Deep in the southwest of France, amidst dramatic rock formations and cliffs, the Lot River slowly snakes its way along the valley floor, coiling covetously around the charming town of Cahors. The diversity in architecture serves as a proud historical mark left by many previous generations of inhabitants. Once a former Roman town, Cahors was also as a center of commerce during the Middle Ages that served as an important crossroads for pilgrims on the trail to Santiago de Compostella. Among the many specialties that have brought pride to the region, the constant has been its wine. A.O.C. Cahors is known as the “black wine” of the Southwest—the deeply inky, earthy wines that seem to complement the regional fare of duck (and duck fat!) so wonderfully. Cahors is also the birthplace of Cot, the grape more commonly known as Malbec—a fascinating contrast to its South American brother. The Bernède family is an intricate part of this tradition, watching over one of the region’s oldest domaines that was founded before the French Revolution.
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. He farms sixty hectares of land along the alluvial terraces of the Lot Valley that are rich in siliceous, clay, and limestone soils. The microclimate of the vineyards is ideal, with southwest sun exposure and topographic protection against the frost. 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. In fact, the ’59 Clos la Coutale is still drinking beautifully, especially with cassoulet, but his wines also pair just as well with a simple steak and potatoes. Philippe’s genius is not only evidenced by his wines—he is also the proud inventor of a successful line of double-hinged corkscrews that stands to change your future bottle-opening experiences!