If you’ve been fortunate enough to visit southwestern France and taste cassoulet at any number of village bistros, then you understand the phenomenon that is cassoulet first hand. And you also know it’s one of the best things you’ve ever eaten in your life. The dish itself has roots in the peasantry, and as is mostly the case, is the height of working-class fare. Cassoulet, varies from place to place, in terms of its ingredients and in some cases its finishing touches.
The primary ingredients tend to be, duck, beans and sausage, but even that can vary regionally within the Languedoc region. The legend is that cassoulet was invented in Castelnaudary, as a hearty meal made for the city’s defenders who were fighting off British invaders back in the 12th century. Whether or not this legend is true, the cassoulet of Castelnaudary is a classic with duck confit, pork shoulder and sausage, along with those white beans of course. In Carcassonne they add mutton to the mix and in Toulouse, the bread the top. Like the American BBQ or chili traditions, everybody thinks their recipe is the only way to do it.
We recently cooked up a batch of cassoulet for our entire street, (the picture above) and frankly it was ridiculously delicious and not terribly complicated if maybe a bit time consuming. The folks at D’Artagnan have a serious site committed to recipes, kits and all the trivia you need to know about your new favorite dish.
There is an old saying “what grows together, goes together” and it’s only natural that the wines of the Languedoc make a perfect partner to this hearty stew of goodness.
One of the regions of the Languedoc most central to many of the villages known for cassoulet is Minervois and its wines are hearty, rustic and superbly priced, which means buying a few bottles to share with your dinner guests only makes sense. This wine is typically a 2/3 Syrah, 1/3 Carignan blend and it’s done strictly in steel tanks leaving us with a wine that is fresh and fruit forward. Aromatics center around black cherry, blackberry and a touch of that famous garrigue. The palate is mid-weight, with flavors of black fruit, turned earth and garrigue but an outstanding freshness to pair with cassoulet.
A traditional blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan from Paul Mas, one of the Languedoc’s most formidable winemakers. The Corbières region is probably the most synonymous with garrigue, those wild aromatic herbs that grow throughout the region. Aromas of blueberry and early season blackberry highlight a very fruit driven wine, along with a touch of savory garrigue. The palate is hearty and rounded, sorta like that cassoulet. Flavors of thyme, and black fruit dominate.