Didier and Hélène Jouves manage a sizeable estate of 27 hectares on the coteaux overlooking the River Lot, west of the city of Cahors. Didier’s brother Bruno is the winemaker, although all three take part in the blending. Their vineyard is known as Domaine du Prince, and it lies in the township of Saint-Vincent Rive d’Olt. As opposed to the alluvial and sandy soil closer to the river, the coteaux are made up of largely limestone and clay, and are generally considered to be the finest growing areas for Malbec – the grape responsible for the vin noir (black wine) of Cahors. In comparison, less than one-third of the total production of Cahors comes from the coteaux, and a vast majority of it is estate-bottled.
Cahors is an area of polyculture, or mixed farming, and the Jouves still raise cattle, sheep and cereals for their own use. But a greater proportion of mixed farming is to be found closer to the river, as the land is primarily suited to vineyards and not other crops. The Jouves family can trace their origins back to the 16th century, and have been winegrowers for generations. But quality winegrowing was not the family’s original objective. The area was only rated as a producer of Vins Délimités de Qualité Supérieur (V.D.Q.S.) until 1971, when Cahors officially received appellation contrôlée status. Prior to that time, the usual vintner in Cahors grew grapes in quantity and sold them to the local cooperative. This practice still endures, but about thirty years ago the Jouves decided to end it.
Today, the winery produces about 10,000 cases, made up of four quality levels. The first, which receives only limited cask aging, is sold simply as Domaine du Prince Tradition. The second is similar, but is kept longer in wood: it is labeled Domaine du Prince Fut de Chêne. A third, which bears the proprietary name Rossignol (nightingale), is a deluxe cuvée that really shows the Cahors size and complexity. It is silky and round, with great color and depth. The top wine of the estate is Lou Prince, which is a matter of great pride to the Jouves family. Only 2,400 bottles are made each year, from a tiny plot of 2 hectares, and it is harvested and vinified separately from the main production. This rare, costly and extraordinary Cahors is easily one of the single best of the region. It combines an intense dark color with powerful fruit and finesse, along with the fine black cherry flavor of Malbec.
The Jouves are an example of an old winegrowing family that seeks innovation and new markets for their wine. They have already achieved a small but loyal following in the United States, and hope that their small children will one day continue their strong winegrowing traditions.