A Midi Syrah

Syrah, also known as Shiraz...

Bascilicata of St. Sernin

Bascilicata of St. Sernin in French red wine country

If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the Languedoc-Roussillon region of south central France. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local red Syrah.

Among the eleven wine-growing regions of France, Languedoc-Roussillon ranks fourth in total vineyard acreage. This area, which includes the Midi, (the home of the wine reviewed below) was traditionally known for producing ton after ton of mediocre table wine called vin ordinaire. But times change and in spite of global warming Languedoc-Roussillon has started to produce fine wine. Some say that visiting Australian winemakers are largely responsible for this improvement.

Languedoc-Roussillon is home to about three dozen grape varieties ranging from the widely known such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah to the quite obscure such as Aspiran Noir, Aspiran Gris, and Lladoner Pelot. If I ever get my hands on one of those rare grape varieties, I promise to review the wine. But I won’t be holding my breath.

The wine reviewed below comes from the Carcassonne area. But a previous article (I Love French Wine and Food – A Midi Viognier) already reviewed this beautiful old city. So I thought why not examine the relatively nearby city of Toulouse, which strictly speaking is not part of Languedoc-Roussillon but is the capital of the neighboring Midi-Pyrénées region. Will that stop you from visiting it?

Toulouse, France’s fifth largest city and the fastest growing metropolis in Europe, was once the capital of the Languedoc province of France before the French Revolution abolished provinces. It is the capital of the French aerospace industry. The University of Toulouse is the second largest University in France. In many ways this lovely city seems more Spanish than French.

Toulouse is known as a pink city for its redbrick buildings. Among the many sights to see are the Capitole/Hôtel de Ville (Capitol/Town Hall) which, unlike most city halls, is decorated with beautiful paintings. The Église des Jacobins (Jacobin Church) which was built almost eight hundred years ago also displays many art masterpieces and is the site of several music concerts in the summer. The city is home to quite a few beautiful mansions called Hôtels.

The Musée des Augustins (Augustinian Museum) was once a convent. You should see its collection of religious paintings and Romanesque sculpture. The Musée du Vieux Toulouse (Museum of Old Toulouse) lives up to its name. Fanciers of archaeology won’t be disappointed with Musée St-Raymond (Saint-Raymond’s Museum). As you can well imagine historic churches abound. Toulouse’s best-known landmark is St-Sernin, the largest Romanesque church in the world. The list goes on and on. You may get an idea of the time scale in the older areas of town when you realize that the Pont Neuf (New Bridge) was built in 1632.

Before reviewing the Languedoc-Roussillon wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring beautiful Toulouse. Start with Garbure (Cabbage Soup with Poultry). For your second course savor Cassoulet Toulousain (Bean and Pork Stew). And as dessert indulge yourself with Violette de Toulouse (Violet Flower Crystallized in Sugar).

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Domaine de Salices Syrah 2004 12.5% about $13.50

Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials. Grown on the vineyards around the gorgeous medieval town of Carcassonne, this Syrah is rich, ripe and very fruity. Aged for 11 months in oak barrels, the wine shows superb balance between the oak and fruit. Enjoy this delicious quaffer with grilled steaks, hamburgers, pasta with meat sauce or gourmet sausages.

My first meal consisted of slow cooked meat balls in a tomato sauce with potatoes. The wine was spicy, powerful, and mouth filling. It was tannic, but in a pleasant sense.

The next meal was whole wheat pasta with spicy meat sauce. The wine was round and powerful. I tasted pepper and black fruit.

The final meal involved store bought cold barbecued spare ribs with potato salad and roasted red pepper in garlic and oil. (I can’t help it; that’s the kind of food I savor, even more so with wines like this one.) The meat’s congealed fat and thick tomato sauce made it very tasty. The wine did a great job of cutting the fat. It was very round and full, brimming with black cherries. The roasted red pepper brought out a tobacco taste in the wine.

My first cheese pairing was with a French Camembert. I had the feeling that the Syrah was diluted by this cheese. It was still good, but not as good as on its own. The second cheese was a nutty tasting Swiss Gruyere that flattened the wine, reducing its flavor peaks. The final cheese was a soft German Edam. This last combination was the best of the lot. The wine was almost as good with the buttery Edam as it was on its own.

Final verdict. I like this wine and intend to purchase it again. But I won’t bother much with cheese pairing.

About the Author

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine French or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine websites include
www.theworldwidewine.com    and    http://www.theitalianwineconnection.com

Visit his website devoted to Italian travel www.travelitalytravel.com

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