Philippe Bernède is a man of many talents. The proprietor of Clos La Coutale, in Cahors, is more than a simple winemaker: when not preoccupied with his vigneron duties, Philippe is an accomplished inventor with a number of revolutionary creations under his belt. His main claim to fame is undoubtedly an ultra-practical, easy-to-use remodel of the double-lever corkscrew, christened the Coutale. Most recently, Philippe patented a mandoline intelligently designed to prevent any risk of injury—a must-have for the home cook wishing to avoid serving guests bits of sliced finger. In addition to his creations, Philippe enjoys aviation—he is a licensed pilot with his own little aircraft. A humble man with his feet firmly rooted on the ground, he can also be found zipping across the skies to the next tasting, cases of Cahors in the cargo bin. But Philippe is a vigneron above all else, and he takes unrivaled pleasure in crafting deep, spicy wines from his Cahors estate. His red is a longtime staple of our portfolio, consistently delivering soulful flavors of Southwest France at bargain cost. A palate-staining, inky purple elixir with heady scents of smoky black fruits, this Cahors somehow possesses incredibly smooth, caressing structure. Could it be thanks to Philippe’s patented punchdown machine, which assists in a gentle mechanical extraction of aromas and tannin? We can’t say for sure, but we do know that this remains one of the finest value reds in all of France. For anybody interested in the full Philippe Bernède experience, Coutale corkscrews are sold separately.
Today, Cahors’ jack-of-all-trades and Renaissance man, Philippe Bernède, continues the family tradition with both heart and ingenuity. Philippe’s vines rest upon the gentle slopes that rise up from the Lot River. Over the years, Philippe has tinkered with the house blend to achieve a greater equilibrium. Today, the blend consists of 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot, creating an intense wine that juggles elegant rusticity with everyday drinkability. Coutale has quite a record of age-worthiness as well and Philippe is not afraid to pull out older vintages of his wines alongside much more expensive Bordeaux. They stand up pretty well! Nothing beats a bécasse or cassoulet with an old Coutale, but a simple steak fits the bill just fine.
Tucked away beneath Bordeaux and buffeted by the Pyrenees to the south, this expansive region of France, commonly known as the Southwest, is home to a diverse number of viticulture and gastronomic traditions as well as cultures. Though Cahors might be the most well known (and easiest to pronounce) appellation from the Southwest, the importance and influence of French Basque culture cannot be underestimated. Irouléguy, the primary appellation of the Basque region of France produces full-bodied, hearty red wines, produced from Tannat grape (known for its tannic qualities). Dry whites from Irouléguy are also produced from Petit and Gros Manseng. Northeast of Irouléguy is the sweet wine-producing appellation of Jurançon. These moelleux wines made from Petit and Gros Manseng have a storied history in France, from being the first wine region to have a vineyard classification, which dates back to the 154th century, to being preferred wine of royalty dating back to the 16th century as well as the French poet Colette.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
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