There’s a lovely drawing of the famous Pont Valentré on the Clos la Coutale label. The medieval stone bridge dates back to the fourteenth century and is one of a number of so-called Devil’s bridges, or ponts du Diable, scattered about Europe. At the time they were built, these ancient bridges were considered so technically advanced that surely only the Devil possessed the skill to build them. And build them he did, for a price. According to local lore, the builder of the Pont Valentré, stymied by the slow pace of construction, agreed to a bargain. The Devil would help the builder finish the bridge and follow his every instruction to the letter; in exchange, he would claim the builder’s soul when the work was done. The builder accepted and construction progressed rapidly, but as the bridge neared completion the builder began to think of a way to trick the Devil and escape their nefarious bargain. Knowing that the Devil had to obey his every instruction, the builder ordered him to fetch water from the river. . .with a sieve. Unable to do so, the Devil slinked away in defeat and the builder remained in the land of the living, probably celebrating with some roast duck and a chalice of ripe, inky Cahors. The Pont Valentré is a symbol of the city of Cahors so it makes sense that it has pride of place on the Clos la Coutale label, but I also think it’s a fitting reminder of the skill and perseverance necessary to consistently produce such a hearty, delicious red year after year. The wine is dark and full without being ponderous, with abundant black cherries and dried herbs. And all this at a price that’s considerably less than your immortal soul? Maybe sixth-generation vigneron Philippe Bernède has some diabolical assistance after all!
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.
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