I enjoy cooking. I like to cook year round but I particularly like the flavors and colors of fall cuisine. I prefer to use as many fresh ingredients as possible in my cooking but living in an urban area most of my fresh ingredients come from the local super market. However, I do have a lovely herb garden, a tomato plant a lemon tree. Cooking for me is quite special when I can use ingredients I have grown myself. Thanksgiving is a particular time of year when my herbal harvest is in high demand. Thyme, rosemary and sage are important to the flavors of traditional Thanksgiving cuisine. However, in Languedoc these herbs are as much a part of the region as is their delicious wines; so much so that many Languedoc wines simulate the same aromas and flavors.
Have you ever read wine tasting notes, saw the term “garrigue” and wondered what in the world it meant? Garrigue is a term used to describe a collection of Mediterranean herbs, thyme, rosemary, sage and lavender (in Provence) that grow wild in the South of France, particularly Languedoc. The term came in favor regarding wine when Robert Parker began using it to describe some of the essence of wines of Southwest France. The herbs grow under and around the chêne vertm, or green oak trees in the region. An important key to garrigue is that the herbs must be growing in limestone soil. If the same herbs are growing in granite soil they go by another name. So the key to experiencing garrigue is in the combination of green trees, herbs of thyme, rosemary, sage and lavender growing around those trees, and all of it growing in limestone soil. Many wines of this region are known for translating the essence of these herbs into the glass; a beautiful representation of terroir, a beautiful representation of time and place!
Since these lovely herbs play a starring role in Thanksgiving foods, and holiday foods overall, Languedoc wines are the perfect pairing for all your holiday meals. Languedoc is the largest wine region in France. A quarter of all of France’s vineyards, almost 200,000 hectares, are located there. The Mediterranean Sea and the mountainous inland create a variety of climates within the region which allow for a variety of grapes to be cultivated into sparkling wines, dry white wines, full body red wines and delicate Pinot Noirs. Furthermore, grape varietals such as Carignan, Grenache and Syrah have been cultivated for centuries and have old, strong, deep rooted vines. Another great aspect of Languedoc is though it is divided into sub-appellations, these are not prominent or particularly important to know (juxtaposed with Burgundy and Bordeaux) because they are not frequently included on the wine labels.
Cave de Pomerols Picpoul De Pinet 2014: Poured soft gold with a green hugh into the glass; green apples, citrus, fresh cut herbs and melon lay on top of a firm mineral foundation for a delicious, palate pleasing wine; dry and round with crisp acidity gave this wine a mouth-puckering long finish that I loved; a great food wine
Chateau Du Donjon 2009 Minervois: This wine poured a deep garnet into the glass; fruit flavors of cherries, raspberries and currants are surrounded by candied violets, dried lavendar and thyme (notes of garrigue) along with baking spice notes; the wine was not complex but it was pleasant, it’s round acidity and integrated tannins result in it being a good food pairing wine. This wine was crafted from a blend of Grenache, Syrah (about 30%) and Carignan (10%). I have had many wonderful Languedoc wines with great essence of garrigue, this one was not the best representation. I suggest asking your favorite local wine retailer to suggest his/her favorite Languedoc wine; there are many outstanding ones available.
These wine media samples were shared with me by Benson Marketing. Along with the wines they sent me some delicious pairing recipes! The recipes looked delicious and perfect for Thanksgiving; however, I did not have time to make a Thanksgiving meal during the week so my food pairing were inspired by the recipes provided. First let me share with you the recipes that Benson Marketing sent with the wines because they are perfect for enjoying the garrigue of the season, then I will share my inspirational dinner.
Slow-Roasted Green Beans with Sage by Bon Appetit; pair with Picpoul de Pinet
Lavender Roasted Potatoes by Boulder-Locavore; pair with AOP Languedoc-Corbières
Farmhouse Herbed Stuffing by Epicurious.com; pair with AOP Languedoc – Pic Saint Loup Red
Herbed Turkey Two Ways by Food & Wine Magazine; pair with Minervous
The meal I prepared was much simpler than these recipes but it was delicious. First I combined the potato recipe with the green bean recipe to make one dish of roasted tri-colored potatoes with green beans and scallions, mixed with EVOO, sliced garlic, S&P, fresh thyme, rosemary, lavender and sage. I tossed all of this together and roasted in the oven for 45 mins, about 15 mins too long for the beans. I was delicious and I will make it again but will cook potatoes longer than the rest. The main course was inspired by the second part of the turkey two ways. I bought boned and skinned chicken breasts and spread butter, fresh sage and thyme under the skin of the chickens. I sautéed them on the stove in my cast iron skillet, skin sound down, for about 15 minutes till golden, then placed them in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes, covered, and roasted them till done. They were tender and incredibly juice. I could have made a gravy from the dripping for an added layer of goodness but to save time and calories we enjoyed the chicken without gravy. Even though I made drastic variations to the recipes I stuck to the garrigue flavor profiles resulting in seamless wine and food pairings. A Great Weeknight Meal! I can only imagine how great this would be with the full recipes in a more formal setting.
I highly recommend you seek out white and red wines from Languedoc to pair with all your lovely garrigue inspired fall meals. Think of how great Languedoc wines would pair with butternut or pumpkin ravioli with a browned sage butter, or roasted pork tenderloin with apples and garrigue seasoning. Fall foods call for Languedoc wines!
My Song Selection: In Lauguedoc the garrigue and the grape vines grow happily together, producing wines that are smooth, with complex flavors, and lots of character. This remake of a classic song by New Orleans Jazz artist Dr. Michael White is the perfect song pairing with these excellent wines.
Get your own wines from Languedoc and experience the deliciousness of garrigue and let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!