Hams made from roving, chestnut-fed pigs, duck confit, roasted goose, cassoulet, and big, black, tannic wines – all bona fide culinary signatures that unfortunately also are well on their way to becoming caricatures or even stereotypes of the deep and still insufficiently plumbed depths of the gastronomy of southwestern France. So as just as one example of many gastronomic surprises from Gascony, I think that this WHITE wine rarity from Gaillac makes a very nice foil to all the fallsy/wintry associations made with Gascogne.
Gaillac, which is situated roughly between the Massif Central (to the northeast) and the city of Toulouse (to the southwest), has tradition for sparkling wine longer than Champagne’s (Secret Number 2) and among the handful and a half of white grapes that have come to be used to produce sparkling and still white wines here, two of the least known make up this wine. The first variety is the round and mildly exotic Len de l’el (which in the Gascogne dialect means “far from the eye” because its fruit bunches develop close to the canes, and are well leaf-hidden), and the tough and sassy Mauzac.
I’m no expert in southwestern French cuisine, but in several searches both here and there, I turned up lots of (shockingly) fallsy/wintry dishes, so I decided to freestyle an interpretation of a late spring Gascogne menu. I was lucky enough to stumble upon some really nice fresh ramps (wild leeks), and I already had a nice (admittedly Portuguese) disc of goat cheese, which once I melted the ramps, I creamed with some piment d’esplette, and spread on lighted toasted baguette slices. And maybe just as good as running into the ramps, my fish place had very fresh Lake Whitefish which I pan-fried crispy with a breadcrumb tarragon and thyme crust, and some braised fennel on the side.
Pale golden green color. Complex and intriguing nose of woody herbs, almond, pine tar, eucalyptus, kerosene, lime, papaya, and a touch of candied ginger. The medium body is mellow and spicy, with fresh and bold flavors of citrus zest, salty boiled corn, green tea, and pine nuts. Warm spice lingers in the back of the throat.