Pairings | France
Anyone who has a passing knowledge of cassoulet will know that there are hotly disputed arguments about what constitutes the authentic version. But whichever way you make it it’s a substantial dish.
Cheese and wine is a notorious minefield but is it any easier when the cheese is cooked? See my suggestions to match Mark Hix's delicious recipes in the Independent today:
Last night we had a fun five course wine and food matching dinner at Rockfish Grill in Bristol which showed the range of wines you can match with fish. Here’s a few thoughts about how we approached it for those of you who are organising a similar event.
About the last place I’d have expected to have an enlightening discussion about food and wine matching is in a fisherman’s shack called Chez Loulou down on the Languedoc coast. Actually I do it an injustice. It’s a restaurant - just - but one that relies for its appeal on fabulously fresh fish rather than fantastically skilled cooking.
Tomatoes are generally held to be a problem for wine but as Jane McQuitty robustly puts it in The Times today - nonsense!
You know how difficult it is to find a good wine and cheese match? Well here are five I’ve recently tasted that hit the spot perfectly. Four were at a tasting at the recent Bristol Wine Fair that was conducted by the food and wine writer Andrea Leeman. The other was a serendipitous one I came across the other night when we were eating with friends.
It’s a sign of just how good Sud de France is that it managed to pick up two major prizes last year (an Andre Simon and Fortnum & Mason award) without a single colour photo* or its author, well known and respected though she is in foodie circles, currently being on TV.
Every summer we used to drive down to our house in Languedoc in the south of France stopping off a couple of nights on the way. This post on our favourite hotels and chambres d’hotes was written back in 2014 so some of the prices will be out of date.
Although France is famous for wine there are parts of the country that fall under the radar and one of these is south-west France which is represented by the growers’ co-operative Plaimont which has vineyards which stretch from the foothills of the Pyrenees to the hills and valleys of Gascony. Benedictine monks grew vines in the region back in the 11th century. THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED.
About the most daunting audience that anyone could face is a group of wine writers, especially if a number of those happen to specialise in food and wine matching so it was with some trepidation that I agreed to lead a tasting on wine and charcuterie in London on Monday night on the eve of the London International Wine Fair.
When I knew I was going to spend 24 hours in Toulouse recently I asked my followers on Twitter - as you do - what restaurants and wine bars they would recommend. Unusually they all suggested different places which didn’t help that much so I ended up trawling around online.
Instead of hurtling down south on the motorway as we used to do with the kids to minimise family squabbling, we’ve taken to a stately three day progression with frequent stop-offs to visit winemakers, eat or simply drive through France’s beautiful unspoilt countryside and blissfully traffic-free back roads.
The last two days have been quite, quite beautiful, starting mistily, basking midday in an unseasonally warm sun and finishing with an extended dusk that announces that spring is finally here. I immediately want to eat lighter meals: the new season’s vegetables are not quite in yet but I can at least plan for summer and that means a spring clean of the cellar, pushing the full bodied reds to the back and assessing what whites, lighter reds and rosés I still have lurking in the racks.
Hard sheep cheeses are the winelover’s friend.
Matching a rich dish like pigeon with wine is quite challenging, especially if you serve it with an intense jus like this one so should you go for something equally rich or a refreshing contrast?
If you want to show off a fine dessert wine the ideal match is a simple French apple or pear tart, so there should be no surprise then at this pairing of a pear frangipane tart (pears with a spongey almond base) and a Pacherenc de Vic Bilh cuvée 'Octobre'.
It’s always a bit of thrill to come across a cheese you don’t know especially when you’re bowled over by it as in the case of the Napoleon ewes milk cheese I tasted at the Plaimont pop-up wine bar in Marciac, in south-west France last week. (It's the one at the top of the board in the picture above.)
The two days I spent in the Gers region of the south-west of France last week (members can see a full report here) reminded me just what a strong terroir-based match the local Tannat-based wines are with duck confit. I tried it both with a Madiran and a humbler Côtes de St-Mont which uses the same grape varieties.
One of the pleasures of the huge clearing and putting away operation at our new French home is the discovery of forgotten bottles. The other day it was a Marcillac from Domaine Laurens which went incredibly well with that night’s supper of seared calves’ liver.
Open any French food magazine and you’ll find pages devoted to them. There are whole books on the subject. And no surprise, really - they’re easy, they’re pretty and they make you look like a great cook!
Although I’m supposed to be the wine expert in the family my husband has an uncanny knack of alighting on exactly the right bottle when we go out to eat, unfailingly plucking the bargain from any wine list.
Turkish food is not traditionally accompanied by wine. And although the Turks do have a wine industry not much of it makes its way over here. But here are some thoughts on possible pairings for Mark Hix's Turkish inspired recipes in the Independent this weekend"
Travel writer Philip Sweeney hobnobs with the locals, checks out the best places to eat and discovers why fishing for bouillabaisse isn't as easy as it once was . . .
On a return visit this week to Bistro d'Alex in Florensac I found it just as good as it was when the review below was written five years ago - and the set menu, now 18€ (£15.50) for two courses, only 3€ more expensive.
I went to a great little bistro the other day in St-Rémy-de-Provence called - appropriately enough - Bistro Découverte. It’s run by a very talented young sommelier I used to know in London called Claude Douard who worked for Marco Pierre White and Joel Rebuchon.
Once you get a feel for food and wine matching you don’t always need to taste a wine with a dish to know what will work. So it was with a simple, seasonal dessert I had last week at my favourite local, Culinaria.
As those of you who are familiar with this site will know I’ve got issues about drinking red wine with cheese. It may seem an obvious partnership but all too often it seems a warring one.
The idea of matching a soup with a full-bodied south-western French red wine might seem bizarre but it proved a surprisingly good pairing.