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What To Drink With Cassoulet

By Charles Olken

Blogging guru Tom Wark over on his excellent site, Fermentation1, explains that it is cold outside and that it is time for cassoulet. I could not agree more. But rather than speak to what wine to drink with this rich, long-cooked dish, Tom asks what we like.

Here is my answer, born of a trip to that part of the world just two summers ago:

Love this topic. It, of course, has no correct answer, as I discovered when we vacationed in the area between Toulouse and Carcassonne, and pursued not just the perfect cassoulet but also the perfect vessel in which to cook it.

So, after several encounters with what seemed overdone, fatty, dishes, we ventured into the town of Castelnaudary. No accident there. Some 30 years earlier when we took our then teenaged children to France, including two nights in Carcassonne, from which we ventured out to Castelnaudary to taste what had been described as the best Cassoulet. If it was neither the best, nor perfect, it was close. And so, after several near misses, and towards the end of our week in that part of the world, we went back to Castelnaudary.

It should be said that both Toulouse and Cassoulet claim Cassoulet as their own, and they are so insistent in those claims that each town has its own “Cassoulet” fraternity, and they do not speak to each other.

When we got to our destination in Castelnaudary, Le Tirou, we all ordered cassoulet and then came the wine choice. I spoke with the host and talked about several wines, most of which I considered too light for the dish. Then, came the recommendation I was looking for. A wine not from the immediate area but one that was further inland and riper and warmer.

When I professed that it was probably my CA palate that pushed me in that direction, the host explained that she and her chef husband, the owners, also preferred a richer wine with their cassoulet, but that they felt duty bound to recommend a local wine first.

A similar CA blend would be some form of Grenache, Mourvedre based blend, although my best recollection is that the one we had consisted of Gamay and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was full-bodied, rich and balanced, and not overly fruity.

Cassoulet is not a very refined dish. It is mostly beans and sausage with smattering of almost any meat at hand. Long cooking is the key. There is no perfect wine for the dish, and almost any rustic, not too tannic or acidy red will likely do nicely. It is winter here, and we are going to make a big pot of cassoulet and serve a variety of ripe, but not to heavy Syrahs with it, as well as some Rhone-type blends.

Oh, and if one reads far enough on the Internet, one discovers that the appropriate vessels for this long cooking is a inverted, cutfoff cone of an earthenware vessel manufactured by the Not Freres pottery outside Castelnaudary. Ours cost $22 there, which made carrying it back worthwhile because we saw it here for $85.


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My two cents
by Stephen M Eliot
Posted on:12/22/2016 5:00:36 PM

I think we can agree that good cassulet is a dish that demands something rich and red, but I confess that I am not in the camp of those who think that big tannins are desired. I have hear many endorsements for Madiran and Cahors, but I think that the need for regional "correctness" and something from the south of France rather than considered thought is the reason and neither Tannat nor Malbec would rank among my top picks.

Rhone varieties are where my tastes take me first, again with the proviso that they are rich but not overly tannic, and anything governed by a healthy dose of good Grenache is almost sure to please. Chateauneuf du Pape and neighboring Gigondas are great places to look, but I will admit to some home-town bias and would gladly reach for the Westwood Elevation Grenache 2013, the Ram's Gate Ulises Valdez Vineyard Grenache 2012 or any of the Grenache-based "touchy feely" proprietary blends from the The Farm Winery among recent favorites when sitting down to a big bowl of cassoulet.

No Subject
by William Goetz
Posted on:1/2/2017 9:46:03 PM

I like it with a properly aged Madiran, but they are not always available, and Gigondas is my second choice...followed by a round of blood tests, just to make sure that my current regimen of medication is still sufficient.

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