This month’s French #Winophiles challenge is to find, taste, and write about wine from the Southwest region of France — or in French, Sud-Ouest. Like the name suggests, the region is located in the southwest of France: south of the more famous Bordeaux and west of the lesser known Languedoc.
According to Wikipedia, Romans cultivated wine grapes there long before Bordeaux!
With a warmer and more generous climate than Bordeaux, grapes have an earlier harvest and tend toward a higher alcohol level. Because of some legal shenanigans on the part of Bordeaux wine merchants who felt threatened by the wine of their southern neighbors, some 600 years ago a set of codes, known as the police des vins, required the use of the port of Bordeaux for wine trading: “The police des vins stated that no wine could be traded out of Bordeaux until the majority of Bordelais wine had already been sold.” This left barrels of wine stranded on the docks which devastated the wine business of south-west France.
No wonder we rarely hear about the wines from southwest France! To aid us in discovering this relatively unknown region, our host Jeff suggested we look for one of the following:
- Cotes de Gascogne
- Madiran (red) & Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh (white)
When we decided to accept this month’s challenge, we didn’t think it would be that difficult. After all, we’d written about a delightful and inexpensive white wine from the region made by a family that also produces Armanac, and we’d written about a sample of 2011 Theron Malbec from Cahors recently which I described as “damp forest floor, violets, iris, mushroom, hints of mint, redwood forest after rainfall: all of this is going on in the nose. This wine is very evocative and complex” on the palate too. It paired really well with a powerful blue cheese.
After this positive experience, we wanted to try another Malbec from Cahors! And the hunt was on!
As Sue and I were on a press trip this week to San Luis Obispo County, we weren’t sure where, when or how we could do a wine tasting and pairing dinner that wasn’t all about San Luis Obispo County! But as our press trip included a stop at Fromagerie Sophie on Garden Street in downtown San Luis Obispo, we hatched a plan to pair a few of her cheeses from southwest France with wine from Southwest France.
Unfortunately, we went on quite a wild goose chase trying to track a wine down! Jeff had said if all else fails, do Armagnac, so that’s what we finally found at a BevMo — which also had a rose of Grenache and Mourvedre from “Sud de France” as well as an Atlantique — which we weren’t too sure of either.
But during our chase, we discovered a very rare and unusual wine from the south of France: CALADOC, a cross between Grenache and Malbec! And we found it at the Sextant tasting room in Old Edna, San Luis Obispo County!
French grape breeder Paul Truel created Caladoc in 1958 as a vine that could grow in southern France and be less prone to “shatter” or “couture” which is where grapes don’t develop after flowering. Sextant owners also own a grape stock company based in Bakersfield; they thought it would be interesting to give it a go on an acre of their property. Very little of this grape is grown around the world, so when we found this we had to include it!
We just could not pass up this opportunity to share with the #Winophiles this very rare and unusual grape from the south of France!
The magical Desolina House, Old Edna VRBO, next to Sextant Vineyards, Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo County, CA
South West France Cheese tray from Fromagerie Sophie
Chevvefeuille Quarte Feuille
Camembert Au Calvados
Trader Joe’s Shells with asparagus and Brie
Trader Joe’s Spinach Kale Bites
Torrone with pistachio and pine nuts also Torrone with orange marmalade (from Fromagerie Sophie)
mandorle di Sicilia (from Fromagerie Sophie)
Lemon Bar (from SLO Brew)
Spiced pecans (from Great Basin Bakery)
- Sud de France – 2015 – Hedo – Hedonisme – Corbieres $16
- Sextant – Caladoc – Cross pollination of – Grenache and Malbec – Sunridge Nursery in Bakersfield 2015 X-Series Estate Caladoc, Paso Robles – $36 – 14.8% alcohol
- Tempe – Armagnac – V.S.O.P $50
- Bas – Armagnac – Delord – 25 Ans d’ Age $70
Before we get to the wine and cheese pairings and results, it is important to know HOW to taste wine and cheese together. As we learned from Paul and Sophie, owners of Fromagerie Sophie, it is important to follow these steps and to remember THE WINE BATS LAST:
This may sound overly simple but you need to coat your palate with the wine, then coat your mouth with cheese, then bring the wine in contact with the cheese. MORE ADVENTURES with SOPHIE AND PAUL AND TASTING WINE WITH CHEESE SOON!
Sud de France – 2015 – Hedo – Hedonisme – Corbieres $15.99
Like I wrote above, we searched high and low for something that was from one of the regions in South West France from Jeff’s list. The closest we came was when we spotted this Rose with Sud De France on the label. The area Corbieres was not on our list so we assume this is in a different part of South France, but this is what we could find so we went for it.
This Rose of 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvedre is a really nice Rose for the price, because it’s subtle, light, fresh, clean and refreshing, with plentiful white stone fruit especially nectarine with some citrus on the finish. The nose is more of a complex perfume than floral or fruit.
Overall this very dry, crisp rose went really well with our spinach and kale bites but we found this wine to be very polarizing with cheese, it either really works, or it does not work at all.
WITH Ossau Irate -French Aged Goat Cheese from south of France: Very harmonious! The wine brought out a wonderful nutty characteristic in the cheese and the cheese brought out a beautiful fruitiness in the wine. This was by far the best pairing.
WITH Chevvefeuille Quarte Feudle – This is a lovely cheese, and with the wine it becomes spritely. There is fun funkiness in the cheese which brings out bright fruit. Then as the cheese rests in your mouth and you take another sip, it brings out a marzipan flavor in your mouth. This happened after the wine, cheese, wine, rest and then a bit more wine to finish this amazing experience.
WITH Camembert Au Calvados – There is a funkiness to this cheese, that does not do anything for the wine nor does it work together, This did not work for ME at all but SUE did not think it was that bad.
Sextant – Caladoc – Cross pollination of – Grenache and Malbec – Sunridge Nursery in Bakersfield 2015 X-Series Estate Caladoc, Paso Robles – $36 – 14.8% alcohol
Sextant is one of the few wineries in North America that grows this grape, and there’s less than one acre at Sextant. Very unusual — and different on so many levels, On the nose it is perfumey, like perfume, and the fruit in port. On the palate, light oak and plentiful red stone and bramble-berry fruit with and the finish is peppery like a Szechuan peppercorns and licorice with some tart cranberry on the long finish. Overall, it’s rich and seductive.
The X-Series label so this is only available in the tasting room. So unusual, and fun, plush. A unique grape and wine. I bought this bottle in the Old Edna tasting room for this #Winophiles– then Sue bought another bottle at the tasting room in Paso Robles!
WITH Ossau Irate -French Aged Goat Cheese – Wine cheese yes! wine again, this works, we fell in love with this cheese, it is amazing and has such different characteristics with the two wines we pair it with tonight. I felt like this is the new cheese that I always needs to have in my refrigerator.
The cheese on its own is good, it is nice, it has some interesting milk chocolate nutty flavors and is not incredibly remarkable, but when you put this cheese with wine, something amazing happens, It is like there is a rose garden exploding in your nose and mouth.
WITH Camembert Au Calvados – This was a nice pairing. I preferred it without the rind than with the rind. Together the cheese and the wine become more complex. There is a bit of funkiness to this wine that works together with the funkiness of this cheese. These two work together, it does not sing, but it does work together.
WITH Chevvefeuille Quarte Feudle – Sue really liked this pairing, but I thought that you need to take your time before you begin to really enjoy or appreciate the cheese.
We also had on hand a few other cheeses from Sophie:
WITH Soumaintrain – This was Sue’s favorite pairing with this wine
WITH Tomme Périgourdine Affinee – This was also a phenomenal pairing with this wine. There was a big WOW factor with the two of them.
Is love and cream the same thing????
WITH PATE The country pates also went well with this wine but the mousse pates fought with it. In particular, the rabbit country pâté was wonderful with this wine. There was an herbal quality to the pâté that brought out sage and mint qualities in the wine. It really changed the wine in a positive way.
WITH Cana de Oveja – This is such a lovely creamy, earthy, nutty cheese, I was not greatly thrilled with this pairing, the earthy rind of the cheese was overwhelming to the wine, and brings out a bitterness in the wine that was not present in the wine before sampling this cheese.
WITH Paski Sir – Croatin Cheese – Brings out fruit in the wine. Hints of lemongrass and Asian pear on the finish. Rind gets peppery which does not work as well with the wine. The cheese makes the nose very nice bringing out some floral peachy notes. The rind of the this cheese did not work so well with the wine; without the rind it brings out a lovely fruity quality in the wine. the cheese does not shine as well as the wine with this pairing.
Tempe – Armagnac – V.S.O.P $50
We decided that this is so much better than a fine perfume because you can smell it and then drink in and enjoy the nectar!
On the nose, it is like walking through an orange orchard when it is in bloom and it has just rained. So beautiful and vibrant, marzipan. This is very perfumey and heady.
We were going to have this with our cheeses to compare the Armagnac but by the time we were ready for cognac, we were done with cheese and ready for dessert!
Torrone with pistachio and pine nuts – very nice
Torrone with orange citron – brilliant with this, makes this Armagnac taste like a gran marnier without the sweetness. This was the perfect pairing!
mandorle di Sicilia – So lovely with our desert nuts, makes the nuts better but does not enhance the Armagnac, it does not detract from it but does make the nuts taste oh so yummy.
Lemon Bars – was okay, did more for the desert than for the armagnac
Bas – Armagnac – Delord – 25 Ans d’ Age $70
Off the bat, I found this to be really intense. While the alcohol is the same as the other, there is just so much more going on! These spirits make you go deep, they make me more philosophical and contemplative and by this time in the day, after tasting beer then wine then getting a tour then getting to stay here at Old Edna, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and exhausted.
With food and beverage pairings, I tend to get caught up in that, but these Armagnacs pull you deep into other places and make you get real, especially this older Armagnac makes you reflect and contemplate. Maybe another day I’ll do more tasting notes…
Again we paired with the desserts:
mandorle di Sicilia – this was a fabulous pair with the Armagnac – not too sweet and full of nutty flavor
Citrus is diminished in the nose and there are more baking spices present, and almost a cream soda thing going on. I really liked the lemon bars with this. You can taste the egginess and the shortbread in the sweet
Torrone with orange citron – I also loved this pairing with the Armagnac – what a fantastic nightcap
Torrone with pistachio and pine nuts – There is a rich complexity with the two of these together.
Lemon Bars – Did not do too well with the lemon bars – too sweet.
Take a look at all the discoveries made by our Winophiles group!
- Jill at L’occasion shares “Périgord Wines: Bergerac and Duras”
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Southern France at a Midwest BBQ”
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Cam shares “Pistachio-Armagnac Sabayon with Strawberries and Meringues”
- Michelle from Rockin Red Blog shares “#Winophiles Showdown: Madiran vs Applegate Valley”
- Rob from Odd Bacchus shares “Bergerac: Underappreciated Wines & Controversial Cuisine”
- Martin from Enofylz shares “Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Arrufiac? Oh My!”
- Olivier from In Taste Buds We Trust shares “If it makes you happy…”
- Nicole from Somm’s Table shares “Cooking to the Wine: Paul Bertrand Crocus Malbec de Cahors with Lavender-Herb Ribeye and Grilled Veggies“
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest shares “Basque-ing in the Sud-Ouest: Wines of Irouléguy“
- Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares “Toast #TDF2017 with Wines from the Côtes de Gascogne“
- Gwen from Wine Predator shares “Finding and Pairing Southwest France Wine Cheese & Spirits for French
- Mardi from Eat.Live.Travel.Write. shares two posts (!) “Clafoutis, Southwest France style” and “Armagnac: A Primer”
- Jeff from Food Wine Click! shares “Exploring Madiran with Vignobles Brumont”
Join our chat on Saturday at 10-11am CDT (11am EDT, 8am PDT, and 1700 hours in France)! See what we think of Southwest France, and tell us about your experiences with the wine, food, or travel in the region! Simply log into Twitter and search for the #winophiles tag, and you’re in!
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What a fascinating post! Love all of this information about pairing wine and cheese and so intrigued by the Caladoc. Also: Armagnac and nougat? That sounds like quite the inspired pairing! What a wealth of information, considering you were worried you might not be able to taste the south west at all!
So intrigued with the Caladoc grape Gwen, how wonderful to stumble upon it, and perfect timing! And Amagnac- Mark and I first started with Cognac, decided to begin exploring Armagnac now. Based on your description, looking forward to taking a contemplative plunge, going deep into what an Armagnac offers. Cheers!
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How wonderful that you found this rare wine among all the other gems in the area. My brother lives near there so I am making notes of all the spots I want to visit next time I am there. Thanks so much.
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I tell ya Gwen, you and Sue are my gastronomic heroes! You really go all out. A great post…so much so that you may have tempted me into trying Armagnac! Cheers!
So many beautiful delights! This has made me really hungry! I’m always craving cheese anyways, but the combo of Armagnac and Torrone has really grabbed me as well!
Almost sounds like you were on a scavenger hunt, and if so, you did awfully well. Not one but two Armagnacs!
A feast for the senses! Sounds like it was quite the gastronomic experience – thanks for bringing us along. I was very interested to read about the Caladoc grape – I’ve never heard of it before – and I love the story of the Sextant wine adventure. You’ve even convinced me that I need to try more Armagnac!
This is fantastic! What a feast. I love that you went the Armagnac route and the Caladoc grape sounds very intriguing. Well done!
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