The Best Wine Tasting Vineyards in SW France: Stay at Bijou Barn near Cahors

 

You cannot come to the Cahors region of France without enjoying the amazing wines on offer. It’s like going to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower or New York and missing out on the Statue of Liberty.

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We love wine, know which grape varieties we prefer and what we like about them. Sometimes, our understanding of the whole process and what is really involved in the day to day tending of the vines, can be a bit more sketchy.

I remember the first time I visited a vineyard, where I really learned more about the whole process of wine making, the amount of work required and the risks involved. I couldn’t actually believe that this wonderful drink didn’t cost so much more.

Here is what some local wine producers say when they are asked why Cahors wines are so good.

This year there have been many problems with an early frost damaging the vines when they were at their most vulnerable, resulting in the loss of the bulk of the grapes this year. Although this doesn’t happen that often, it’s incredible to think that the grapes of a whole region can be affected in such a catastrophic way.

Which Vineyards Should You Visit?

In an ideal world, you would be able to visit them all, but if you are on holiday, you may not be able to fit them all in, so here are some suggestions about which ones to choose to get the most out of the experience.

“When you say Cahors, you say Malbec and when you say Malbec you say Cahors.”

Here is a great video to introduce Cahors Wine. 

  • Mix visits to the larger well known vineyards with those of the much smaller producers in order to get a real feel of the styles of wines on offer in the region.
  • The larger vineyards have informative tours and it’s definitely worth doing at least one where you will learn much more about the history and the many processes in the art of wine-making.
  • Visit smaller lesser known wine producers for a much more intimate experience.
  • The Cahors region is known predominantly for powerful red wine, but there are some wine producers who offer different wines such as whites, rosés, sparkling and dessert varieties.
  • Try and buy a range of wines. It is really worth splashing out on one or two more expensive bottles if you can, that way you will be able to really compare the tastes and complexities that this historical drink can offer.
  • Make a day of it and combine your tastings with lunch. Some of the larger vineyards have their own eateries but you can also visit the many restaurants nearby or why not pack a picnic ?

Cahors Vineyards: Let’s Go Big and Bold

Chateau Chambert  (approx 8kms from Bijou Barn)

When you approach this vineyard, you can’t help but be impressed by the fairytale appearance of Chateau Chambert – it is truly stunning. You’d expect to see Rapunzel looking out from one of the turrets with her long cascading hair.

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Enjoy free tastings, guided tours and a wine bar or a bistro to relax in, with an outdoor terrace overlooking the vines. The bistro serves local delicacies, olives, bread, duck sausage, salads and vegetarian options, so there is plenty to choose from.

Chambert make red, white and rosé wines and there is also a dark dessert wine called Rogomme, using a 300 year old Quercy recipe.

What makes Chateau Chambert Special

Much thought has gone into the tours offered in the summer.

The Winery Tour offers a real insight into the life of a vineyard and all that happens during the year. The tour delves deeper into the winemaking process culminating in a tasting of these well known wines.

The Planet Chambert Tour involves a walk around the vineyard where you learn about everything that happens in a biodynamic vineyard and the importance of all the animals, flora and fauna.  You meet the Scottish highland cattle and learn about their importance in the vineyard. Then you pass through Beehive Village before finishing the 1.5 hour tour in the bistro.

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Taste Rogomme, the dark dessert wine which compliments dark chocolate, fresh strawberries, and even Christmas pudding. For those with a savoury tooth, it is also great with powerful cheeses such as Roquefort.

Clos Triguedina ( approx 15kms from Bijou Barn)
http://www.jlbaldes.com

A wonderful vineyard with a great reputation and why wouldn’t they have ? They are in their 7th generation!

There are 4 types of visit.

  • Classique: 30 mins. 5 euros
    Visit the vines and taste 3 wines
  • Prestige: 1 hour. 8 euros
    Visit the vines, cellar and taste 5 wines
  • Exception: 1 hour 30 mins. 15 euros
    Visit the vines, cellar and taste 7 wines
  • Magical Thursdays: 2 hours. 15 euros
    Learn more about wine tasting, with a vintage tasting workshop, every Thursday 10:30 – 12:30 in July and August.

What makes Clos Triguedina Special?

It’s all about innovation here, developing new ideas based on historic recipes but with a contemporary twist. Here are two examples of new wines created with unusual techniques:-

New Black Wine
The malbec grape is hand-picked, laid on trays and gently heated overnight to concentrate the unique flavours. The wine is then aged in oak casks for 12 months to provide a long finish with a pure intense pallet.

Sparkling Rosé
Taste the first sparkling malbec ever produced. Perfect for celebrations !

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Cahors Vineyards: Something for Everyone

Chateau Nozieres (approx 15 kms from Bijou Barn)

Chateau Nozieres is a real family affair, whose mission is to develop their knowledge of the soils, so they can tend their vines and allow the malbec to fully express its potential.

Tastings are offered 09:00-12:00 and 14:00 – 19:00 Monday to Saturday and Sunday by appointment.

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What Makes Chateau Nozieres Special?

They are completely independent and very friendly and informative about their vineyard and wines.

They offer dry and sweet whites and rosés as well as their more powerful reds.

They are close to a wonderful quaint restaurant in the village of Grezels called La Terrasse where you can go before or after your tastings.

Chateau de Gaudou (approx 15kms from Bijou Barn)

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The Durou family have been making wine since 1733, so they are pretty good at it now! At Chateau de Gaudou, they pride themselves on their ability to re-invent their wines and are quoted as saying “ The vintages pass but not the style”

Here is a video showing the harvesting process

They open Monday – Saturday 14:00 – 18:00

What makes Chateau de Gaudou special

Taste the Exeption Blanc – a dry white wine made from red malbec grapes.

Try the beautiful Gaudou sparkling wine and you will realise that no celebration is necessary to pop the cork on this wine. It is a dry white but with a depth of fruitiness – refreshing and perfect for a summery day.

They are very close to a lovely restaurant called Le Caillau where you can go for lunch before you visit the vineyard for an afternoon tasting.

Domain d’ Homs (approx 5 kms from Bijou Barn)

A lovely vineyard who remain true to the authentic production of wine. Domain d’Homs offer a selection of reds, rosés and a white.

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They are open for tastings from mid June to mid September. Monday to Saturday from 10:00 – 19:00.

What Makes Domaine d’Homs special?

They have a choice of three rosés:-
Tradition – a dry flavour to accompany a meal
Rosé Perlé – a slightly sparkling wine perfect as an aperitif
Fruité – as the name suggests, a fruity taste to enjoy at the end of a meal.

There is a marché gourmande at Chateau d’Aix at nearby Saux every Wednesday evening from 19:00. Have a tasting at Domaine d’Homs, then go on to the marché gourmands for dinner.

 

Cahors Vineyards: Small is Beautiful

Domaine de Garinet (approx 5kms from Bijou Barn)

If you have ever wanted to leave everything in the UK behind and buy a vineyard in France, then you should visit Domaine de Garinet as Mike and Sue Spring did exactly that and lived to tell the tale. They are a mine of information about wine production and are living the dream and over-coming the difficulties that running a vineyard brings.

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From 1 June to 30 September they are open Monday- Saturday 11:00 – 18:30 where you can chat with them, see the vines and taste their reds, rosé and whites.

What Makes Domaines de Garinet Special

They have great knowledge and an inspiring story of how they came to France and bought a vineyard.

They also have walnuts and prunes and a wonderful mix of great products that they make themselves. The sweet pickled prunes are delicious with cheese and Sue’s walnut brownies are legendary.

They have a stand in Montcuq market every Sunday morning so you can catch up with them there as well.

There is a new restaurant and small shop in Serignac which is open for lunches and evening meals so why not visit here after your wine tasting to relax and have a bite to eat.

Domaines des Boulbènes ( approx 6kms from Bijou Barn)

When you meet Francis, you really feel you are meeting a local down to earth wine producer. Domaines des Boulbènes has been producing red, white and rosé for 4 generations.

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Free tastings are available from Monday to Saturday 09:00 – 12:00 and 15:00 – 19:00. Some red and rosé can also be purchased in a vacuum box (BIB) which is great for transportation.

What Makes Domaines des Boulbènes Special

You get the opportunity to taste a selection of wines from a small scale producer.

There is a lovely traditional restaurant called Bessieres Lalore Nadine (we just call it Nadine’s) by this vineyard in St Matre where you can enjoy a set lunch and feel like a local. It’s really worth a visit and compliments the local vineyard perfectly.

Go and Explore the Wines of Cahors

These are by no means the only vineyards in the area – to be fair, I have only scratched the surface of the vast number of vineyards. I think that’s what makes the area so special – you are always on a voyage of wine discovery.

Get ready to explore the vineyards around Cahors. Take a look at this video for some inspiration.


Let me know which are your favourite vineyards around Cahors. Maybe you live here and can tell me about your favourite wine producers. Perhaps you have been on holiday and can let me know about a great wine you found in the area. Or you could be visiting the region for the first time and have more questions about the Cahors wines.

Get in touch if you want to know more about the area.

 

Jump On the Gin Wagon and Blaze a Trail to South West France

 

Gin is making an amazing comeback in the UK. Our love affair with this sultry spirit is enjoying a wonderful revival by people of all ages. The birth of small batch boutique gins means that there is now a gin for each and everyone of us and we are enjoying the fun of finding our perfect tipple.

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Gin Bars, Gin Festivals and Gin Clubs are where we are flocking to find the latest tastes to savour. But what happens when we go on holiday?  Wouldn’t it be great to have some time for some gin appreciation as we relax?

Gin Appreciation at Bijou Barn

Situated in South West France, Bijou Barn is a spacious barn with sophisticated charm just waiting to become your home from home for your summer holiday.

We love gin and have spent much time sipping and savouring this very special spirit. We are always on the hunt for new flavours and decided to offer a gin appreciation experience for our guests who come to visit our holiday rental in the scenic and unspoilt Lot region.

Any guests who are interested will learn about the history of gin, the different ways of making gin – your London Drys, Old Tom and that Bathtub gin is not where you have to sit to drink it – although we do have a place for that too!

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We also try to answer that all-important question of how to find your favourite gin with 3 tastings……and all this from the comfort of our holiday rental – gintastic!

It doesn’t matter whether you have booked Bijou Barn as a holiday rental or you have opted for a more tailor-made trip with Bijou Bespoke, this gin appreciation can be scheduled into your stay with us.

Our Special FREE Offer at Bijou Barn

Book a 7 day stay at Bijou Barn between June 3 and July 22 or anytime during September and anyone over 18 can enjoy the Gin Appreciation including 3 tastings for FREE.

Here’s what’s included:-

  • 3 unusual gin tastings by the private pool
  • Canapés using local produce
  • Learn about how gin is made
  • Find out why you like certain gins

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Please contact us for further information and availability or go straight to our booking page.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Bijou Barn

The pool at Bijou Barn

Getting into the festive spirit!

Sometimes it’s hard to get into the festive spirit when it’s warm and sunny……. but rest assured, we are giving it our best shot!

We hope your Christmas is filled with fun and merriment with family and friends and that 2017 brings you all the happiness you can handle.

With our very best wishes

Graham and Jane
Click here to find out more about your summer holiday at Bijou Barn

Le Moulin de Dausse – fantastic food which is anything but run of the mill.

There’s only one thing I like more than eating out and that’s eating out in a place I have never been before. So, when friends invited us to have dinner at a small restaurant we hadn’t heard of, in a nearby village, we jumped at the chance and it was wonderful.

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Surprise starter at Le Moulin de Dausse – a fantastic beginning to our meal.  We are so lucky to have such a lovely restaurant near our holiday rental!

We had drinks in the covered barn as we drooled over the menu. All the courses were set, apart from the main where there was a choice of three dishes. Of course, we all know it’s easy to write a menu, the proof of the pudding would be in the eating……. I couldn’t wait!

Setting the Scene

We were shown into the small interior space which had a relaxed yet stylish feel. Much thought and effort had gone into creating this wonderful stage to showcase our meal. From the pretty napkin rings, to the unusual crockery whilst carefully placed candles flickered as if to signify the start of our meal.

I knew as soon as the first plates were brought to the table that we were in for a treat. The presentation was stunning, yet executed with an element of humour and confidence – I loved the flavours, I savoured each part of the dish, marvelling at the different taste and texture combinations, the clever use of local ingredients and how traditional cooking techniques were mixed with more contemporary methods – it was an absolute joy to experience.

The Menu 32.50€

Surprise Starter

Taste of 4 Hors D’Oeuvres

Home smoked salmon, salmon tartare and lavender mayonnaise
Duck liver breakfast with coffee, orange, egg and bread
Crab with red onion and tomato chutney
Belly pork with a creamy mustard foam

Main Course

Fillet of veal, beef cheek, veal crackling and jus
Or
Fillet of barbary duck, cauliflower croquet and wine and sherry sauce
Or
Fillet of sea bass with garlic purée and saffron sauce

Amuse Bouche

Assortment of three little desserts

Homemade prune ice cream with white chocolate cream
Banana mousse with tropical fruit liqueur
Cherry coulis topped with creme anglaise

Or

Assortment of cheese

Wonderful Meal

The amuse bouche certainly got our tastebuds going and the selection of mini starters was genius in the choice of contrasting ingredients. My favourite was the juicy pork topped with a light yet fiery mustard mousse. The lavender butter served with the bread was unusual and tasty – quite a talking point around the table.

Starter at Moulin de Dausse

Really enjoyed the idea of 4 mini starters – it was hard to decide on my favourite

I chose the beef and veal dish as my main course which was a delight. Tender slices of perfectly cooked veal filet lay on a bed of slow cooked melt in the mouth beef cheeks topped with crispy veal crackling – my mouth is watering as a write this down.

Then a lovely pre-dessert – the elderflower milkshake was one of the more unusual flavour combinations of the evening – the milky drink really emphasised the elderflower taste, which surprised and impressed me.

Finally, a selection of mini desserts – the banana mousse was so light with a powerful fresh taste and the prune sorbet was excellent.

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What a finale – a selection of delicious desserts.

Why you should visit Le Moulin de Dausse

Eating out is so much more than a meal – it’s time with friends, discussions and laughter blend seamlessly, it’s a celebration, a getogether, but whatever the reason, it’s because we want to be entertained, looked after and made to feel special.

Le Moulin de Dausse offers all of this as standard but excels in the way the food is created and served. Yes the menu changes but what always remains is the passion with which the food is cooked and presented. The attention to detail is always there from each item on a plate to the plate itself – the couple who own this restaurant should be congratulated on the whole experience they provide, as it is theatre on a plate in a sumptuous setting.

As you can tell, I loved every moment of the evening and left the old mill feeling entertained, inspired and hungry for a return visit to this jewel of a restaurant.

  •   Click here for their website and to read their current menu.
  • Also check their opening times as they do close for the Winter.
  • Always book a table 0033 553 41 26 00 to avoid disappointment.

Special Celebrations in Sleepy French Villages

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How many times have you driven through a French village and seen no one? How many times have you asked yourself what do these people do? Where are they?

Sometimes we assume that because a place is quiet for the short time we are passing through, it must be like that all the time…..well guess again!

Under that sleepy exterior lies the beating heart of a lively village.

Our First French Fete

My husband and I were invited by some friends to a Village Fete. We were excited as this was the first “local” fete we were to experience, and one to which you need to be invited to by someone from the village hosting the event. We arrived at the location and couldn’t believe our eyes.

A freshly cut field had been transformed into an extremely large outdoor dining area, ready to accommodate about 400 people on long tables with bench seating and long strings of lights above, which lit up the whole area as the sun started to set. The dining area was surrounded by a bar, a covered area with a stage for the band and a dance floor, plus an outdoor kitchen where the lamb, or should I say flock was being slowly spit roasted.

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Local Food and Wines

We sipped ice cold slightly sparkling rose as we savoured the atmosphere. Then we were all asked to take a seat and within a short time we were chatting to people beside us, as Sangria was poured into our glasses.

Having been in the restaurant trade, we know only too well how tough it can be to feed large numbers of people, but to do it for around 400, in a field and serve everyone at the table – well that was really impressive.

Our banquet began with soup and French bread, of course, followed by cured ham and the sweetest, juiciest, locally produced melon. The wine flowed, as wine does in France, with empty bottles on the tables being quickly replaced with full ones, by the very efficient waiting staff. Then came the main course, spit roasted lamb and sausages served with a tasty bean cassoulet – it was delicious.

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Brilliant Live Music

As everyone finished, the tables were cleared and the musical entertainment began. This band were very good – drummer, trumpet player, guitarist, accordion player and singer – all in fancy dress and their instruments and mikes all Bluetoothed, allowing them to mingle with everyone seated at the tables.

Within minutes the band had progressed to dancing and singing on top of the tables with many of the guests already standing on their chairs and joining in. The trumpeter played a particularly catchy 7 note riff, which was the signal for the crowd to lift their arms in the style of a Mexican wave whilst shouting ‘Olé!’

We were mesmerised by the pied piper qualities of the drummer and trumpet player – they had everyone eating out of their very musical hands, within 10 minutes! It was a shame when they played their last number but they had certainly warmed up the crowd.

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There was a short break for us all to enjoy cheese followed by ice cream and then coffee to finish. Then the wandering musicians returned, having been transformed from their funny fancy dress costumes into glamorous white outfits, as the main stage was lit and their performance continued. It took only seconds for everyone to be lured towards the stage and dance the night away, with the dance floor still as full when we decided to call it a night at around 1:30 a.m.

The Morning After

I woke up the following morning and began to smile as I remembered the Fete as if it had been some kind of surreal dream, although my mildly sore throat did bring me back to reality – did I really shout Olé that many times?

The whole evening was really special as it combined a simple yet tasty meal, in a wonderful setting, amongst lovely people, who made us very welcome.

So the next time you are driving through a sleepy French village don’t let that tranquility fool you – they are probably just recovering from a celebration the night before!

Le Caillau – wonderful restaurant offering local produce with a global feel

Le Caillau, situated near Vire sur Lot, nestles serenely in a picturesque valley amongst a collection of vineyards, exactly what you would expect from a 300 year old winery. The selection of buildings radiate around a beautiful courtyard with its central fountain covered in flowers as the focal point.

As you wander through the distinctive and characterful metal gates at the entrance, you are met with an air of tranquility as the various eating areas come into view. The indoor restaurant, the open barn filled with a mix of different tables and chairs, lit by large ornate chandeliers and then the courtyard itself, where the tables sit beneath the summery parasols for that all important shade on a warm sunny day.

We were shown to our table, given menus and offered an aperitif – I chose the local sparkling wine which was recommended, and was not disappointed, as it was a delight. Also, it was great to know that it was made a mere kilometre away from where I was sitting – now that’s what I call local produce!

The menu read beautifully, offering the perfect combination of contemporary dishes using local ingredients. I had already earmarked dishes I could try on my next visit


A La Carte dishes

The starters included chilli garlic vegetables and goats cheese fritters, tomato chutney, rocket and toasted seed salad or seared scallops, asian herb sauce, crunchy vegetables with lime dressing and roasted crushed chilli peanuts.

Then for main course slow cooked roulade of pork, gratin dauphinois, smoked bacon, beans, peas and a cherry cider sauce or seared tuna steak, potatoes with tomatoes and herbs, samphire, roasted vegetables and a chorizo sauce.

Of course you had to make room for desserts such as baked kirsch chocolate tart with cherry sorbet or what about mint and lemon catalana with raspberry compote.

Click here to see their full menu

 

Menu du Jour

Choosing a dish was always going to be difficult and then became even more problematic when we were told of their menu du jour. A main course, dessert, glass of wine and coffee for 13.50 euros.

When I then learned that the main course was a duo of home smoked salmon and haddock on a bed of summer green vegetables with a cream sauce and aubergine caviar – my decision was made. Backed up by the nods of approval from the people on a neighbouring table who had already sampled this beautifully created dish.

The house red wine – a Malbec of course in these parts – was lovely as well, and the option of an organic variety is well worth a try with its powerful yet smooth flavour, and was again, very locally produced.

Wine Tasting and Food Pairing

Every Wednesday during July, August and September from 5.30 -7pm for 30 euros per person you can enjoy a wonderful eating, drinking and learning experience – what could be better?

  • Learn about local independent wines
  • How to match food and wine
  • Taste 6 local wines accompanied by produce of the region
  • Gain advice about where to buy wines in the Lot

 

Why does Le Caillau stand out?

What I loved about Le Caillau was the balance they have achieved between seasonal elements, decor, ambience and location, in order to create something really special. That recipe of local produce meeting with more unusual ingredients to offer the unique, whilst still retaining the classic methods that epitomise French cuisine.

This restaurant is forward thinking, not only in the design of new dishes, but through constantly evolving and by adding its own stamp, such as home smoked produce. For Le Caillau, their passion for new ideas, combined with their use of very local produce, creates the perfect recipe for their success.

Click here to see the Le Caillau website for more information.

Holiday in France: 2016-the year ahead!

Happy New Year!  We wish you as much happiness as you can handle for 2016 and look forward to meeting you at Bijou Barn, your holiday rental in France.
Everyone makes New Year plans and resolutions for the coming 12 months and we have also been doing our own planning for what we will be introducing at Bijou Barn for our guests this year, as we feel it is important to constantly evolve and look for new ideas to make everyone’s stay as special as possible.

 

So what’s in store for 2016?  Well we don’t want to tell you everything, as it would spoil the surprises, but here is a bit more information about what we have in store.

New things at the House.

We want to add more things to keep you occupied at the house, including a new table tennis table and badminton set.  There will also be more board games and DVDs.  We are creating a mini cookery book taking advantage of the local produce which can be cooked either on the BBQ or prepared in the kitchen.

 

Out and About

There will be lots more information about what to do in the area, including specific events taking place during your stay so you can be very well informed about what to do and where to go to get the most from your holiday in France.

Off Peak Weekend Escapes

We know that not everyone can get away for long periods of time so we are creating Weekend Escapes of 3 or 4 nights where you can relax at the house or enjoy other experiences, such as wine tasting, music events, vintage cars, learning a language or exploring the area on bicycles.

 

Corporate Retreats

Bijou Barn benefits from a spacious interior and wonderful outdoor spaces in a tranquil setting, perfect for meetings, brainstorming and creativity.  The corporate retreat can be tailor made to your needs and fully catered so you can focus on your business.

 

Property Searching Trips

We spent much time, effort and energy searching for our French property and know only too well how tiring house hunting overseas can be, so let us help you make your search more effective and productive whilst maximising your chances of finding the perfect home. Use Bijou Barn as a base while you explore the area, arrange viewings and learn about what you really want from your property in France.

 

As you can see, we have lots of ideas for your trip to South West France as the more time we are here, the more inspiration we gain.  We hope you will enjoy reading our blog throughout the year and come and stay with us, so you too can enjoy all the elements that make this area so wonderful. Click here for more information about our holiday rental.