Unusual wines from Southwest France meet vegetarian fare inspired by the American Southwest.
I didn't even know the region was referred to as Southwest France, since you don't hear other French wine growing regions referred to by their cardinal directions. "Sud Ouest" as the locals would say.
But this may be a region you would like to get to know, if you have a flare for off the beaten path grape varietals, enjoy a diversity of winemaking styles, and oh and did we mention reasonable prices?
According to Wine Folly, the region is also known as "France's Hidden Corner" and is the country's 5th largest wine region. Having only 10 residents per square mile, it is not only "rural, peaceful, and laid back!" but also makes a whole lot of space for grapes.
There is literally room to grow and grow in many ways they have. Here you can find the inky black Malbecs from Cahors, the AOP of Madiran where Tannat reigns supreme, and other indigenous varietals such as Prunelard, Mauzac, and Camaralet.
I found an organic Negrette red wine from the Fronton AOP and a biodynamically farmed white wine blend from Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng grapes.
Since the wines and region were so unfamiliar to me, I wanted to pair them with more familiar foods from a Southwest region you may be more familiar with: New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas.
From what I read, the wines seemed food friendly enough to pair with zesty salsas, buttery avocados, and warm chili and cumin spices. (And I really just felt like eating burgers...burgers and "fancy" French wine.)
2017 Domaine Bordenave "Encore" Jurancon Sec
60% Gros Manseng, 40% Petit Manseng; 14% ABV; $20 from K&L Wine Merchants
Certified Organic, 50 year old vines, fermented in stainless steel then aged in barrels on lies for 9 months
At Domaine Bordenave, they only plant 2 grape varietals which are typical to the region of Jurancon. Per AP Wine Imports, "The Gros Manseng is used to produce dry wines that are fresh and fruity, yet mellow with good balance between sweetness and acidity. The Petit Manseng produces a variety of wines, from mellow vintages to liqueur like wines with aromas of candied fruit and honey."
The estate is rather unique in that it has remained in the family, passed down to each generation since 1676, however the family's first vintage of wine was released in 1993 after heavy financial investment. While the vines have good exposure to sunlight at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains, the soil is rather poor, consisting of clay and silt. The result is limited yield but strongly concentrated grapes.
According to K&L Wine Shop, "This is a classic with roasted citrus aromas, a honeyed texture and a vibrant acid filled finish."
- OMG, it's orange. Is it supposed to be orange? A wide eyed surprise, but I didn't read anything about skin contact on this wine.
- Swirls light and joyfully; looks and smells like apricot jam
- Tastes actually very soft, not too punchy, balanced, watermelon, kumquat zest, and full mouthfeel
- Winner: really good with the black bean burgers, brings out a lot more sweetness, acidity, and vegetal qualities in the wine.
- Runner Up: the creaminess of the almonds in the plant based dip seems to bring out more spicy notes in the wine
- Loser: blue cheese/mushroom funk not matching with this particular orange funk; not having a funky good time
2019 La Colombiere "Les Flingueurs" Fronton
100% Negrette, 11% ABV, $20 from K&L Wine Merchants
Certified Organic, biodynamic practicing since 2010
Although located in a large production region of Southwest France, the proprietors, Diane and Phillipe Cauvin, have taken care to steward the vineyards into a natural direction starting in 2005.
Per K&L Wine Shop, this wine is "farmed biodynamically, fermented in concrete tanks with whole clusters and native yeasts. It is then aged in concrete tanks for 15 months before bottling. As pure an expression of this grape if there ever was one."
- From what I read, Negrette is a low acid, low tannin wine. Please do not disappoint me!
- Pours like chalky, rich ink and very dark.
- Smells faintly of tar and smoke but it's not too strong.
- Feels very light on the palate and then it has a surprising spicy finish!
- Taste of paprika, green bell pepper, and plum. It is also supposed to taste like violets. Were those violets? I've only eaten candied ones.
- Winner: A red wine that doesn't clash with salsa. That vegetal quality really works nicely with the tomato, bean and chili flavors.
- Runner Up: Brings out the almondiness of the queso dip
- Tried and True: Even though the tannins in this wine are very light, it still worked amazingly well with the blue cheese mushrooms. The tannins that did exist became velvety. We love velvet.
- Wishful thinking: Veggie burger should have worked with a light tasting red wine. It didn't clash but no third taste either. Darn.
- Loser: Yogurt ranch dip. Waaaaaay tooooo tangyyyy
The Last Drop
Overall, I had a blast tasting these wines. They definitely bring new meaning to the word "Southwest" for me, and I hope they do now for you too.
To learn more about wines from Southwest France, check out these posts from the French Winophiles:
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Garlic and Herb-Rubbed Standing Pork Rib Roast + Château Laulerie Bergerac Rosé 2020
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles: Fish, cheese, and red wine. Exploring the Basque region of Irouléguy
- Jeff at Food Wine Click!: Deconstructed Tartine & Domaine de L’Astré Pèlroge
- Jane at Always Ravenous: Affordable Wines from Southwest France: Tasting & Pairings
- Cindy at Grape Experiences: A Taste of Southwest France: Nature Secrète Saint Mont 2018 and Sauteed Duck Breasts with Mushrooms
- Nicole at Somm’s Table: Encounters with Tour des Gendres Pét-Nat with a Side of Risotto
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator: Mauzac? SW France’s Domaine du Moulin Features This Unusual Grape in Methode Ancestrale Sparkler
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm: Visiting the Wines of Southwest France outside of Bordeaux
- Lynn at Savor the Harvest: Gascony Surprise: Meet Domaine de Joÿ in Southwest France
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass: Two Tannat-based wines from Southwest France