After decades of working with Philippe Bernède of Clos La Coutale in Cahors to import one of our perennial best values, we have finally received a rosé from this Renaissance Man: inventor of corkscrews, flyer of planes, and producer of delicious wine. All these years, he has sent us his inky, spicy, earthy red Cahors—often referred to as a “black wine” because of its deep color—which is made of 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot. Why hasn’t he produced a pink wine until now? The short answer is that Philippe is a perfectionist, unwilling to join the rosé rush as soon as possible just to make a quick euro. If he was going to release a rosé at all, it had to meet his high standards first. “I’ve tried to do it several times,” Philippe says, “and I have drawn good lessons from trying with different methods. It is a vinification that is very technical and very interesting, one which demands a lot of supervision.” He seems to have found the right technique at last. Using Malbec from his latest-ripening vines, Philippe employs a brief skin maceration with aging on fine lees to achieve his desired roundness for the wine as well as its soaring aromas and long finish. What is the result of Philippe’s experimentation? With its gorgeous strawberry hue, Clos La Coutale’s Malbec-based rosé is an immensely impressive first bottling that deserves a place on your table. It evokes bright and juicy red berries, a touch of spice, and the faintest hint of mouthwatering salinity, making for an extroverted, medium-bodied, and flat-out delicious pink wine.
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.
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