French families in the sunny Southwest dote on their potagers – vegetable, herb and fruit gardens. Meals start with what is fresh and in season. Light wines, especially the moderate-alcohol white and red wines from Côtes de Gascogne, Gaillac, Marcillac, and Fronton, won’t overwhelm a soup, vegetable dish or appetizer.
A garden is one of the reasons these folk are the poster people for the French Paradox. The Paradox is good health and long life from authentic garden products, cheese, fatty farm poultry and red meat in partnership with wine (especially Madiran Tannat).
Urban life offers another approach: farmers’ markets and restaurants that serve/deliver fresh food to pair with Southwest wines. Flash! The recent vintages are fantastic but don’t hesitate to buy older red vintages when you see them at a shop or in a restaurant.
Here’s a brief Southwest food-pairing list. Since the wines are such good value, consider a pairing with multiple wines from various appellations. Of course, all Southwest wines go with jazzed-up fries, Thai or pizza.
French cheese from the Southwest is easy. Look for Ossau-Iraty and Roquefort sheep, Rocamadour goat, Tomme des Pyrénées cow. Pour a white wine such as Côtes de Gascogne, Tursan and Bergerac Sec (dry).
The white Southwest wines are perfect with appetizers and with seafood or light fish dishes. Light reds and rosés are options, depending on your sauce and inclination.
North American duck and goose foie gras are terrific with the sweet white wines of Monbazillac, Gaillac, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and Jurançon (most French duck and goose foie gras come from the Southwest). Vegetarian or meat terrines and pâtés can satisfy all comers with white or red wine. Hard to find, but give Basque Irouléguy a try.
Southwest reds are made for summer BBQ and winter roast meats of duck, beef, lamb, and pork. Pick Malbec (Cahors), Tannat (Madiran, Saint Mont, Brulhois), Merlot (Bergerac) and Duras or Braucol (Gaillac) native grape blends. Powerful and rich or subtle and elegant are key words.
As you island hop through Southwest wines, take pleasure in pairing the foods with wines that show your good taste and the winemakers’ passion, imagination and commitment. This is French gastronomy at its best.