Southwestern France, aside from Bordeaux and Sauternes – if these “royal” appellations even technically qualify as part of the “Southwest” – for a reason that I do not know, has a lot of wine regions that end with “-ac”: Cognac, Bergerac, Monbazillac, Armagnac, Marcillac, and of course, the subject of today’s post, Gaillac. This greater region of France (the traditional Aquitaine and Gascony) has long been, and still is, somewhat apart from the rest of France.
Geograpically, the southwest is snugged in between the Massif Central mountain range on the northeast, the Pyrenees Mountains on the south, and the Bay of Biscay on the west. Add a long politcal independence to the topographical isolation, and the result is a place that is culinarily distinctive within the borders of France. This is a ruggedly hilly, land of greys, browns, and lichen greens, at times almost harsh; the land of Cassoulet, Duck Confit, foie gras, chestnuts, black truffles, and a pork/ham culture to rival any other, anywhere.
Not surprisingly, an area so realtively large and isolated has developed a set of peculiar native vine varieties. Two red grape vines – Duras and Braucol (a.k.a. Fer Servadou of neighboring Marcillac) – make up tonight’s blend (80% Duras, 20% Braucol). These two varieties are like two similar but completely complimentary brothers, both possessed with a great poise and easygoing manner, clearly underpinned by a deep, earthy power. These wines are perfect foils to the homey, rich dishes of this region, possessing a lively, light weight that doesn’t compete with the rich fare, and a soft but very flavorful, and assertive scent/palate profile firm enough to stand up to a potted goose.
Alas, I did not prepare a potted goose. I did however, make a decidedly southwest-inspired menu of toasts spread with a three mushroom garlic, and herb hash, followed by fricadelles d’agneau (herbed and spiced lamb burgers) with a reduced sauce tomate, and creamy mashed Yukon Gold potatoes.
Domaine Sarrabelle “Croix Blanche” Gaillac Rouge 2008
Slightly browned deep crimson/garnet color. Earthy nose of mixed wild berries, black cherry, wood smoke, fresh vanilla bean, licorice, dried mint, prune, and briney notes. The wine is fresh and lively but complex on the palate with a middle-weight mass, with intially grippy, peppery tannins that over time become very polished – almost ethereal – that lace over big, powerful flavors of black currants, strawberry preserves, caffe’ macchiato, gingerbread, and an elegant violet-scented finish.