First off, as I said to Jen the other day, I was looking over the blog, and I noticed that I have never even once written about a wine from France’s Cahors…well tonight, all that ends. And it begins auspiciously…
So as the title implies, so much of what grows in the vineyards of South America – Argentina and Uruguay in particular – literally has its roots in France’s southwest. In addition to hundreds of thousands of Italians (who brought in, and planted Italian vines like Sangiovese and Barbera, et al.) a huge number of Gascogne French and Basques also emigrated again, to Argentina, Uruguay, as well as Chile, and these groups brought with them cuttings of vines native to southwestern France like Carmenere, Merlot (to Chile), Malbec, (to Argentina) and Tannat (to Uruguay)
Upon arrival and settlement in the New World, these varieties were more likely to be vinified varietally than in blends. This “traditional” South American approach has more recently evolved into more blended wines, with bottlings including Malbec, Merlot, Tannat and Syrah and others often all under one cork, becoming more and more common, but what’s old is new again.
So if you look at a venerable Gascogne wine region like Cahors, the contemporary wines of South America clearly look like their daddy. The official percentage numbers governing Cahors (pronounced “ka-OR”) are thus: Malbec, 7o-100%, with up to 30% of Merlot and Tannat in any combination, or alone. This evening’s cuvee` happens to omit the Merlot, going instead with a blend of 90% Malbec, and 10% Tannat that are together aged for one year in new French oak barriques. Like I said, what’s old is new again…
Traditionally called “The Black Wines of Cahors”, the wines from this region are indeed deep and dark, but typically still taut and toned and rarely heavy, so they’re fairly easy to match, so with that in mind I cooked down a hash of the last of the (very nice) grape tomatoes and yellow squash with garlic et al., and spread it on rounds of toasted semolina bread that I served as an appetizer, and then for the maine course, a bistro classic: Steak au poive avec frites – grilled hangar steak with the usual creamy black pepper, mustard, and shallot sauce, with fried potatoes on the side.
Chateau La Coustarelle Cahors Grande Cuvee` Prestige 2008
Very deeply saturated blackish purple color. The nose is very clean and polished, with clear notes of wood smoke, berry jam, black cherry, briar, black tea, wet stones, humus, and lanolin. The wine enters the mouth with a smooth and intense opulence, and a very full, muscular, and fairly weighty body, that is still juicy, crunchy, and well structured, with pleasantly abrasive tannins and clearly etched flavors of juniper berries, plum, blueberry, blackberry, and licorice, all pervaded by well integrated oak. Notes of dried cranberries and roasted corn on the warm, long finish.