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Cassoulet wines

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It’s a bold claim but one I’m prepared to make: the best wines for cassoulet – and duck confit, for that matter – are traditionally styled reds from southwest France. The wines’ austere fruit doesn’t overwhelm the dish’s mellow flavours while their solid tannins and fine-edged acidity cut its inherent richness. For its part, cassoulet seems to soften the wines’ astringency and bring out their fruity sweetness. Add to that the compatibility of flavours – not surprising since the dish and the wines grew up speaking the same language – and you have a potential marriage made in heaven.

To test the claim, an authentic and rather glorious cassoulet de Toulouse (pork, duck confit, the eponymous sausage and beans purchased last summer in Tarbes) was recently paired with four such reds:

  • Irouleguy 2009, Etxegaraya, Domaine Etxegaraya ($24.00, La QV), a blend of 60% old-vine Tannat and 40% Cabernet Franc, a dry, quite structured, medium-bodied wine whose red and black fruit was shot through with a leafy/stemmy greenness and buttressed by fine but astringent tannins.
  • Irouleguy 2009, Cuvée Lehengoa, Domaine Etxegaraya ($25.60, La QV), which, despite being a blend of 80% Tannat (from 100 to 150-year-old vines) and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, was rounder, softer, fruitier and a touch sweeter than the Etxegaraya – to the point that I mistakenly informed the group that it was a blend of Tannat and Merlot.
  • Cahors 2008, La Fage, Cosse Maisonneuve ($23.45, 10783491), 100% Malbec that spends 14 months in second vintage barrels. Somewhat young and tight but full of savoury red fruit, ripe tannins and bright acid.
  • Cahors 2006, Les Laquets, Cosse Maisonneuve ($35.75, 10328587), 100% Malbec from 40-year-old and older vines, aged for 18–22 months in new and second vintage barrels. A deeper and more complete wine, finely structured and long, with layers of flavour (black cherry, licorice, balsam, iron), a velvety texture and that “fluid savour” that is the hallmark of the best Cahors.

In the event, all the wines worked well and, on its own, any one of them would have made a satisfactory match. That said, the consensus around the table was nearly universal: from a pairing standpoint, the best of the bunch was the Etxegaraya, whose austerity, astringency and flavours – especially that herbaceousness – meshed beautifully with the dish.

Earlier tests support this finding, with standouts being a Madiran from Château Aydie, an organic Irouleguy from Domaine Illaria, the Fronton cuvée Don Quichotte from Domaine Le Roc and a Canon-Fronsac from Château Grand-Renouil. Further testing is planned, though likely not for another year.

Written by carswell

February 21, 2012 at 21:29

One Response

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  1. A rather glorious Cassoulet, indeed.
    I’m in full agreement with this post… the tannins, the hint of vegetal green-ness (from the Cab Franc) and wonderfully deep, dark fruit in the Etxegaraya made this my favourite pairing of the night with the porky-ducky goodness and creamy, subtle flavour from the Tarbais beans. A match made in (wine) heaven.


    February 25, 2012 at 13:01

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