Spending January in Languedoc Drinking Wine & Eating Cassoulet

Last fall the French Winophiles explored France’s largest wine region, Languedoc-Roussillon. This region lies on the coast of the South of France along the Mediterranean Sea. It is home to a tapestry of soils, varied elevations, largely a Mediterranean climate with some Atlantic influence in the western region, and a wide array of wild scrub bushes that influence the flavors of the wine. The wines of Languedoc-Roussillon are crafted from a blend of grapes, producing some of France’s best value wines. This month join us as we take a deeper dive into Languedoc to explore two of its appellations, Minervois and Corbières.

Minervois is the largest wine production area in Languedoc-Roussillon. It is home to nearly 15,000 hectares of vines and three AOCs. Minervois lies on the slopes of the Massif Central. The vineyards do not reach the coast; however, due to its size the soils, altitudes, and climate varies considerably across the sub-region. One prevailing environmental force that affect the entire region is the Tramontane winds. Wrapped in ancient lore, winemakers in Minervois have learned over the centuries how to cultivate vines in harmony with the wind. It has not been an easy task but through thoughtful study and observation that vineyard location and vine planting style is key. With all its challenges the wind also brings benefits to the vines and grapes. It keeps the grapes dry and the air circulating, lessening disease and parasites. It keeps the vineyards purified with fresh, clean air aiding in pollination, evaporation, and flavor concentration.

Minervois vineyards via Hecht & Bannier

Minervois produces 3% white wine, 13% rosé, and 84% red. Like all of Languedoc-Roussillon, a patchwork of grapes are cultivated here. These are the typical grapes of southern France, including Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Marsanne, Roussanne, Picpoul, and Maccabeu.

Anne Gros and Jean-Paul Tollot have been winegrowers in Burgundy for over 20 years. Like many other producers throughout France, they saw an opportunity to produce wine in Languedoc-Roussillon and took it. They selected Cazelles, Minervois for this project because of the soil diversity, limestone, clay, and sandstone, quality of the vines, the climate at the foot of the Black Mountain, and the altitude of 220 meters, same as Vosne- Romanée. Click here to learn more about Domaine Anne Gros Jean-Paul Tollot.

Disclaimer: media samples; all thoughts & opinions my own.

2010 Domaine Anne Gros Jean-Paul Tollot ‘Les Fontanilles’ Minervois France: A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, and Carignan from vines 22 to 50 years old; deep ruby; medium aromas of candied violets, slightly stewed cherries, blackberries, bramble berries, currants, black pepper, dusty earth, dried herbs of thyme and rosemary, minerality, leather, smoke, dark chocolate, trailing vanilla; silky mouth-feel, nice development of tertiary flavors, grippy medium+ tannins, medium acidity, elegant and lively, medium+ body and finish. Aged in 50% stainless steel, and 50% oak. I would gladly drink this wine again and again.

Corbières appellation is the largest by volume in Languedoc-Roussillon, and the fourth largest in France. It is located in the heart of Languedoc-Roussillon between Narbonne and Carcassonne. It enjoys a dry, sunny, and hot Mediterranean climate, enduring the Tramontane winds like Minervois. In 1985, it was promoted to AOC status, allowing safeguards to guarantee the typicity of the wines. Over the past 15 years winemakers in this region have employed vineyard replanting and modern technology to produce the highest quality wines possible.

Permitted grapes in Corbières include Carignan, Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache Noir, Lladoner pelut, Mourvèdre, Picquepoul noir, Terret noir, Bourboulenc, known as Malvoisie in Corbières, Grenache Blanc, Maccabeu, Clairette, Muscat (10% maximum), Piquepoul, Terret blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Rolle, aka Vermentino. This translates in production to 88% red wine, 9% rose, and 3% white. It is also a region that embraces organic and biodynamic winemaking practices as a norm.

2015 Chateau De Jonquieres Corbières France: medium+ ruby; medium aromas of baked black cherry and black berry, plum, cranberry, black pepper, dried rose petal, forest floor, cinnamon, medicinal, chocolate; medium acid, medium+ tannins, a touch grippy, medium body, earth driven palate, medium finish. Click here to learn more about their accommodations.

To enjoy wines from Languedoc-Roussillon in January there is no better food pairing then Cassoulet. What better way to stay warm in the heart of winter than French comfort food of meat and beans. And January 9 was National Cassoulet Day. I was on a Caribbean cruise on January 9 so we decided to welcome the New Year with college football, Languedoc wines, and cassoulet. Traditionally, cassoulet is comprised of pork sausage, duck confit, and beans. It takes many hours to prepare, bakes for many more hours, and in the end taste like a warm hug from the inside out. In an effort to save some time, calories, and an inability to find some of the very special ingredients I did not make the traditional version. Thankfully the internet is filled with alternatives, the sky is the limit on modern day cassoulet. After scouring the World Wide Web for cassoulet recipes I finally settled on Thomas Keller’s Slow-Cooker Cassoulet from Williams-Sonoma, and even then I did not my own alternations, deciding to use my Dutch oven instead of slow cooker. Instead of duck Keller’s recipe uses bacon and boneless pork shoulder. Furthermore, I was unable to locate smoked chorizo or garlic sausage so through a Google search recommendation I used Andouille sausage instead. Ultimately what I ended up making was a fancy pot of pork and beans….and my family LOVED IT! Furthermore, it paired great with BOTH Languedoc wines. What a great way to ring in the New Year! L’Adventure Languedoc is hosting a cassoulet contest that ends TODAY. Click here to learn more and enter.

Here is what my fellow #Winophiles discovered in their Minervois, Corbières, and cassoulet expeditions:

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the FarmA Classic Pairing; Revisiting Languedoc

Lauren from The Swirling DervishWarming Up with the Wines of Corbieres and Minervois

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with CamillaConquering Cassoulet Alongside the 2014 Minervois le Chateau d’Albas

Martin from ENOFYLZ Wine BlogWhat Grows Together, Goes Together – Slow Cooker Cassoulet Paired With Affordable Occitanie Wines #Winophiles

Jeff from FoodWineClickLet’s Make Occitanie and Cassoulet Household Words

Nicole from Somm’s TableKicking Off 2018 with Corbieres and Minervois

Jane from Always RavenousHearty Red Wines of Corbières and Minervois Paired with Cassoulet

Lynn from Savor the HarvestCorbières and Minervois – Where Syrah and Carignan Shine

David from Cooking ChatChicken Cassoulet Paired with Languedoc Wine

Rupal from Journeys of a Syrah QueenStaying Warm the French Way – Cassoulet and Wine

Liz from What’s in that BottleLet’s Learn About Wines from Languedoc #Winophiles

Amber from Napa Food and VineA Tale of Two Wines

Jill from L’OccasionEat, Drink, Travel the South of France: Minervois and Corbières

My Song Selection:

Please join us tomorrow at 10am CST on Twitter using #Winophiles as we discuss Languedoc-Roussillon, Minervois, Corbières, and cassoulet. Stay tuned for next month as we share amour on February 14.

I hope you will seek out some delicious Languedoc wines from Minervois and Corbières and make your own version of cassoulet. I would love to see your results. Please tag me on your favorite social media platform. AND let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!

36 comments

  1. Sounds like an absolutely delicious pairing. I love all of your substitutions. I think that’s the key to French cooking: Using the ingredients you have available to make something amazing. I have to agree with you about A Hazy Shade of winter, but I have to say I prefer the version by The Bangles. ha ha

    • Thanks Amber. I actually like The Bangles version better; however, because I’ve seen Less than Zero so many times I find their cover so much more haunting, and haunting was not the feel I was seeking so I chose the original.

  2. so much fun to see the huge variety of cassoulet recipes. I think you could even call weenie-beanie casserole a distant cousin! I had no idea Anne Gros had her hands in a Languedoc wine. I have enjoyed her Burgundies very much!

  3. Fancy pork and beans! That’s what Mark Bittman called it and I laughed and laughed. Nice job, Michelle. Can’t wait to try that version as I did spend hours and hours and hours breaking down a whole duck and braised the lamb for hours and hours. But it was delicious.

  4. The perfect way to start the New Year, with cassoulet and Languedoc. I too adapted my recipe. Makes it much easier when you can make with your own twist. Great background on the regions.

  5. I love your description of cassoulet as a warm hug from the inside. It’s just what we need when the temps dip into the single digits! And I’m blown away by the quality of the wines we all received: most were organic, small production bottles that retail for less than $15. So good!

  6. Great Article Michelle, My fondest memory of my visit to Minevoirs was visiting Clos du Gravillas winery where John Bojanowski and Nicole are reviving some unfashionable grape varieties. An exceptional terroir that calls out for creative response to varietal selection, viticulture and winemaking.

    • I would love to visit and see the vineyards in person. I admire their commitment to reviving ancient indigenous varieties. What’s unfashionable today may be quite fashionable in the future. Thanks for sharing your experience. Cheers!

  7. A warm hug from the inside out! That is marvelous and something I’d love to experience.

    Sounds like the meal was a big hit in your house – score! I’m not familiar with the recipe, does it use beans? It turned out beautifully.

    What a fun Winophiles month!

  8. So many cassoulet possibilities, I will definitely try Thomas Keller’s slow cooker version.
    Great tasting notes, you have peaked my interest to try a bottle of Domaine Anne Gros Minervois.

  9. Looks delicious! And I particularly like the description “tastes like a warm hug from the inside out” and I completely agree!

  10. Love your tasting notes for the “Les Fontanilles” Michelle, sounds like a beautiful wine. And the Cassoulet, I have to laugh at your fancy pot of pork and beans! A dutch oven is my go to for these kids of recipes, but I tell you, a few #winophiles had great success with their slow cookers. Appreciate the detail!

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