Monday, January 7, 2013

Clos La Coutale Cahors (2010)

The city was known Divona Cadurcorum.  Or, at least that is the name given to the city by the Roman conquerors when they brought Gaul into the empire.  The Romans brought viticulture to the city and its surroundings, giving birth to some of the oldest vineyards and wines in France.  The city and its vineyards outlasted the Roman Empire.  They grew and flourished into the Middle Ages.  At that time, the city became known as Cahors, and winemakers continued to work those surrounding vineyards, cultivating grapes to produce wines that eventually became known as the "black wine."   

The term "black wine" is a descriptive one, used in place of the wine's more well known name, Cahors. The description was fairly apt, because the wine is a dark red, tannic wine, that was rough when young but that mellowed with age.  Although first produced by the Romans, the "black wine" or Cahors grew in popularity during in the Middle Ages.  Bottles graced the tables of royalty, and filled the glasses of the King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, as well as King Francis I of France.  The "black wine" was not only popular in royal courts, but also in the church.  Pope John XXII declared in the fourteenth century that Cahors was the sacramental wine and table wine of the Papacy.  The wine even made its way to Russia, where it was known as Kaorskoy and used as the sacramental wine of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Recently, a bottle of Cahors wine produced by Clos La Coutale also graced my table.  The Clos La Coutale is a 60 hectare vineyard located on the alluvial floor of a valley in Southwestern France through which the the River Lot meanders. The winemakers follow the rules of the Appellation d'Origine Protégée, producing their wine using 80% Malbec grapes, also known locally as Côt or Côt Noir.  (The rules of the appellation require at least 70% Malbec grapes).  And, while the rules allow for the use of Merlot or Tannat grapes to complete the wine, the winemakers chose Merlot grapes for this particular wine.

The Clos La Coutale pours a dark, inky burgundy red, which harkens back to the "black wine" of the Middle Ages.  As a 2010 vintage, this wine is still relatively young, which means it is rough and tannic.  It should be decanted before enjoying it at this time.  After being exposed to a little air, the Cahors opens to reveal a bouquet of very ripe dark cherries, blackberries and plums, along with some earth, slate or minerals. 

The Cahors is a very bold wine, young and brash.  The tannins are still very strong, but, the fruit does emerge as the wine sits in the glass.  The dark cherries are the first to emerge, filling the body of the wine, as the plums appear in the finish.  There are also elements of earth, tobacco and spice that appear in the taste of the wine.  The tannins nevertheless are present throughout the wine at this age, resulting in a very dry wine.  

Given its popularity during the Middle Ages, this wine may be paired with medieval dishes, such as Conyenges en Gravey (Rabbits in Gravey), Chaudyns for Swann (Swan with Entrails Sauce), or Monnchelet (Veal or Mutton Stew). For those of us who live in the twenty-first century, this wine is best paired with grilled or roast meats, such as grilled ribeyes or strip steaks, as well as a pork roast. 

While Cahors may have graced the tables of Kings and Popes, it now sits on the shelves of grocery stores.  No ducats required.  It sells for about $16.99 a bottle.



Steve Eisner said...


I came across this wine at Whole Foods and was really impressed, particularly for the price at $15. Your informative post does this little know wine and its town justice.

Steve Eisner
Menlo Park, CA

Keith Bolek said...

Thank you for reading my blog and my post. I am very happy that you found it to be informative. I try to research the wines, beers and even dishes that I make because there are so many interesting stories behind them.

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