The Black Wine
by: Vino Joe (e-mail)
Cahors (rhymes with “da whores”) has been a winegrowing region in southwest France since at least the 13th century (probably longer), yet you’ve probably never heard of it. The area makes red wines exclusively, and in fact is known for “the black wines” -- so nicknamed because the wines are so deep and inky in color, they look black. Before you get scared off by the wine as dark as night, read on and learn a little more; the knowledge will comfort any fears you may have.
First off, all wines from Cahors must contain at least 70% of the grape Auxerrois, also known as Cot, also known as Malbec. Though its origins are in Cahors, and it has historically been used as a blending grape in Bordeaux, Malbec may be most familiar to fans of the wines of Argentina, where it has flourished and is currently gaining popularity. The remaining 30% of the wine can include the grapes Tannat and/or Merlot. Tannat adds some mean tannins, while Merlot contributes suppleness and complexity.
The classic style of Cahors wine is deeply colored, rich in flavor, and well structured with ample tannins and high alcohol (two natural preservatives that make it long-lived). For many palates, true Cahors is a bit too harsh when young; most people prefer to drink Cahors after it has spent five to 10 years in the cellar and softened a bit. Recently, however, a number of winemakers have been producing Cahors wines that are softer and more drinkable upon release. One example is Clos La Coutale Cahors. Clos La Coutale has a reputation as one of the better wineries in Cahors, and for those who like rattling off numbers, their wine is made from 70% Malbec, 15% Tannat and 15% Merlot.
If you enjoy the forward, ripe styles of modern Argentinian Malbec, you may like Clos La Coutale. One whiff and your nose is smacked with an attractive assortment of rich, ripe, jammy red and black fruit aromas, with hints of licorice and black pepper mixed in. On the palate it has a velvety smooth texture, very soft in the mouth, with ripe black fruits, pepper and hints of earth. Acidity is low to medium, and tannins are soft to medium. Overall, an attractive, easy wine, something to drink now. The finish is not lengthy and a touch hot, but not unpleasant. The open, forward fruit on the nose made me expect similarly open fruit in the mouth, but it wasn’t quite there. If you have the patience to cellar it for a few years, you may well be rewarded with more jammy, juicy fruit flavors. Personally, I find it just fine for drinking today, and who knows if I’ll be around in a few years?
Bottom line: This is an overall enjoyable red wine with enough seriousness to impress your date, your boss, or your in-laws. Burgers, veal parm, beef stew, most other meaty dishes and gamey fish are all good food matches. Best of all, at around 12 bucks, it’s easy on the wallet.
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