Chateau de Haute-Serre is located in the Cahors region of France. The vineyard itself is located on a plateau overlooking the Lot River valley. 60 hectares of land are planted almost exclusively with the malbec grape (85% Malbec, 10% merlot and 5% tannat). The southern exposure along with stony surface and mineral rich clay soil provide the perfect terroir to yield fabulous malbec wines.
George Vigouroux bought the property in 1970, cleared the land, planted the vines from scratch and produced his first harvest in 1976.
Chateau de Haute-Serre has a rich history of producing some of the best wine in France long before George Vigouroux bought the property in 1970. In the 1800’s you could find Chateau de Haute-Serre on the wine lists of famous French restaurants beside Chateau Margaux and Pommards from Burgundy. In fact if you go to the winery’s website at www.hauteserre.fr and watch the short video about the property’s history as a vineyard, you will see a video clip that includes an old restaurant menu dating to July 18, 1880 at about the one minute mark into the 5 minute video. On the wine list are 4 wines: an 1858 Cahors, an 1868 Margaux, an 1878 Pommard, and an 1874 Hauteserre. However, like many other French vineyards, Haute-Serre was wiped out by the phyloxera aphid in the late 1800’s and the vineyard was never replanted, lying empty and overgrown from 1880 until George bought the property 90 years later in 1970.
In 1983 George Vigouroux bought the Chateau de Mercues, a 13th century castle sitting atop the same plateau.
George converted the castle into a Relais and Chateaux hotel, he added a huge wine cellar under the castle, and he planted another 32 hectares of malbec vines around the castle itself to form the vineyards of Chateau de Mercues, where he produced the first vintage in 1987.
Today the malbec vines of Chateau de Haut-Serre are roughly 43 years of age, and those of Chateau de Mercues are roughly 10 years younger at 33 years of age. Both vineyards are now producing legendary malbec wines that have been getting better and better each year for the last 25 years as the vines reach maturity.
In 1986 my family and I had a chance to do a wine tour through several regions of France, including Cahors. We stayed at the Chateau de Mercues, and we toured and tasted the wines at Chateau de Haute-Serre.
If you have a chance to tour the Cahors region I strongly recommend you stay at least one night at the Chateau de Mercues. It really is a magical experience.
The view of the Lot River valley below is just stunning, whether that be viewed from the top of the castle walls, from the luxurious bathtub in the turret bathroom, or from the outdoor breakfast terrace outside the front gate.
In such a setting you cannot help but let your imagination carry you back in time to the mid 13th century as you gaze upon the tracts of farmland and the river valley below.
When we toured the property at Chateau de Haute-Serre we strolled through the vineyards, we inspected the winery and of course we tasted the wines.
It was also harvest time, so we had the added treat of being able to watch the harvest itself.
In 1986 the vines were still quite young, and that was reflected in the more herbaceous taste of the young malbec vines at that time. Thirty years later the mature vines now deliver a much more refined and mature tasting wine from the outset, with full fruit complimented by both mineral and flint like tones, vanilla, liquorice, and smoke.
The Quebec Liquor Board (SAQ) has been a long time supporter of Chateau de Haute-Serre, regularly buying their wines. Currently on store shelves and available for purchase is the 2010 vintage, priced at $25.95 per 750 ml bottle, product listing number 00947184. This wine is rated 92 points by Wine Spectator magazine, and a sticker to that effect appears on the bottle. At a recent family dinner four of us drank a bottle of the 2010 with a steak dinner. This wine was very good, much better than Haute-Serre wines I have tasted from the 1980’s and 1990’s. Gone is anything herbaceous in the taste, which was a sign of youth and young vines. The wine is a deep clear purple in colour, in the glass the wine does show average glycerine content with medium sized tears running down the glass after swirling the wine. On the nose the wine delivers red fruit, plums, vanilla and a pleasant flint like mineral fragrance. On the palate the wine has a velvet satin like texture to it as it continues to show plenty of fruit, and as it finishes with a hint of dryness you can appreciate further flavours of liquorice, chocolate, mocha, and mint. I also picked up on a little hickory smoke in the aftertaste, which blended nicely with the mint.
This wine delivers a very pleasant package for $25.95. The wine is ready to drink now and will easily age at least 5 years and probably much longer, so you can lay it down in the cellar with confidence, knowing you can open it at any time from now on without opening it before it is ready. This makes the 2010 Chateau de Haute-Serre versatile and a wine that will perform well at special occasions and dinners with almost all meat dishes. I agree with the Wine Spectator’s score of 92 points, well deserved.
It will be interesting to follow this winery in future vintages to watch for further complexity in the malbec vines as they continue to mature even further. At 43 years of age they should continue to mature and take on more finesse and complexity for another 10-20 years as the vines reach full maturity. Buy this wine now while it is still available locally in reasonable quantity and at this price.