I’ve truly experienced L’Art de Vivre in the gorgeous Lot Valley department, in the south-west of France.
Just a couple of hours drive from Toulouse Airport is the most magnificent 13th Century Château, owned by Bertrand and Christine Vigouroux, called Château de Mercuès, with all the medieval castle vibes and part of the renowned Relais & Châteaux, as well as a historic wine estate close by called Château de Haute-Serre.
Bertrand’s father George Vigoroux had bought the Château in 1983 and had also been a pioneer in the revival of the Cahors vineyard in the early 1970s. The Château had at one-time been the summer residence of the Counts and Bishops of Cahors.
The primary wine produced here is Malbec due to Cahors achieving its Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) designation in 1971.
Malbec is often wrongly thought to originate from Argentina but its actual and true origins are French. It wasn’t till 1852 that Malbec, amongst other vines, had been taken to Argentina where they flourished.
Meanwhile, George Vigoroux adopted a revitalised approach to Malbec production, cultivating and promoting the “black wine” grape and bringing attention back to the Occitanie region of France and away from Mendoza, the Malbec land of adoption.
Malbec isn’t the only epicurean star in this region, however. One of the most expensive edible mushrooms in the world, the Truffle, can also be found here, on the grounds of Château de Haute-Serre, thanks to thousands of trees, ranging from linden, hazelnut and oak, planted on the property in 2009.
My visit was for the annual Toques ‘n’ Truffles Experience, which runs every year in February on selected dates at the height of the Truffle season, and if you are a foodie and/or adore Truffles and fantastic wine, this is an experience to bookmark in your diary for 2021 to book! More on that later.
The owners of Château de Mercuès are wine makers, and below the castle lies a huge cellar, and you can indulge in tasting sessions as well as have various Wines paired with sumptuous dishes.
For the warmer months there is an outdoor pool to cool off in.
Food and Drink
With the kitchens under the helm of Chef chef Julien Poisot, you are in no danger of being underfed here. There is Michelin starred Le Duèze where you can taste some fabulous dishes cooked with seasonal and local ingredients including delicacies such as lamb, saffron, duck and black truffle. There are stunning wines that complement the menu, produced from the surrounding vineyards.
There is even a Chef’s table in the kitchen that seats six for the ultimate dining experience.
Breakfast and a Brasserie style lunch are served at the more casual Le Bistrot.
Perfect spots to relax with a glass of wine are either the bar or the lounge area, which has a relaxing fireplace to settle next to.
A visit to Château de Haute-Serre
Visit nearby Château de Haute-Serre where you can have a tour of the vineyards, partake in a tasting session and try the delectable food at La Table de Haute-Serre, which was awarded a BIB Gourmand, and which features a lot of truffle-inspired dishes which are delightful.
Toques ‘n’ Truffles Experience
I was there for the Toques ‘n’ Truffles experience which I highly recommend adding to your travel plans, as it was so fascinating and the perfect gourmet break.
Every Tuesday during Truffle season (December to March)there is the Lalbenque truffle producers’ market and it is one of the most famous places in the world to buy black truffles. Sellers arrive in the main square at 2pm ready to secure the very best price for their valuable produce, and at exactly 2:30pm the rope guard is lifted allowing buyers to begin their haggling.
It is so interesting seeing all the action as it happens, which is super quick!
Having seen how valuable these ‘Black diamonds’ are and how the best price is negotiated for them, it was off to find some truffles of our own with the help of Christine Vigouroux and her adorable Chocolate Labrador Iago.
The terroir of the area with its limestone plateau and open landscape have created the perfect biological combination that allows truffles to cultivate and we followed Christine and Iago’s lead as they traversed the grounds amongst the oak trees and moorlands.
Iago would run around sniffing the ground and then stop to wag his tail whenever he found some truffle and then start digging the area around where the truffle is. Dogs will only find truffle that is ripe and ready to be picked.
We then ended the perfect gourmet day with a steaming hot glass of mulled wine and milla cake back at Château de Haute-Serre.
I had an amazing time in Cahors with the immersive black truffle Toques ‘n’ Truffles experience, learning all about the famous truffle market, going truffle hunting with Iago as well as indulging in Michelin star cuisine with dishes inspired by the culinary ‘Black Diamond.’
A winery tour and informative tastings of the fantastic Malbec wine produced by the estate completed the experience for me and it is one I would highly recommend!
For more information about 2021 dates visit www.chateaudemercues.com or call +33 05 65 20 00 01.
Aside from the Toques ‘n’ Truffles experience, I would highly recommend booking a stay at Château de Mercuès to experience the French L’Art de Vivre amongst the Château’s stunning grounds with the kind hospitality of Bertrand and Christine Vigouroux.
Address: Chateau de Mercuès, Route du Château, 46090 Mercuès, France.
Phone: +33 5 65 20 00 01