Grilled Cheese with 4 Affordable Wines from Occitanie Sud de France #Winophiles

What’s better on an autumn midweek evening than grilled cheese, roasted pumpkin soup, and a green salad chock full of fall fruit? Pairing it with cheese and wine made in France along with two good fun friends!
This month host Jill Barth leads the French Winophiles in an investigation of the French region of Occitanie. Previously known as Languedoc-Roussillon, an area of southern France well-known for producing wine that doesn’t break the bank, the newly re-named region encompasses both as well as other areas in the Southeast of France going all the way to Spain and the Atlantic coast:

According to Wikipedia, Occitanie “was created on 1 January 2016 from former French regions Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Phyrénées” and “covers a similar area to that ruled by the Counts of Toulouse in the 12th and 13th Centuries.” The article explains that “The banner of arms of those counts, known colloquially as the Occitan cross, is used by the modern region and is also a popular cultural symbol.” Occitan is also the name of the original language of the region, along with Catalan; both are still spoken. The region also is the home of Occitan literature,  poetry of the eleventh- and twelfth- century troubadours that “inspired the rise of vernacular literature throughout medieval Europe” and was written in the Occitan language. Here are some examples of love poems — I was hoping to find some poems about wine! Maybe next time — or just imagine that “she” is wine!

Time runs and goes away and turns, for days, months, and years… And me, alas, the only thing that I can say is that I just have only one hunger. This hunger is unique and unchanging. She is the only that I want and have ever wanted…. By Bernat de Ventadorn

Over 5.6 people live in the region today, including friends of mine in Toulouse (population half a million) that I hope to visit in 2018! Located near the coast, Montpellier with a quarter million people and Nimes (with half again that at 120k) are two other major cities. My friend also says that there’s great skiing in the region in the Pyrenees!
With 740k acres (or three times the area of Bordeaux!) planted in vines, it is surprising that more people don’t know about the wines of Occitanie. Grape vines have actually grown there since the Pliocene — long before we humans were around to eat them or turn them into wine!
Even if you don’t know about the wines of Occitanie, it is likely you have enjoyed them: one in 10 bottles of wine produced in the world came from the region in the 20th century (Robinson 1999:395). Certainly the confusion of the name hasn’t helped. In July, the Winophiles focused on the south-east area of France and we struggled to find wines and figure out which ones would fill the bill!  The region hopes to address that by marketing wines under the banner of “Sud de France” as you can see proclaimed on this bottle on the top of the label as well as on others:

Cuisine of Occitanie

While the traditional cuisine of the region offers some wonderful wine pairing options including ratatouille, Salad Niçoise, Limousin clafotís (clafoutis), Languedocien cassoulet, Gascon fetge gras (foie gras) and various cheeses, we went with the French cheeses we could find here in California and with a very simple, easy yet very satisfying menu for our mid-week meal of family and friends to pair with four wines.

4 French Occitanie Wines under $20 each

2016 – Les Vignes de Bila Haut – Pays D’OC by Michel Chapoutier – Roussillon SRP:
2015 – Arrogant Frog Chardonnay – 13.5% alcohol SRP: $9.99
2016 Cote Mas –  Rouge intense Sud de France – 13.5% alcohol SRP $16 (1 liter bottle)
2015 – Mas Cavalier de Lascaux – 14% alcohol – SRP $18


French Cheese tray (pictured above and below)

  • Bucheron Montchevre
  • Campaigner Gulloteau
  • Mimolette
  • Saulnois
  • Le Junene Autize (made from morning milk then layered with ash, and topped with afternoon milk)

Fresh Fall Chopped Salad

  • chard
  • apples
  • pomegranate seeds
  • beets
  • spiced pecans
  • shaved mimolette

Curried Roasted Pumpkin Soup
ith a dash of cayenne and a swirl of sprouted pumpkin seed butter with walnut oil

Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches
various mostly French cheeses with fresh apples and pears
on raison yeast bread with pumpkin seeds or sourdough
so simple and yummy! a great way to use up those odds and ends of cheese and fruit too!

2016 – Les Vignes de Bila Haut – Pays D’OC by Michel Chapoutier – Roussillon – 13% alcohol

Classy label

color – very pretty, deeper color than usual French Rose – but still light and pretty,

nose – not a lot of florals, more grass or hay, alfalfa, some light fruit, the nose is closed in and very subtle upon opening.

palate – very dry very grassy, lot of herbal notes, mouthwatering acidity, light crisp and easy to enjoy, a perfect opening wine, opens your palate, wakes up your taste buds, it gets your mouth ready, gets juices going. Great weeknight, unwind kind of wine.

Bucheron Montchevre on a slice of pear or apple is heavenly with this wine.

Campaigner Gulloteau and this wine become transformative together

Sue loved the curried pumpkin soup was divine with this wine leading her to believe that this would be a fantastic choice for a thai meal. found this wine to go nicely with our entire menu tonight. Great with the sandwiches and great with the spinach salad

Fantastic with our Bucheron Montchevre with pear on sourdough. We felt that this would be a perfect pairing for a picnic. you could grill the sandwiches ahead of time and take with.

Arrogant Frog Chardonnay 2015 – 13.5% alcohol (SRP: $9.99, 750 ml)

Great party wine, screw top, with a funny frog on the label, he looks like he is heading out for a fun event.

color – lovely golden yellow color, not honey

nose –  very floral, vanilla bean, interesting, makes you want to keep sniffing.

palate – fruit and florals, vanilla and baking spices are evident.

Champagne Gulloteau – brings out baking spices, vanilla, cloves and nutmeg

Bucheron Montchevre did not do as well with this wine, but it was not off putting,

We felt that this wine would go great with the lobster mac and cheese we keep talking about making.

I was really surprised that the Chardonnay and our chard salad was the perfect pairing and Sue agreed.  It brings out a fruitiness in the wine that is not ever-present and brings out a sweetness in the salad. Helen felt that it was the pomegranate in the salad that played so well with the Chard.

Sue did not care for the Chardonnay with the soup. It made the soup taste super salty and lacked balance. It did however go fantastic with the triple cream brie and apple sandwich on the pumpkin seeded bread.

Overall we were really impressed with this wine!

Also available:

·         Arrogant Frog Pinot Noir 2016 (SRP: $9.99, 750 ml)

·         Arrogant Frog Cabernet-Merlot 2016 (SRP: $9.99, 750 ml)

Cote Mas –  Rouge intense Sud de France – 13.5% alcohol

45% Grenache Noir, 25% Carignan, 10% Cinsault, 10% Merlot, 5% Syrah

In June we tasted and enjoyed  Côté Mas Rosé Aurore 2016 (SRP: $10.99 for 1-L)

color – ruby

nose – plum and blackberries sour cherry, fruit is the first thing you smell in the glass on this one.

palate – a fair amount of acidity, seems like a wine that would keep over a few days if you can’t drink the 33% more in one sitting. definitely has some tannins, tart cherry on the finish, cocoa powder

This wine really liked the baking spices in the pumpkin soup. Helen felt that it come some of the spiciness of it.

Sue did not like this wine with our grilled cheese that had blue cheese on it, the cheese overpowered the wine so it is not a wine that can handle big bold stinky cheeses. It likes the milder creamier, nuttier cheeses.

Sue loved this wine with our chard salad even better than the Chardonnay. The rich greens, sweet pomegranate, and spicy walnuts was harmonious with this wine

Great week night or small gathering wine, maybe the next choice for your book club gathering!

The winery writes that “Languedoc native and advocate Jean-Claude Mas of Domaines Paul Mas crafts superior wines with a modern, New World flair using only premium quality grapes. His Côté Mas trio of charming wines burst with personality and express their unique terroir (and he knows a few things about back to school). Bonus, their 1-liter size is about one extra glass of wine.” Tonight we tasted  Côté Mas Rouge Intense 2016 (SRP: $15.99 for 1-L, red wine blend and in June we tasted and enjoyed  Côté Mas Rosé Aurore 2016 (SRP: $10.99 for 1-L).

2015 – Mas Cavalier de Lascaux – 14% alcohol – $17.99 on sale at Whole Foods for $15.99

60% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre

Helen felt that this was nice irregardless of the “cheese ball label” but I like the label– I think it’s clean and classy!

color – garnet with a violet rim medium density,

nose – musk, and oak with cherry pipe tobacco, cocoa on the nose at the end

palate – pleasing, easy, mellow, brambly trail, in the hight of summer when it is warm and you can smell the blackberries on the trail, then you go to pick them, there is a bit of earth in the berries. Black walnut in the finish.  Clear clean, very dry, very dry, but with fruit, possibly prune. which is why it went well with the salad, the pomegranate brought out more fruit in the wine, and the tannic quality in the wine, went well with the tannic qualities of the salad

We had a bit of our Saint Angel cheese left over from our last Made in France wine tasting, this cheese has such a nutty, creamy, insanely great flavor, with the wine, this cheese is over the top.

Our Campaigner Gulloteau nor our Bucheron Montchevre were a perfect pair for this wine.

Helen felt that all of our cheese sandwiches went well with this wine tonight.

All of these wines were samples for our review consideration– thank you!

Explore the region by checking out the posts by my fellow French Winophiles!


6 thoughts on “Grilled Cheese with 4 Affordable Wines from Occitanie Sud de France #Winophiles

  1. Pingback: 2014 Domaine L’Ostal Cazes “Grand Vin” #Winophiles – ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

  2. Great article Gwen, you and Sue really dug in! Love the traditional food of southern France but French cheese- I never knew what I was missing until I dug into it in the last few years. Curried Pumpkin Soup with the Roussillon-Yes!


  3. I love reading about all the cross-pairings, what worked with what and what didn’t. I heaven with those grilled cheese sandwiches too.


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