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Amanda on October 1st, 2008
Cahors Wine Grapes

Cahors Wine Grapes

Late September and the temperatures were still sizzling. We’d had no rain for weeks and the leaves on my pear trees were drooping disconsolately, like a guilty dog’s ears. In the vineyards the farmers frowned, growled and stroked the grapes contemplatively. They were ripe and just about ready for picking but they would have been better for a drink. It has to be supplied by nature too, a vine destined to make AOC Cahors wine cannot be watered artificially. It was too late anyway, having failed to produce a shower at the right time the weather mustn’t be allowed to break now, and ruin the year’s prospects. A good spell of sunshine is absolutely crucial for the harvest and the forecasters were on their mettle, a whole community depended on their getting it right. Read More »

The Fete des Vendanges from French Life

Amanda on June 1st, 2006
Albas Wine Festival

Albas Wine Festival

We’re all recovering from one of the most arduous fetes of the year! Albas Wine Festival is an outstanding event. Six or seven thousand people – according to the Mairie – crammed tightly into one of the smallest and prettiest villages on the river. Naturally we always feel obliged to attend, as we happen to be in the commune of Albas. So – purely in the course of duty – we went along to sample this year’s vintages. It happened to be an exceptionally hot day and by six o’clock the narrow road that winds downhill to the little medieval village was shimmering in a heat haze. After payment of our statutory twelve euros and receipt of the little glass engraved with the legend:
Le bon air est dans les caves
27th Mai 2006 – Albas

We were free to wander the cobbled streets and imbibe as much as we liked of the nine wines on offer. Now if you happen to be doing this in a truly scholarly sense – as of course I was – it soon becomes a little tricky to distinguish one from another, if you happen to have an empty tummy as well it rapidly becomes rather difficult to walk in a straight line! I reached this point in the cool darkness of cave number six. These caves are the original cellars of the village houses, hewn out of the very rock on which Albas was built. I found myself leaning against the wall grinning inanely at the Maire. Shortly afterwards I was force fed a Rocamadour sandwich to sober me up. Read More »

Albas Wine Festival 2006 from French Life

Amanda on March 12th, 2006
Cahors Wine

Cahors Wine

Revered by Tsars, Popes and Princes
Why black? Principally because it is almost black, just hold a bottle up to the light and you’ll see into its deliciously inky depths. Cahors wines are reputedly the darkest in the world; they are also some of the strongest and richest and will keep for years.

Cahors has a fascinating but somewhat turbulent history; the vineyards were amongst the first planted in France by the Roman Emperors, more than two thousand years ago and they were an immediate hit. However as the Empire grew it became abundantly clear that production of wheat would need to be stepped up in order to feed the growing masses. France was to be the breadbasket of the Roman Empire and the vines, splendid though they were, would have to go. In the third century one of the more discerning Emperors, Probus, decided that enough was enough and the time had come to reinstate this delicious nectar. He is still a much-celebrated figure in winemaking circles today and one of the distinguished Chateaux of the region has a rather delicious wine named Prince Probus in his honour. Read More »

Cahors Wine – The Black Wine from French Life

Amanda on February 2nd, 2006
Quercy Truffles

Quercy Truffles

Welcome to the late winter treats of the glorious Quercy. Foremost among winter indulgences in this famously gastronomic region must naturally be the truffle. Now is the time for it, the prices are a little lower in the late season, 800 euros a kilo last week, but that’s quite reasonable! If you feel the desperate urge to indulge in this edible delight, Lalbenque is the place to be. Every Tuesday afternoon at 2.30, from November to early March, the village is closed for the truffle market. It will be freezing, so dress warmly, it will be chaos, so be prepared, but it will be an experience you’ll never forget and, provided your wallet is fat enough, you should come away with a rare little nugget to reward you for your endurance.
Read More »

Winter Treats in the Quercy from French Life

Amanda on January 5th, 2006
Winter Frost

Winter Frost

The festive season has arrived!  And here in sunny southern France the Quercy has been frozen into a Narnian landscape, enchanting and exceptionally beautiful but wickedly cold.  A wardrobe full of fur coats would be a definite asset.
The markets are winding up for Christmas, the geese are already fat and glorious and the Christmas Eve market in Cahors will be the centre of the commercial celebrations this Saturday.  Magnificent, be-ribboned birds will be laid out in all their glory. Ducks, guinea fowl, black turkeys and pheasants will all be jostling for position if you don’t fancy – or can’t accommodate – the traditional bird.  But the famous Quercy goose will take pride of place and comes away with all the honours. Read More »

Christmas in the Quercy 2005 from French Life

Amanda on August 23rd, 2005

Historic gateway to the South of France

Pont Valentre

Pont Valentre

Cahors is strategically situated in a loop of the curvaceous river Lot, surrounded by hills. To the north the roads lead straight to Paris, to the south straight to Toulouse and on to the passes of the Pyrenees and the bustling ports of the Mediterranean. To the west, following the line of the river, lies the great wine producing city and port of Bordeaux. To the east, the wild and beautiful Causses and the foothills of the Massif Central.

It was in this advantageous spot that the ancient tribe of the Cadurci decided to settle in about 800BC. Many scholars maintain that it was from these first settlers that Cahors and the Quercy take their names. Others argue that Quercy comes from the Latin Quercus, meaning oak, a reference to the oak forests that romp across the landscape. Either way, both Cahors and the Quercy itself are ancient settlements. Read More »

Cahors – Capital of the Quercy from French Life

Amanda on June 13th, 2005
Albas Wine Festival

Albas Wine Festival

Largest Cahors wine festival in one tiny village
Albas is a charming little village, built entirely of the local stone and wedged precariously into a rocky cleft on the left bank of the river. The population is normally pretty stable at around 500 – that’s if you include all the surrounding farms and hamlets – but on one particular day each May it swells to over six thousand. It’s the day of the annual fête du vin and the whole village bows in worship of the grape and gives itself up to the pleasures of the table. The thought of six thousand inebriated people crammed into little Albas was arresting, to say the least; surely they’d be falling into the river? I decided I’d better go along – purely in the course of duty – to see what it was all about and what measures had been taken to prevent a watery end. Read More »

Albas Wine Festival 2005 from French Life