The French Southwest wine growing region is often overshadowed by its Bordeaux neighbor to the north. If you are a fan of Bordeaux wines but not the hefty price tags, it’s time to get to know the wines of Southwest France. You will find similar grape varieties, taste, wine making methods, and quality in the wines of the Southwest. I am sharing several affordable Southwest wines I tasted and some tempting recipes to pair them with; beef tri-tip with chimichurri sauce and shishito peppers and tuna with fennel, lemon, and Aleppo peppers.
This month the French Winophiles are exploring France’s Southwest wine growing region. Join us on Twitter Saturday, May 21 at 11:00 AM ET for our chat (follow using hashtag #winophiles), and don’t miss more Winophile articles at the end of this post.
Southwest France Wine Region Map
The Southwest French wine growing region is bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the east by the Massif Central, to the south by the Pyrenees mountains, and the north by Bordeaux.
Map courtesy of winefolly.com
Four Sub-Regions of Southwest France
Dourdogne/Bergerac – The wines from this sub-region are similar to the neighboring Bordeaux appellations. White wines are made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle, Ondenc, and Ugni Blanc. Red wine are made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec.
Garonne and Tarn – This region takes its name from the two rivers that flow through it. It also has similar grape varieties to those of Bordeaux, but with the addition of varieties not used in Bordeaux.
Lot – This region takes its name from the river that runs through it and is the location of the most famous Southwest AOC – Cahors, known for Malbec.
Pyrénées – This region is recognized for its lesser-known local grape varieties. It crafts exotic white wines and hearty reds.
My Wine Tasting Notes
2019 Château du Caillau Cahors Malbec
13.5% abv | $19.99 wine.com | 100% Malbec
Deep ruby in color. Aromas of ripe dark fruit on the nose with licorice, earthy, and savory notes on the palate. The overall mouthfeel is smooth with a clean, balanced and lingering finish. Food pairings: pork, fattier fish, dark poultry, and slow-cooked root vegetables.
2019 Clos La Coutale Cahors Malbec
13.5% abv | $19.99 wine.com | 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot
Deep ruby in color. Savory aromas with a tobacco note. On the palate, a hearty, rustic Malbec with tobacco, licorice, and savory flavors. Medium+ tannins and acidity. The wine is well structured. Food pairings: hearty and full flavored foods like stews and cassoulet.
2018 Crocus L’ Atelier Malbec de Cahors
14.5% abv | $23.99 wine.com | 100% Malbec
Deep ruby in color. Fresh aromas of floral, red and black fruit. On the palate vibrant flavors of black cherry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, and vanilla. Firm tannins with bright acidity. A refined, well-balanced Malbec. Food pairings: a versatile wine to pair with steaks, stews, full flavored meats, and roasted root vegetables.
2021 Biscaye Baie Côtes de Gascogne Sauvignon Blanc
11.5% abv | $13.99 wine.com | 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Pale straw in color. Bright aromas of white peaches, lemon, and grass. On the palate, light with fresh crisp acidity and flavors of grapefruit, lemon, minerals, and a hint of thyme. The perfect quaffable summertime wine. Food pairings: simple seafood, light poultry, salads, and vegetarian dishes.
2021 Belingard Bergerac Blanc
13% abv | $14.99 Total Wines | 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon, and 20% Muscadelle
Pale straw in color. Enticing aromas of floral and citrus. Flavorful notes of citrus, candied citrus, and lychees. The mouthfeel is soft and round with medium acidity refreshing the palate with each sip. Food pairings: medium rich dishes like risotto, fish, poultry, and lightly smoked seafood.
2014 Chateau Tirecul La Graviere Les Pins Monbazillac
12% abv | $18.99 (500ml) wine.com | Muscadelle and Semillon
Medium amber in color. Aromas of honey, apricot, and marmalade. On the palate, ripe honey apricots and hints of citrus. The acidity is medium, balancing the medium bodied weight of the wine with a lower level of sweetness as compared to a Sauternes. The mouthfeel is rich, lush and delicious. Food pairings: foie gras, poached pears or other fruit desserts.
Food and Wine Pairings
Beef Tri-Tip with Chimichurri Sauce and Shishito Peppers Paired with Clos La Coutale and the Crocus L’ Atelier Cahors Malbec
Cahors Malbecs are medium(+) to full-bodied and display more earthy and savory notes. These wines need a pairing with similar weight and bold flavors. I paired the Clos La Coutale and the Crocus L’ Atelier with a marinated beef tri-tip. The marinade has savory and earthy elements with a hint of orange juice for freshness. The meat was grilled and served with grill-charred shishito peppers and Chimichurri sauce.
Both Malbecs paired well with the food, sharing congruent weight and earthy and savory flavors. My dining guests were split on which wine was their favorite. It had more to do with a personal style preference than a final pairing. I found the Clos La Coutale Malbec more rustic but softened with the 20% Merlot. The Crocus L’Atelier displays more fruit notes with a refined profile. My favorite was the Crocus L’Atelier for the overall balance of the wine and freshness from the fruit flavors.
Tuna with Fennel, Lemon, and Aleppo Peppers Paired with Château du Caillau Cahors Malbec
Château du Caillau’s winemaker suggests this Malbec would pair perfectly with tuna, raw or cooked. I took the recommendation and prepared a Melissa Clark recipe with a few twists. Tuna is a full-flavored meat, just like Malbec. Doing a gentle sauté of the tuna with ingredient additions like fennel, fennel seed, Aleppo peppers flakes(not as spicy as regular red pepper flakes, and garlic enhances those elements in the wine. A moderate amount of lemon zest and juice to the dish adds a lift of freshness that I always welcome. Melissa proposes serving the tuna with its sauce over pasta or sopping it up with a baguette.
Beef Tri-Tip with Chimichurri and Shishito Pepper
- 2¼ lbs. beef tri-tip, trimmed but leave one side with fat
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup low sodium Tamari soy sauce
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, sliced
- 4 medium garlic cloves, smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Aleppo pepper flakes
- 12 oz. Shishito peppers
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- flaky sea salt
- orange slices, optional
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- 2 green onions, white and light green part only, finely chopped
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Aleppo pepper flakes
For the Beef
- In a large resealable plastic bag add the tri-tip, orange juice, soy sauce, olive oil, onion slices, garlic cloves, and Aleppo pepper flakes. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight, turn the bag half way through the marinating time.
- Remove the tri-tip from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season it with salt and pepper.
- Prepare the grill with a direct and indirect heating source. When the grill is ready, place the beef on the direct heat side, searing the fat side for 2-3 minutes. Turn the beef over and move it to the indirect heat side. Cover the grill and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 120° F for rare or 130° for medium-rare. Turning the meat occasionally, total time about 20-25 minutes. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes covered with foil before slicing.
For the Shishito Peppers
- While the meat is resting. Place the peppers in a large shallow bowl and lightly coat them with olive oil. Using a stir-fry grill basket or a cast-iron pan(heated on the grill before adding the peppers) dump the peppers into the basket or pan and sauté them until blistering and charred, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Transfer back to the bowl and add sea salt flakes.
For the Chimichurri Sauce
- Mix together in a medium bowl; extra-virgin olive oil, cilantro, parsley, sherry vinegar, green onions, garlic, oregano, sea salt flakes, and Aleppo pepper flakes. Can be made one day before serving, refrigerate and stir before serving.
Tuna with Fennel, Lemon and Aleppo Pepper Flakes
- 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly slices reserve the fennel fronds for garnish
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Kosher sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ lbs. tuna steaks, about 1-inch thick
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- zest from 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
- pasta or baguette optional for serving
- lemon wedges for serving
- In a medium bowl, combine fennel slices, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and a good pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Remove any skin from the tuna, and cut the tuna into 1-inch size cubes. Season the tuna with salt and black pepper.
- With a mortar and pestle or with a meat pounder, lightly crush the toasted fennel seeds.
- In a 12-inch sauté pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the tuna and stir to coat the pieces with the olive oil and butter. Sauté for 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic, fennel seeds, lemon zest, and Aleppo pepper flakes to the sauté pan with the tuna and stir to combine. Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes or until the tuna is just cooked through. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Adjust salt and pepper flakes to taste.
- Serve the tuna on a platter and garnish with the marinated fennel slices, fennel fronds, and lemon wedges. Optional: serve the tuna with sauces over pasta or with baguette slices.
More articles from the French Winophiles on the Southwest France wine growing region
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Garlic and Herb-Rubbed Standing Pork Rib Roast + Château Laulerie Bergerac Rosé 2020
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles: Fish, cheese, and red wine. Exploring the Basque region of Irouléguy
- Jeff at Food Wine Click!: Deconstructed Tartine & Domaine de L’Astré Pèlroge
- Deanna at Wineivore: Organic Negrette & Manseng Wines from SW France Paired with Southwest Sliders
- Jane at Always Ravenous: Affordable Wines from Southwest France: Tasting & Pairings
- Cindy at Grape Experiences: A Taste of Southwest France: Nature Secrète Saint Mont 2018 and Sauteed Duck Breasts with Mushrooms
- Nicole at Somm’s Table: Encounters with Tour des Gendres Pét-Nat with a Side of Risotto
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator: Mauzac? SW France’s Domaine du Moulin Features This Unusual Grape in Methode Ancestrale Sparkler
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm: Visiting the Wines of Southwest France outside of Bordeaux
- Lynn at Savor the Harvest: Gascony Surprise: Meet Domaine de Joÿ in Southwest France
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass: Two Tannat-based wines from Southwest France