Cassoulet Domesticates the Wild Wines of Minervois and Corbières

While you may not be familiar with Minervois and Corbières, you likely have heard and certainly tasted the wines of Languedoc because one in 10 bottles of wine produced in the world came from the region in the 20th century (Robinson 1999:395). To further complicate the matter, the region is now known as Occitanie, a new name for an old region of France located in the southeast.  In 2017, we wrote about a rose wine Corbières (when we were supposed to write about Southwest France and couldn’t find one so we figured south France was good enough!) and we also wrote about wine from wine from Occitanie, and a bit about the region too.  

French wine regions

Major producers in the region Minervois and Corbières are best known for their red blends of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan, with regional differences: Minervois feature Syrah while those from Corbières showcase Carignan.

Occitanie is located in the southeast corner of France.

I will never forget the first time I had cassoulet. I was in my early 20s, and newly wed. I was taking a music appreciation course at the community college to finish up my course work for an AA in humanities while working at Stanford Hospital and in the tasting room at Ridge Winery, while also preparing to hike the California section of the Pacific Crest Trail. For an A in the class, I had to go hear a live orchestra perform — which I had never exeprience. I had also never been to the ballet, and always wanted to. SF Ballet was doing Midsummer Night’s Dream, so I called to make sure there would be live music. “Honey…” said the older woman on the other end of the line with a bit of a Southern drawl, “have you never been to the Ballet? Of course there’s live music!”

Anyway, so before the ballet we were going to dinner in SF. We had read in the SF Chronicle about this new restaurant so we decided to go there. I called and made a reservation for 5:30pm. We were quite anxious about making the curtain time. We wore our best clothes, drive up from Mountain View, found parking, and arrived well before our reservation — in fact the restaurant wasn’t actually open but they seated us. They were quite amused at our concern about making the ballet on time.

The special of the night was something called cassoulet. The way the waiter described it — slow cooked beans with pork, duck, rabbit, and sausage — convinced me that I had to have it, even though it was quite expensive. I don’t remember what Ken ordered, but I can still see the small casserole dish that arrived as my dinner. I couldn’t believe that was the whole thing– and for that price? But wow, when I tasted it– I couldn’t believe it. The complex, rich, dense flavors amazed me. We made the ballet in plenty of time, but it was the cassoulet that I remember most about that night so when some 30 years and new husband later I heard that a Ventura French restaurant was doing cassoulet, I insisted we go. Again, my husband was stunned by the price for such a small bowl of “ham and beans” but once again, it was so much more — with duck, rabbit, sausage, and pork.

Fast forward to learning that January 9 is Cassoulet Day and that the French Winophiles was doing wines from the Languedoc for January — a classic pairing. It didn’t take much to convince Sue to make cassoulet — after all, my birthday is January 11, and we had time to acquire the ingredients and prepare it as we were both on winter break. Truth be told, I ordered the duck and the rabbit and picked up the sausage, and Sue did all the rest.

Now I know why cassoulet is so expensive! It is incredibly time consuming to prepare! It took Sue the better part of three days! But wow, what a meal!

We paired the cassoulet with four wines from the region: a sparkling rose you can find in many grocery stores (because birthday bubbles!), a wine from Minervois and Corbières, plus to finish the meal, Armanac — which is from a region just to the west…

WINES

  • Aimery – Grande Cuvee 1531, Cremate de Limoux – 12% alcohol, around $15
  • 2015 – Le Lolo de 1 Anhel, Corbieres – 13.5% alcohol (sample)
  • 2014 – Domaine L’ostal Cazes, Grand Vin – 14.5% alcohol (sample)

MENU

  • Fig, truffle and regular goat cheeses; bucheron, brie, pate, duck  rillettes de Canard, green and salted cured black olives
  • Oysters, Uni, Lobster cakes
  • Tossed arugula salad with jicama, apple, and crumbled lobster cakes
  • Cassoulet

As Sue had never eaten or made cassoulet before, in researching which recipe to use, seh liked the way Bon Appetite played out plans from day to day on what to do. She exchanged the pork shoulder for rabbit in the ragu section. “I found the recipe easy to follow and understand,” Sue said. “This is a very user friendly recipe.” Link to Bon Appetite above or check out regional recipes here:  languedocadventure.com.

oysters, uni, lobster cakes — and sparkling wine! I did mention it was my birthday dinner, right?

Aimery – Grande Cuvee 1531, Cremant de Limoux – 12% alcohol, $15
70% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin, 10% Pinot Noir

While many think Champagne when they think French sparkling wine, sparkling wine from Limoux is quite good, affordable and getting easier to find. I was surprised to find two choices in my local chain grocery store and I don’t recall seeing ANY just a few months ago. However,

  • Limoux made sparkling wine as early as 1531
  • Limoux made sparkling wine BEFORE Champagne did
  • Limoux is second only to Champagne for US Imports

Color – super pretty, kind of like rose of provence, salmon light in color, rose gold, milleinial pink

Nose – red stone fruit, plum

Palate – red stone fruit, plum, cherry, a fleshy quality. The pelage is better after the bottle has been open for a while, let the big gasses release, trust that the bubbles will last (as they do in this wine) after the big gasses are released, the delicate fine bubbles are left behind.

Great with the bucheron cheese, rich and creamy with the aged gooey around the outside compliment the great wine to have with our cassoulet , put a bit of fig goat cheese crumbled in a salad paired with this wine, or as a dessert. This wine was also fantastic with our arugula salad. I am definitely buying this one again!

2015 – le Lolo de 1 Anhel, Corbieres – 13.5% alcohol (sample)
81% of Carignan, 10% of Syrah, 7% of Grenache noir and 2% of Mourvèdre; Carignan vines range in age from 40 to 70 years old, Syrah 25 years old, Grenache 27 years old, Mourvèdre 9 years old; organically grown and certified by Ecocert. Gravelly clay-limestone soils.

Color – pretty dense, purplish, garnet,

Nose – there is a nice spice to this nose, as well as raspberry, pomegranate and cranberry, tannins and bright fruit

Palate – nice rich palate, smooth from front to finish the way that it rolls across your tongue with the cassoulet. the richness and the intensity of the flavors marries so well with the flavors of the wine. The bright fruit also comes across on the palate which is tamed by this rich meal. Tamed and complimented, rich complexity in both the food and the wine. which is why it makes such an amazing pairing. The fat in the food provides a roundness in the wine. The acidity in the wine finishes clean, there are minerals present in this wine that cleanse the richness of the food away.

2014 – Domaine L’ostal Cazes, Grand Vin – 14.5% alcohol (sample)
70% syrah 15% carignan 10% grenach 5% mouvdre;  soil made up of a mosaic of shallow marly surfaces over chalky sandstone.

Color: So dense that it looks totally unfined and unfiltered, it is bottomless in the glass. purplish with red on the ring. color of royalty

Nose: There is the spiciness of the syrah on the nose with the beautiful fruits of the carignan, grenache and mouvedre

Palate: There is also a lot of bright fruit in this wine as well as minerals. Seems like coastal minerals. Also black licorice and red licorice at the top of the palate, but at this point our palate was so influenced with the foods.  nice clean minerals for a red wine, with our cassoulet we just wanted to keep having more.  The interesting thing about cassoulet, is that each different bite has different flavor components and complexity which pairs well with this complex wine. Each different bite brings forth different complexities of both the wine and the meal.

The wine stood up to our salad the same way that brussel sprouts sometimes work with a nice red wine. “It is actually pretty tasty ” stated Gwen. Sue did not like this with the bucheron cheese. Goat cheese did not agree that well with wine, made the cheese funky and bitter. This wine is a bit richer after a year in the bottle and the complex blend. It is a nice compliment to the evening meal.

With both, the rich cassoulette domesticates the wild beast of mineralities present in these wines.

Join us at 8am Saturday, Jan 20, 2018 on Twitter to learn more about what the other French Winophiles ate and drank this month or check out their blog posts:

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm: A Classic Pairing; Revisiting Languedoc

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Conquering Cassoulet Alongside the 2014 Minervois le Chateau d’Albas

Martin from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog: What Grows Together, Goes Together – Slow Cooker Cassoulet Paired With Affordable Occitanie Wines #Winophiles

Michelle from Rockin Red Blog: Spending January in Languedoc Drinking Wine and Eating Cassoulet

Jeff from FoodWineClick: Let’s Make Occitanie and Cassoulet Household Words

Nicole from Somm’s Table: Kicking Off 2018 with Corbieres and Minervois

Jane from Always Ravenous: Hearty Red Wines of Corbières and Minervois Paired with Cassoulet

Lynn from Savor the Harvest: Corbières and Minervois – Where Syrah and Carignan Shine

David from Cooking Chat: Chicken Cassoulet Paired with Languedoc Wine

Rupal from Journeys of a Syrah Queen: Staying Warm the French Way – Cassoulet and Wine

Liz from What’s in that Bottle: Let’s Learn About Wines from Languedoc #Winophiles

Amber from Napa Food and Vine: A Tale of Two Wines

Susannah from Avvinare: Mas Du Bousquet – An Unexpected Find From Minervois

Jill from L’Occasion: Eat, Drink, Travel the South of France: Minervois and Corbières

Lauren from The Swirling Dervish: Warming Up with the Wines of Corbières and Minervois

You might also check @languedocwines and the hashtag #languedocwines.

13 thoughts on “Cassoulet Domesticates the Wild Wines of Minervois and Corbières

  1. Pingback: Let’s Make Occitanie and Cassoulet Household Words #Winophiles | foodwineclick

  2. Pingback: Warming Up with the Wines of Corbières and Minervois – The Swirling Dervish

  3. Pingback: Hearty Red Wines of Corbières and Minervois Paired with Cassoulet - Always Ravenous

  4. Pingback: Eat, Drink, Travel the South of France: Minervois and Corbières – L'OCCASION

  5. Pingback: What Grows Together, Goes Together – Slow Cooker Cassoulet Paired With Affordable Occitanie Wines #Winophiles – ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

    • Thanks Lauren! And yes it was! And I would never say it was easy unless someone prepped all of the parts for you and all you had to do was combine and bake! I asked Sue to take photos of the process but she said it wasn’t very photogenic — just kind of messy and tedious…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a great ballet and cassoulet experience you had back when! You hit it on the nose about the rich dish “domesticating” the bright minerality of these red wines. I found it so true. And the reminder to look towards Limoux- yes!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a fun and informative read Gwen! I especially like the woman’s response to you inquiry about live music at the ballet (I can just hear her Southern drawl) An amazing memory of your first cassoulet too! I had that same Domaine L’ostal Cazes when we did the last event. As I recall one of the better under $15 bottles I had last year!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I really love the story if your early discovery of cassoulet and the ballet– a beautifully painted memory. Also, Sue’s cassoulet looks incredibly delicious.

    Liked by 1 person

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