It’s winter. It’s cold. Now is the time for big hearty red wines from the Southern French region of Corbières and Minervois part of Occitanie, formerly known as Languedoc-Roussillon. Cassoulet, the regional signature dish is a classic pairing with the wines of Occitanie. I made a cassoulet for the first time, I was snowbound, and it couldn’t have been more timely. Need a wine and dish to chase the cold away? Look no further than Corbières, Minervois and, cassoulet.
The French Winophiles are starting off our 2018 calendar focusing on the Southern French appellations of Corbières and Minervois. Join our conversation on red wines and food from this region, Saturday, January 20 at 11:00 am ET on Twitter using the hashtag #winophiles.
Disclosure: I received two bottles of wine courtesy of Wines of Languedoc.
Map of the Region
Corbières AOC is Occitanie’s largest AOC located in the Pyrenean foothills. Because of its size; the terrain, soil types, and microclimates vary vastly. The climate influenced by the Mediterranean resulting in dry, hot, sunny conditions. Winds that blow year-round from the North-West prevent the need for spraying in the vineyards. Corbières was promoted to AOC status in 1985, under the 1985 decree, the permitted red grape varieties are; Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, Grenache Noir, Lladoner Pelut, Picquepoul noir, Cinsault, and Terret noir. One of the most noted terroirs in the Corbières AOC is a sub-appellation, Corbières Boutenac in the hills south of Lézignan. The soils in this sub-appellation lay on a base of limestone, known as Corbières’ “golden triangle.”
Minervois AOC is located north of Corbières AOC. Minervois is less rocky and rustic in terrain as compared to Corbières. The soil types in Minervois are also considered diverse. The climate is influenced by the Mediterranean, gets a cool air stream from the Black Mountain, and experiences greater rainfall. Minervois was also granted AOC status in 1985. The allowed red grape varieties include; Carignan (making up no more than 40% of the final blend), Grenache, Mourvèdre, Lladoner Pelut, and Syrah. Minervois red wines tend to be fruitier with fewer tannins than red wines from Corbières.
The Wines & Tasting Notes
2015 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbières
13.5% abv | $12.99 SRP (sample)
The wine is a blend of 60% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, and 10% Syrah. It is from the Corbières Boutenac appellation; grapes were hand harvested, the Grenache and Syrah were destemmed by hand. The Carignan went through carbonic maceration. The wine was fermented in temperature controlled vats for 14 days, racked into barrels after six months, and aged in French oak barrels for six months.
Tasting Notes: Ruby in color with a magenta hue at the rim. Medium bodied with balanced acidity and tannins. Notes of black fruit, cherries and a hint of licorice on the finish.
2011 Hecht and Bannier, Minervois
14% abv | $19.99 SRP (sample)
The wine is a blend of 70% Syrah, 20% Grenache, and 10% Carignan. Most of the grapes come from the dry areas of Les Mourels and Les Coteaux, grown on slopes of sandstone. The Syrah is sourced from vineyards around the village of Caunes, influenced by the ocean and grown in soils of limestone and clay. The wine was aged 30% in tanks, 20% new and one-year-old wood, 20% barrels of 225L new and one-year-old wood, and 30% barrels of 400L one and two-year-old wood.
Tasting Notes: Dark ruby in color. Medium + body with medium tannins. Concentrated notes of black fruit with spice, hints of chocolate, anise, and graphite. On the finish dried figs.
The classic cassoulet dish originating in Southwest France is basically a dish of white beans (Haricot Tarbais) and meat, lots of meat! As I mentioned, I made this French masterpiece recently for the first time to pair with the two wines from Corbières and Minervois. The pairing is a classic in the sense cassoulet originates from the region where these wines grow. But the wine varieties; Syrah, Carignan, and Grenache Noir compliment this dish in their similar rustic, bold styles. The cassoulet with its rich fat and proteins is balanced with the tannin and acidity found in the wines.
Cassoulet is a project and depending on how “authentic” you want to make it, tracking down/ordering ingredients takes planning. A snowy cold winter day is the perfect day to schedule making this classic French dish. I adapted Mimi Thorisson’s cassoulet from “French Country Cooking.” It was delicious, and serves an Army so invite some friends and don’t forget the wine!
- 1 +1/2 lb. dried white beans, Haricot Tarbais are traditional
- 10 whole cloves
- 3 large white onions, 2 sliced and one whole
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 Bouquet Garni tie together 3 sprigs of parsley, 1 sprig sage, 1 sprig rosemary, 1 sprig thyme , and a bay leaf
- 10 oz. dried cured sausage, Saucisson Sec is traditional, sliced I used Thuringer Salami from my local butcher, Pine Street Market
- 7 oz applewood smoked bacon
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 + tablespoons rendered goose fat or extra virigin olive oil
- 1 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-1/2 inch size pieces
- 1 lb. lean lamb, cut into 1-1/2 inch size pieces
- 2 sprigs thyme, leaves only
- 1/2 teaspoon Piment d' Espelette or mild chile
- 6 Toulouse Sausages, or good quality pork sausages I used spiced pear sausages from my local butcher, Pine Street Market
- 5 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- 16 oz canned chopped tomatoes, drained
- 3 large duck confit legs
- 2 cups plain dried bread crumbs
- 4 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped for garnish
- Put the dried beans in a large stock pot, adding three times as much water, and let them soak overnight.
- The next day, drain and rinse the beans. Return them to the stock pot and add cold water to cover by 2 inches. Stick the cloves into the whole onion and add to the pot along with, carrots, bouquet garni, dried cured sausage slices, slab of bacon, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, and one teaspoon salt. Stir to mix the ingredients. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook the beans for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Beans should be cooked but still hold their shape.
- In the mean time, in a large deep frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the pork shoulder pieces with salt and pepper, add to the pan and brown the meat on all sides for about 5 minutes. Season the meat with piment d' Espelette and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Add just enough water to barely cover the meat, bring to a boil and then turn heat down. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and scoop pork from liquid, reserving the liquid and pork separately.
- In another large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the Toulouse/pork sausages and brown on all sides about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Reserve to a plate. Season the lamb pieces with salt and pepper. In the same pan, sear the lamb pieces until brown on all sides.
- In a large Dutch oven, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes or until onions are golden. Retrieve the bacon slab from the bean pot and dice the bacon, and add to onions. Continue to cook for a few minutes.
- Strain the beans, reserving the liquid and beans separately. Pick out the onion with cloves, bouquet garni and discard. Pick out the dried cured sausage and reserve. Add the beans to the Dutch oven, add the tomatoes, and remaining 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Gently stir to combine. Pour enough of the bean and pork shoulder liquid to just cover the bean mixture. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In the meantime, in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, cook the duck legs skin side down until brown about 6-8 minutes, turn and cook another 6 minutes
- Mix the bread crumbs with just enough extra virgin olive to moisten the bread crumbs.
- Slice the Toulouse/pork sausages. Arrange the lamb, sausages, pork shoulder and duck legs on top of the beans. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the meats. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.
- Bake in oven for 20-30 minute and then broil for 5-8 minutes until bread crumbs are golden. Serve immediately.
- Rumor has it cassoulet is best reheated the next day. To reheat, remove the cassoulet from the refrigerator one hour before you plan to reheat. Preheat oven to 350 F. Break the bread crumb top to see if much liquid remains beneath the surface. If needed, add 1/2 cup warm water. Bake cassoulet for about one hour to reheat.
Check out what my fellow #Winophiles tasted and cooked up with wines from Corbières and Minervois.
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
Gwendolyn from Wine Predator: Cassoulet Domesticates the Wild Wines of Minervois and Corbières
Jill from L’Occasion: Eat, Drink, Travel the South of France: Minervois and Corbières
And here at The Swirling Dervish: Warming Up with the Wines of Corbières and Minervois