At the Tastes en Minervois festival in Aude, Southern France, chefs and winegrowers hit all the right notes for their food and wine pairings, some of them not what you’d expect. It was a great opportunity to take a closer look at the Minervois appellation, before diving into Quebec cuisine and savouring some decadent dishes by Gueuletons. And of course, asking that all-important question – which wine should you drink with insects and seaweed?
- Minervois wines
- A festival showcasing the appellation’s varied range of wines
- From Quebec to decadent French cuisine
- Which wines should you drink with insects and seaweed?
The Minervois wine region is one of the most extensive in Languedoc-Roussillon. From the fortifications of the city of Carcassonne to the banks of the Canal du Midi, it boasts nearly 15,000 hectares under vine, 3,800 ha of them set aside for producing Protected Designation of Origin wines (AOP/PDO). The area is in fact home to three different appellations: Minervois, Cru La Livinière and Muscat de Saint-Jean-de-Minervois, a dessert wine. 185 wineries and estates produce on average 120,000 hectolitres of wine. 60% are made by independent wineries and 40% by co-operatives. And 83 % of them are red, 14 % rosé, and just 3 % white.
A festival showcasing the appellation’s varied range of wines
To provide a showcase for its variety of wines, the appellation’s producer organisation hosts the Tastes en Minervois festival every year in September. The 6th event was held in the village of Villegly, 15 minutes from Carcassonne. Nearly 3,000 people came to taste the wines and savour the flavourful ‘tastes’ prepared by top chefs over two days. Don’t be fooled by the English name, ‘tastes’ is in fact “the Occitan name for tapas. Where we come from, they are hearty dishes. In 5 culinary areas, 5 chefs serve 5 different styles of cuisine”, explains the appellation’s head of marketing and communications, Bertrand Cros-Mayrevieille.
From Quebec to decadent French cuisine
At the helm of the international cuisine area was Marc-André Jetté, the Quebec chef from the Hoogan & Beaufort in Montreal. Renowned as one of the stars of contemporary Canadian cuisine, he chose to serve a typical Quebec menu including warm oysters in their shells with cider sabayon and financier cake with maple syrup, what else? Does he have a favourite wine for pairing with ‘tastes’? No he does not, admitting: “I have tasted so many good local wines. I have known them for several years thanks to a winegrower friend from Domaine du Loup Blanc. I am passionate about wine. For the cellar in my Montreal restaurant, my sommelier and I have selected 750 wines from 15 different countries”. Inevitably, four of them are Minervois, including Le Loup Blanc.
There was also a buzz around the area designed for lovers of finer fare with the Gueuleton stand. The menu included spit-roasted ham on the bone and a small steak of matured beef seasoned with Bearn chili pepper and cooked over a fire pit. “Everybody loves Gueuleton. They are really well known on social media. You can talk about meat, including fattened meats, with them. They really get us into the spirit of being foodies”, explains thirty-something festival-goer Jeremy. He and his two friends came specially to try Gueuleton’s ‘tastes’ with red Minervois wines “which pair perfectly”, he claims. “They’ve got fruit and tannins which is exactly what you need for this type of food”, he adds.
Which wines should you drink with insects and seaweed?
On the Tastovore pavilion, sommelier Baptiste Ross-Bonneau took attendees by surprise with his on-trend offerings. “This is a laboratory for giving some thought to the food of tomorrow and questioning choices”, he said, showing attendees a range of foods, from organic insects to seaweed tartare with capers, olive oil and shallots. The tasting began with the fascinating tartare which he chose to pair with a white Minervois by Le Clos du Gravillas. “The herbal side of the seaweed melds with the minerality of this dry white wine made from Grenache and Maccabeu”, he explains. He serves insects with a light red wine, because their flavour is not very strong. The festival-goers are certainly taken aback. “Sometimes, they won’t even try them. This type of food is not yet part of our culture. But it’s a way of making people think about the food of the future. Seaweed and insects are low in calories and nutritious”, he says, adding, “It’s something to consider the next time you serve an aperitif!”
Anne Schoendoerffer, ©Rawpixel.com/AdobeStock