Pairings

Pairings | Languedoc

From the cellar: Domaine d’Aupilhac Montpeyroux 1992, Coteaux du Languedoc

From the cellar: Domaine d’Aupilhac Montpeyroux 1992, Coteaux du Languedoc

One of the pleasures of being at our house in the Languedoc is diving into the cellar and fishing out old, overlooked bottles.

Sud de France: Caroline Conran's love letter to Languedoc

Sud de France: Caroline Conran's love letter to Languedoc

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.

A Viognier-dominated Languedoc white and a Chinese/Thai takeaway

A Viognier-dominated Languedoc white and a Chinese/Thai takeaway

The first thing we do when we get back from France is to eat some kind of spicy food. It’s not impossible to eat ethnic down in the Languedoc (there are a couple of Vietnamese restaurants locally) but it’s not good.

Steak tartare and Côteaux du Languedoc

Steak tartare and Côteaux du Languedoc

You might be surprised to know that red wine isn’t the first pairing I think of with steak tartare, which for those of you who haven’t tried it is chopped raw beef flavoured with punchy seasonings such as capers, parsley and hot pepper sauce. I actually think it pairs really well with sparkling wine, especially Champagne but last week I was down in the Languedoc and that didn’t really seem appropriate.

Auberge de Combes: a real taste of the Languedoc

Auberge de Combes: a real taste of the Languedoc

Over the past few years we’ve become so disillusioned with restaurants in the Languedoc that we almost invariably end up eating at home.

Couscous and Languedoc rosé

Couscous and Languedoc rosé

It's funny how your attitude to food and wine matching changes when you visit a wine-producing area like the Languedoc which is where I've been for the past few days. You tend to drink the local wine because it's what the locals drink. It may not be the best match but it doesn't really matter, particularly at lunchtime when you want something light.

Comté cheese and Languedoc Syrah

Comté cheese and Languedoc Syrah

We’ve been down in the Languedoc for the past week and two bottles - both Syrah - have impressed me for very different reasons. One was an inexpensive but characterful Ressac Vin de Pays d’Oc Syrah which we bought from the co-op at Florensac, Vinopolis, after eating at their showcase restaurant Bistrot d’Alex which I’ve mentioned on the site before. The other a much classier bottle called Clos du Fou (the 2004 vintage) from a local Faugères winemaker Château des Estanilles which bore comparison with a Côte Rôtie.

Beef shin pie and a Languedoc red

Beef shin pie and a Languedoc red

It’s amazing how many different styles of eating you can pack into a week, particularly when you’re travelling. At the moment I’m in sunny Chile stuffing myself with seafood and sauvignon blanc so I'm finding it hard to remember that just six days ago I was in rain-ravaged Britain craving pies and stews.

A wine and truffle lunch with The Wine Society

A wine and truffle lunch with The Wine Society

Are Languedoc wines grand enough to stand up to truffles? Our new contributor Donald Edwards reports:

Salmon sashimi and dry Languedoc rosé

Salmon sashimi and dry Languedoc rosé

Not, I admit, the sort of starter you expect to be served on your first night in France - or the wine you’d expect to go with it - but the pairing, at the Château du Port in Marseillan*, worked perfectly.

Roast lamb with wild garlic risotto, asparagus and feta with a chilled Languedoc red

Roast lamb with wild garlic risotto, asparagus and feta with a chilled Languedoc red

This match, which I enjoyed at Plateau wine bar in Brighton last week, breaks a couple of wine pairing conventions. Firstly that you match red meat with a full bodied red. And secondly that you don’t drink red wine with asparagus.

Navarin of lamb and 2002 Chateau des Estanilles Faugères

Navarin of lamb and 2002 Chateau des Estanilles Faugères

Last week we were down at our house in Languedoc mainly cooking from home* and raiding the cellar for wines we thought needed drinking up - at least that was our excuse!

Berry Bros & Rudd Reserve Red

Berry Bros & Rudd Reserve Red

Only a merchant with a pedigree like Berry Bros & Rudd could consider an £8.45 bottle a ‘house wine’ but if your usual fare is classed growth claret I guess it is.

Tuna Tataki and Grenache Blanc

Tuna Tataki and Grenache Blanc

Perfectly prepared Japanese food is not what you expect to find in the gastronomic desert of the Languedoc but this superb dish of rare tuna was a brilliant match for the richly textured white wine I drank at Côté Mas the other day.

Bistro d'Alex, Florensac - a real find in an unlikely location

Bistro d'Alex, Florensac - a real find in an unlikely location

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.

Which wine to drink with paella?

Which wine to drink with paella?

If you’re a bit hesitant about the idea of matching fish and red wine you might automatically think of pairing paella with a white wine. But I think it goes just as well with a rosé or a red.

Salt cod with chorizo and Cabernet - yes, Cabernet!

Salt cod with chorizo and Cabernet - yes, Cabernet!

Few these days dispute that red wine goes with fish - it’s just a question of which wine and how the fish is cooked. Most would accept ‘meaty' steak lookalikes like grilled or spiced tuna or salmon work with Pinot Noir but would hesitate to take it much further than that but last week I found a couple of surprisingly good fish matches at one of my favourite new wine bars 28-50.

Anchoïade and strong dry southern French rosé

Anchoïade and strong dry southern French rosé

Anchovies are supposed to be tricky with wine but I pretty well always find that rosé hits the spot.

Off the shelf: Les Crouzes Old Vines Carignan 2014

Off the shelf: Les Crouzes Old Vines Carignan 2014

If you’re looking for a cheap all-purpose red after Christmas this old favourite from the Co-op should fit the bill.

Wine and pepper

Like salt, pepper has a pronounced effect on wine, often making reds taste softer and lusher than they otherwise would. Unlike salt though, you also find peppery flavours in wines such as Northern Rhône Syrah and Austrian Grüner Veltliner.

Wine with chicken: red or white?

Wine with chicken: red or white?

Chicken can be served so many different ways you might wonder which type of wine makes the best pairing. The truth is there’s no single answer - it depends on your own personal taste and the way it’s cooked - but here's a simple guide:

Wine and lamb: my 5 favourite pairings

Wine and lamb: my 5 favourite pairings

It’s tough to say what the best wine matches for lamb are - it’s served so many different ways and there are so many wines (mainly red) that work but here are my five favourites.

Six of the best wines with a nut roast

Six of the best wines with a nut roast

You might be surprised that a nut roast isn’t that different from a conventional roast when it comes to finding a wine pairing. The savoury flavours are designed to act as a satisfying substitute for meat and so work best with similarly full-bodied red wines.

Four favourite wine matches for coq au vin

Four favourite wine matches for coq au vin

Today (May 29th) is bizarrely National Coq au Vin day (who on earth decides these things?) and here, on cue, are four of my favourite wine pairings for this classic French dish.

Five great cheese and wine pairings

Five great cheese and wine pairings

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.

Dry wines with fresh fruit

Dry wines with fresh fruit

One of the welcome reminders of this long hot summer (in the Languedoc at least) is just how well dry wines go with fresh fruit. I’ve been happily drinking whites, ross and even reds with fruit such as peaches, apricots, melons and figs. Sweet wines, of course, go well with all of these but sometimes sweet wines seem too intense, particularly if, like me, you don’t have a very sweet tooth.

Dry or fruity? Which style of white wine pairs best with simply grilled fish?

Dry or fruity? Which style of white wine pairs best with simply grilled fish?

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.

Steak tartare and Beaujolais

Steak tartare and Beaujolais

This was a wine pairing I hadn’t thought of putting together before but once experienced last week at Racine it seemed supremely logical.

Steak pie and strong ale

Steak pie and strong ale

There’s a distinct nip in the air this week that makes makes me suddenly feel much less like eating summery food. Last night we went round to friends and shared some absolutely awesome steak pies they’d brought back from a butcher called Murray Mitchell in St Andrews in Scotland (they will send them by mail order in the UK apparently if you ring them on 01334 474465).

Salade Niçoise and Rosé

Salade Niçoise and Rosé

The weather has been so unseasonally hot over the last couple of days - well into the 20s (or the late 70s for those of you who prefer to think in Fahrenheit) - that I’m suddenly fast-forwarding to summer and one of my favourite meals, Salade Niçoise.

Rabbit (or chicken) with spring vegetables and Viognier

Rabbit (or chicken) with spring vegetables and Viognier

On Saturday I was in London’s Borough Market which was full of the most wonderful spring vegetables - artichokes, broad beans, peas and asparagus. It reminded me of a dish I normally make this time of year when we’re at our house in the Languedoc in southern France which is rabbit braised with spring vegetables and Viognier.

Provençal-style fish soup and Picpoul de Pinet

Provençal-style fish soup and Picpoul de Pinet

We’re down in the Languedoc for a few days and ended up at one of our favourite fish restaurant Le Glacier at Marseillan.

Pot roast pheasant with St-Chinian

Pot roast pheasant with St-Chinian

Once the game season starts to get into full swing my husband ventures into the kitchen. Pheasant, of course, doesn’t come into season until the 1st of October but our local butcher was obviously clearing out last year’s stocks and we picked one up for a song.

Pigeon 'tagine' with Jaboulet Ainé Hermitage La Chapelle 1994

Pigeon 'tagine' with Jaboulet Ainé Hermitage La Chapelle 1994

I came across this pairing at Chris and Jeff Galvin’s newly opened Galvin La Chapelle in Spitalfields in the City where they have a vertical of vintages, some of which are available by the glass. As I observed in my review on decanter.com it’s not a cheap option but if you’ve never tasted an old vintage of Hermitage la Chapelle here’s a chance to do so.

Palais Royal and Roquefort

Palais Royal and Roquefort

We’ve been down in the Languedoc for the past week, revisiting some of the winemakers we haven’t seen for a while. They included Domaine de l’Arjolle, one of the first wineries we bought from when we bought a holiday home down here in the early 1990s.

Mushroom 'caviar' and Californian sparkling wine

Mushroom 'caviar' and Californian sparkling wine

Every so often you come across a great little recipe than does wonders for almost any wine you pair with it. And so it is with mushroom ‘caviar’, a regular offering from the takeaway section of my favourite local restaurant Culinaria. Basically it’s a mushroom pâté but so reduced and wickedly intense it’s like pure essence of mushroom. Except for the perfect counterpoint - a tiny touch of tarragon.

Mackerel and artichokes with Mademoiselle rosé

Mackerel and artichokes with Mademoiselle rosé

As I’ve been down in the Languedoc for the past week most of my food and wine combinations have been classic. Picpoul and oysters (always great), a rich grenache/syrah/mourvedre blend called Cascaillou* with a beef daube (spot on) and my wine of the week, Mas des Chimères Oeillade (a cinsault) with grilled lamb and herbs.

Grilled aubergine, red pepper and goats cheese baguette and Le Fruit Défendu rosé

Grilled aubergine, red pepper and goats cheese baguette and Le Fruit Défendu rosé

It’s been so steamingly hot this past week down in the Languedoc (sorry to rub it in, rain-sodden folks back home) that there isn’t any alternative to rosé for my match of the week. That’s what I’ve been drinking (albeit from different producers) with everything.

Faggots with onion gravy and Mas Belles Eaux Vieux Carignan

Faggots with onion gravy and Mas Belles Eaux Vieux Carignan

Faggots, which are basically a rather gamey British meatball made with pork belly and offal, are a bit of an acquired taste along the lines of the French sausage andouillette but well made, as they are when supplied by our local butcher, they can be very tasty. They need to be accompanied by onion gravy which normally leads one in the direction of a robust ale but the other night we had them with a bottle of Mas Belles Eaux Vieux Carignan 2006 which actually worked very well.

Cold roast veal with herbs and St Chinian rosé

Cold roast veal with herbs and St Chinian rosé

It’s been so hot over the last couple of days here in the Languedoc I haven’t felt much like cooking so we raided the very good local traiteur (takeaway) in Murviel yesterday for our weekend’s eating. The highlight was some beautifully cooked rare roast veal with herbs - in the style of Italian porchetta.

Braised short ribs in red wine with Les Clos Perdus Corbières

Braised short ribs in red wine with Les Clos Perdus Corbières

The weather has been so absurdly autumnal this week that I cooked a substantial stew for friends on Saturday night, an intensely flavoured braise of beef short ribs (or pot au feu as our local butcher describes them) with plenty of lush, red wine (a Valdivieso Cabernet Sauvignon from the Maipo Valley in Chile which is part of the Waitrose own label range).

A Middle-Eastern inspired barbecue for eight

A Middle-Eastern inspired barbecue for eight

Here's a barbecue with a difference from my book Food, Wine and Friends. The centrepiece is a spiced, butterflied leg of lamb served with a delicious Turkish-style bulghur wheat salad called Kisir. Finish with grilled nectarines or, if you prefer to have your dessert prepared ahead, some refreshing wine jellies.

Off the shelf: Domaine Grangette La Saignée de Rose Piquepoul Noir 2012

Off the shelf: Domaine Grangette La Saignée de Rose Piquepoul Noir 2012

As I mentioned in my Guardian column this week I’m slightly disenchanted with the Languedoc’s signature grape variety Picpoul which isn’t nearly the good value it once was but Grangette’s is one I rather like.

Mount Rozier Merlot 2011 Stellenbosch, South Africa

Mount Rozier Merlot 2011 Stellenbosch, South Africa

South African wine is in a good place at the moment - better quality than ever and terrifically good value as this bargain underlines.

‘Meli Melo’ 2013 and 3 other good wine finds from Yapp

‘Meli Melo’ 2013 and 3 other good wine finds from Yapp

One of the problems of recommending a wine that most people can only buy online is that they generally have to buy a case - either of that wine or others they haven't a clue whether they’ll like or not.

Domaine Marie 2013 Faugères - the perfect autumn red

Domaine Marie 2013 Faugères - the perfect autumn red

I’ve a soft spot for the Faugères wine region which is just up the road from our house in the Languedoc. It’s a beautiful wild hilly area on the foothills of the coastal range which produces some lovely warm spicy reds.

Top wine and beer matches for game

Top wine and beer matches for game

We Brits have always had a reputation for liking our wines old and our game high but times have changed. Today the key factor in matching game tends to be not how ‘gamey’ it is but how it’s cooked and what is served with it.

The tricky task of pairing wine and citrus

This is the perfect time of year for buying oranges and lemons but what effect do they have on the recipes you’re making? Quite a marked one, if truth be told. Lemons in particular have a high level of acidity which will make any wine you drink with them taste sweeter. If that’s counterbalanced in the recipe by sugar as in a lemon tart or lemon meringue pie, for example, the result is a dish that’s really quite hard to match.

Wine matches for salads (with a twist)

A lot of chefs - particularly male chefs - don't really get salads, making them either an afterthought or wildly, elaborately fussy. Mark Hix of the Independent is an exception - his are always simple but imaginative, reflecting the season perfectly. Here are my matches for his recipes in the Independent this weekend.

What to drink with Turkish food

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"

Which wines to pair with calamari/squid

Which wines to pair with calamari/squid

“Can you come up with a tastier, more satisfying, more consensual dish than calamari fritti?” asks restaurateur and Guardian columnist Yotam Ottolenghi in the paper today. Well, it’s a tough call but his other mouthwatering recipes would certainly run it close. Ottolenghi’s food is full of flavour and therefore quite a challenge for any accompanying wine but here’s what I would choose.

The best wine pairings for pheasant

The best wine pairings for pheasant

Even if not well-hung, as it rarely is these days, pheasant has a stronger flavour than other feathered game such as partridge or duck. And older, tougher birds are often braised or pot-roasted which calls for a more robust wine match still.

What wine to drink with cuttlefish

What wine to drink with cuttlefish

Cuttlefish is a pain to prepare as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall points out in the Guardian today but it is particularly delicious to eat. It’s often partnered with robust flavours so you need to think in terms of equally intense flavoured wines.

What to drink with chicken

What to drink with chicken

One of the most irritating recommendations you find on wine labels is ‘Drink with chicken’. Which kind do they mean - a simply roast bird or a coq au vin? A chicken salad or a Thai chicken curry? Chicken is such a neutral meat it depends entirely on the way that it’s cooked and the other flavours in the dish.

Salmon with leeks and Chardonnay

Salmon with leeks and Chardonnay

In the general flurry of celebrations last week I missed out on St David’s Day (the patron saint of Wales) and the opportunity to write about leeks. Leeks tend to excite a certain amount of derision but I think they’re a fabulous vegetable, much milder, subtler and sweeter than onion and much more sympathetic to a fine white wine (for I think they go much better with a white wine than a red one).

Galette des Rois and Muscat de St-Jean-de-Minervois

Galette des Rois and Muscat de St-Jean-de-Minervois

As the kids were off home straight after the New Year we jumped the gun by a few days with the last of the seasonal treats, a celebratory galette des rois. Traditionally eaten in France on the 6th of January (Twelfth Night) it celebrates the arrival of the three kings to visit the infant Jesus.

Braised rabbit and Château Fond Cyprès Syrah de la Pinède

Braised rabbit and Château Fond Cyprès Syrah de la Pinède

Most of this past week has been spent in Paris where almost every wine match is a good one. There’s been a lot of Beaujolais - and other Gamay - drinking and a fair amount of crisp dry whites such as Aligoté - but the pairing I’m going to pick is a Syrah I didn’t know with a stonking great plateful of braised rabbit at the legendary Baratin.

Mas des Chimères Oeillade 2014

Mas des Chimères Oeillade 2014

You don’t expect to find a wine like this on a supermarket shelf, even in their upmarket in-store cave but that’s exactly where I discovered this delicious organic red in my friends’ local Hyper U.

Les Perles de Jones Carignan Gris, Côtes Catalanes

Les Perles de Jones Carignan Gris, Côtes Catalanes

This week’s Wine Society tasting was, as always, impressive but there’s one wine I’d urge you to buy now, despite the £16 price tag, as I suspect there isn't much of it.

Chateau de Caraguilhes 2014 Corbieres

Chateau de Caraguilhes 2014 Corbieres

What bottle should you take to dinner with friends? It’s a tricky one. You want something that doesn’t break the bank but will impress. Cheap bordeaux and burgundy are dodgy. Barefoot and Blossom Hill brand you as a cheapskate

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