Vines were first planted in the Lot Valley by the Romans, and so successful did exports from the region become that in AD92 the Emperor Domitian was compelled to order the production to be halved, as the wines produced here were considered a threat to the domestic market. The vineyard however continued to thrive, the old Roman centre of Cahors becoming a busy centre of commerce in the medieval period, the ‘black wine of Cahors’ finding popularity in England following the marriage of Henry II to Eleanor of Aquitaine. So too did the wines gain repute from the pilgrims en-route to Santiago di Compostela, and its popularity spread across Europe, Cahors wines at one point forming half of the wine exports from the port of Bordeaux. This is the home of the Cot, or Malbec, variety, dark, bright, earthy, imbued with black fruits and a richly tannic structure, perfectly suited to the regional fare of duck, bécasse and cassoulet.
The Bernède family has been established here since well before the Revolution, and they began farming the Clos la Coutale in 1895. The current incumbent, Phillipe Bernède has tempered the more tannic and rustic elements of Cot (the expression of Malbec here is more structured than its popular Mendozan incarnation) with the addition of some 20% of the softer, more voluptuous Merlot, and fermentation in stainless steel to control extract, with maturation in a mixture of old foudre and second hand barriques from Bordeaux chateaux.
These are wines which combine an elegantly wrought dark rusticity with everyday drinkability, yet which are capable of ageing exceptionally well, and provide an exceptional accompaniment to simple steaks, or the duck-based dishes for which this part of France is famed. They also represent excellent value-for-money.
CLOS LA COUTALE, Cahors
|2017||CAHORS Grand Coutale||20.95||19.70|