"One of my favorite winter dishes is a classic cassoulet from the Languedoc region of France," Standard Bistro's executive chef, Alan Martin says. Cassoulet is a casserole of white beans, various meats and herbs slowly simmered or baked in a slow oven. "White beans, homemade sausage, lamb, and winter root vegetables cook together slowly, harmonizing the flavors. Then the dish is garnished with a few leaves of arugula. Just good, old fashioned comfort food, and all it needs is a bold, tannic wine."
Martin matches the dish with a French wine from Provence, Bandol Domaine Tempier 2002. "I love the earthy spice of Bandol. It is one of my favorite wines," he explains. "The bold, earthy, and slightly peppery characteristics make it a perfect pairing with the cassoulet. And the spiciness of the sauce with the caramelized lamb and the richness of the duck lends itself to this wine." Bandol is a blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan. With three or four years of age it becomes fruity and balanced but can be aged for up to 15 years. Another classic pairing with cassoulet is Corbière. Cahors, Beaujolais Cru, and Madiran wines also work well.
For your own slow cooked, one pot wonders determine if you want to complement the flavors of the food with a wine or contrast them. Matching the flavors highlights the characteristics the food and wine share, such as the spiciness of Martin sauce was matched to a wine with the same spicy notes. This synthesizes those flavors making them more pronounced than if either one were consumed separately.
In addition to the central ingredient of the dish, also consider the glaze, sauce, vegetables, cheese, herbs and spices, which harmonize to create the overall flavor. Match your pot roast's meat, veggies, and gravy with California Zinfandel, French Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Italian Barbera. The chewy tannins in the wine marry well with red meat and its earthiness pairs well with the root vegetables and gravy. A chicken potpie with herbal influences meets its match with Sauvignon Blanc.
Or contrast flavors, selecting a wine that does not share the dish's flavor characteristics. Acidic wines and tannic wines cut through fatty foods, making a lively pairing. If chicken potpie has a heavy creamy base, avoid fat, rich wines and instead choose a wine with enough acidity to cut through the fat. And while the slow food cooks, contrast a crisp, icy bottle of sparkling wine with a roaring fire.
Published February 2006, Birmingham magazine