Cassoulet’s origins are famously contentious—the French towns of Toulouse, Castelnaudary and Carcassonne all claim priority when it comes to whose clever peasants first thought to stew dried beans, preserved duck (or goose, or partrige) and pork (or mutton) together. But no matter how you make it, this classic dish always tastes better with a glass of red wine.
The thing is, which wine? Given that Carcassonne is in the Languedoc wine region, Castelnaudary is just outside it, and Toulouse is sort of halfway between the Languedoc and the wine regions of Southwest France, which wine traditionally goes with cassoulet could be debated. Or you could just say the heck with persnickety concerns like these and open up a bottle of Languedoc red.
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That's because what you really need with cassoulet—which is the definition of rich—is an emphatic red: boldly flavored, full-bodied, with some tannic oomph. The Languedoc is a vast region, planted with a quarter of all the vines in France, and its best reds are typically robust blends involving Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, though many other varieties often play a part. And if you plan to celebrate National Cassoulet Day—January 9—by devouring a steaming bowl of cassoulet, they’re just the thing you need to go with it. Other than, of course, a baguette and possibly a napkin.
Five Languedoc reds to look for:
2013 Domaine Rimbert Les Travers de Marceau Saint Chinian ($15) Organically farmed vineyards provide the grapes for this berry-driven, Mourvèdre-based blend.
2011 Château Ollieux Romanis Corbières ($17) Juicy and rustic in the way you’d think a French country wine ought to be, this emphatic red comes from one of the largest estates in the Languedoc’s Corbières AOC.
2012 Domaine d’Aupilhac Montpeyroux ($20) Noted wine importer Kermit Lynch brings in this dark, organically farmed red; it’s savory and intense, with a light bacony note on the finish.
2013 Clos Fantine Faugères ($21) Vibrantly youthful fruit and a floral scent that recalls violet pastilles mark this lively, Carignan-based red from the Faugeres appellation.
2013 Mas de Daumas Gassac ($40) Initially controversial, and now considered one of the benchmark reds of the Languedoc, Mas de Daumas Gassac comes from cool, north-facing vineyards in the Gassac Valley. The location is unusually suited (for the Languedoc) to Cabernet Sauvignon, which forms a little more than two-thirds of the blend in this currant and graphite-scented red. This young, Daumas Gassac is a potently tannic wine: Ideal for cassoulet, but even so, decant it for an hour or two beforehand.