercy melons are small and round with green veins. They have a dense orange, sweet juicy flesh. There is a place for them in any meal from breakfast to dinner, entre to dessert.
Duck & Foie Gras
Ducks and geese are traditionally raised in southwest France and the foie gras and duck produced are specialities of this region. Foie gras will be on the menu in some form or another in most restaurants in the area and is either ready to eat (better than an excellent liver pate) with toasts and fruit confiture, or raw where the liver is sliced and pan-fried “mi-cuit”. Grilled or pan-fried magret de canard (duck breast) is also traditionally on the menu.
Saffron commands such a high price as 250 flowers are needed to produce a gram of saffron and all the work to produce it is done by hand. It has been grown in the Lot since the middle ages. The pale mauve flowers of the saffron crocus are picked in the autumn and it is the pistils that contain the red gold spice. Saffron is found on the specialist épicerie stalls in the markets, and is used in various styles of cooking.
Walnut trees are found throughout the Lot where they are normally grown in plantations of neat rows. The Perigord walnut is also grown in the departments of the Dordogne and the Correze. Chopped walnuts are added to the local Lotoise and Quercinoise salads to add flavour and crunch. They are used in many cakes, pastries, sweets and chocolates, and also in the delicious walnut bread found in all good local boulangeries. They are also used to flavour a sweet nutty aperitif, a vin de noix, a speciality of the region.
Quercy Farmed Lamb
Like the goats, the local breed of sheep the Caussenarde, also are happy to graze on the short sparse grass of the limestone plateaux. These sheep have a black patch around each eye and are known as “sheep with sunglasses”. They feed on the wild herbs such as thyme and marjoram amongst this short sweet grass and this gives the lambs meat a more fragrant flavour. The meat is tender and pink and is served in the local restaurants in the form of gigot (leg of lamb), carre (rack of lamb) or cotelettes (lamb chops). The Agneau Fermier du Quercy has a guaranteed quality with the “Label Rouge”.
To the west of the Lot, and the neighbouring department of Lot et Garonne the area is well known for its large juicy prunes. Orchards of plum trees grow throughout the region and the dried fruits can be found in the local markets. They are also used to make very strong liqueurs, they are used to make jams and in cooking to make the delicious tarte au prune, for example.