French Edition of an American Traditionby Phillip Holland (our resident Southerner)
While it is true that the Southern United States isn’t known for their wine regions, it is also true that the rural South and the French countryside have quite a bit in common: generous sunshine, agricultural communities, comfort food, and an appreciation for an afternoon spent eating, drinking, and doing our best to catch a little shade when we can.
I recently found myself outside of Nashville, Tennessee, with an empty stomach and several bottles of excellent countryside wine from the Mont Gravet winery in Southern France. The situation called for a sort of culinary diplomacy – it was time to see if it was possible to pair French wine with the most American of meals – BBQ with all the fixins’.
We ordered up ribs, BBQ pork, coleslaw, potato salad…and then were told that they had fresh fried green tomatoes available. “Sure, toss a dozen in there,” we agreed, and with our bag full of food and paper and plastic utensils, we set out to a local park near the creek for an afternoon meal. The results were fantastic.
Mont Gravet WhiteCôtes de Gascogne
The Mont Gravet Côtes de Gascogne White is a simple, beautiful wine from the southwest of France made with 100% Colombard fruit. This summer favorite soaks up the summer sun, developing crisp apple and citrus notes that are both intriguing and refreshing at once. A perfect start for our barbeque picnic – just make sure to keep it really cold. I paired this wine with the coleslaw – both creamy and zesty from the vinegar, the crunchy cabbage and carrots were a complement to the citrus character of the wine. The potato salad was a good match as well, though perhaps a bit heavy for the French white wine. The fried green tomatoes were the star, though – just barely ripe, breaded and flash-fried so the tomato stayed crisp. The Côtes de Gascogne seemed to be a perfect complement to this Southern favorite.
Mont Gravet RoséPays d'Oc
Dry rosé is in the middle of seriously getting discovered in America, but in the French countryside, it has always been in favor. It’s easy to understand why – the Mont Gravet Rosé from the Languedoc region of the South of France worked well with just about every component of our afternoon feast. Crisp with delicate fresh raspberry flavors danced with the coleslaw and the fried green tomatoes and stood up better to the creamy potato salad. The true test was yet to come though – could this Rosé handle the smoked ribs and/or the BBQ pork?
First, we tried it with the BBQ pork. Not a bad combo, but the Rosé seemed perhaps a little light for both the pork and the BBQ sauce. The ribs, however, ended up possibly being our favorite pairing of the day. The fruit flavors of the Rosé really shined through with the ribs, and the spicy BBQ sauce didn’t overpower it. The acidity of the Rosé was able to clear our palate after each bite, preparing us for our next one. I highly recommend trying this pairing yourself.
Mont Gravet RedIGP Pays d’Hérault
As mentioned above, it was both hot and humid on this lovely Southern afternoon, so we did as the French do when it is too hot to drink red wine – we chilled it! While red wine is traditionally served at or slightly below room temperature, the rules go out the window when you’re eating dinner with plastic ware and the fireflies are buzzing around the dinner table! This proved to be a smart decision, as I don’t think we would have tried the red without chilling.
We tried this wonderful red wine from the Hérault region of the Languedoc with both meats. Full bodied, with lots of dark fruit like blackberries and figs, this French red had the flavor profile to handle the bold BBQ sauce as well.
The pleasure of these countryside French wines from Mont Gravet is that they work just as well whether you are eating with fine china, simple plasticware, or just picking up the fried green tomato with your fingers and chomping it down before your partner realizes you stole it from them.