Posted 23 April 2003 - 08:39 AM
As a student of wine, myself, I am constantly being reminded of the fact that the South of France, principly Languedoc/Rousillon is the up and coming area for quality grapes and the vinification of fine wines. One of the hand in glove aspects of regional wine has always been regional food. My question is what are the main differences between the regions of Languedoc/Rousillon, Andorra, The Basque and what are the main similarities? Also, since many southern wine growers are changing viticulture as well as viniculture practices into what can be termed "new world style",how is this changing the traditional matches of foods with local wines?
Posted 24 April 2003 - 06:15 PM
Andorra is essentially an area with Catalonian roots, perched high up in the heart of the Pyrenees. During the course of my research, I could not find foods that could be classified as characteristically Andorran. I would define its cuisine as characteristically Catalan mountain food, with Spanish and French influences and ingredients. As one would expect, the traditional foods are characteristically mountain fare, centering on fresh trout, game species, sheep products, and seasonal vegetables (i.e. asparagus, mushrooms, etc.) or those that store well. The modern popularity of skiing, hiking, and other outdoor activities has attracted city dwellers to Andorra, which is changing some of the cuisine into more international fare with imported ingredients. Although its government has placed borders to identify the country of Andorra, they failed to invent a cuisine to distinguish Andorra from the rest of the mountainous region.
Most of the Languedoc/Roussillon region rests in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, with a Mediterranean influence. The favorable topography and weather conditions prompted the Greeks to plant the first vineyards in Agde, Languedoc, in 400 B.C. The Languedoc/Roussillon area was settled by people of different races before the French migrated south into the area. They were identified by their language—Occitan–seemingly derived from Catalan, Gascon, and Provençal; hence the name Langue d’Oc. During a visit to Carcassonne, we learned that students in Carcassonne are taught in Occitan in the morning and in French in the afternoon. Several towns situated near the base of the mountains are strongly Catalan, and fly both the French and Catalan flags. The characteristic food of Languedoc/Roussillon is very French with an emphasis on ingredients from the terroir and locally developed agricultural practices. Several food products which are identified with France originate from this region, such as duck magret and foie gras.
The Basque country and people are the most unique in various ways. Their language, Euskara, with roots in the Stone Age, is unrelated to any other European language. Due to some unique blood and language characteristics, many believe the Basques are descended from a remnant population of Cro-Magnon man. Although currently, Basque country in both France and Spain is relegated to a location along the Bay of Biscay, there is evidence of Basque presence in other areas based on the ancient names of various settlements. For instance, Elne, in Roussillon was once named, Illiberis, which is a Basque name. The food ingredients I most identify with Basque cooking are bacalao or salt cod, leeks, and the red Piment de l’Espelette peppers. I find classic Basque dishes to be relatively uncomplicated, with ingredients blended in straightforward, yet inspired combinations. Contemporary Basque cooks, much like their Catalan counterparts nearer the Mediterranean, have a dazzling gift for combining ingredients in delightfully delectable ways.
Regarding traditional matches of food and wine: It is my opinion that while one should learn the traditional rules of how to pair wines and food, as we begin to know more about our own wine preferences – toward the softer, fruitier, or meatier, tannic, more powerful wines – traditional pairings should be used more as a background guide, rather than a strict rule of etiquette. The best chefs in the world are known for their creativity and abilities to find delicious new amalgamations of ingredients. In that same vein, I believe the new world style wines are an exciting addition and will add to our pairing options. The new wines may also raise the bar for those who have rested on their traditional laurels.
Posted 24 April 2003 - 08:10 PM