[digg=http://digg.com/food_drink/Sausage_wine]”Sausage wine” is a description coined by Tony Mason, Majestic’s Trading Director who retired several years ago. It describes a red wine that is good value rather than expensive, more on the rustic side than fine, but interesting and characterful – in other words, the kind of wine Majestic staff would drink with sausages. I was reminded of the description this week.
(In case the title of this post hasn’t already given the game away, my apologies to vegetarians who may prefer to look away now.)
I’ve always been a charcuterie kind of guy. My colleagues would confirm this, having themselves enjoyed the pork pies, haslet and sausage I occasionally have delivered from my favourite Stamford pork butchers, Nelsons. I’ve always fancied having a go at producing some of my own, and was particularly inspired several years ago by an episode of Channel 4’s Escape to River Cottage in which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and a few friends prepared his first pigs.
And so, on Wednesday I visited River Cottage HQ, the cookery school and events centre set up by Hugh and inspired by the smallholding experiences filmed for the series. The ‘HQ’ itself is a sensitively modernised farmhouse set in a stunning location among the rolling hills of south Dorset.
The event was called ‘Pig in a Day’, a succinct and accurate description of what’s covered – a demonstration of pork processing and cookery from Hugh and his butcher friend from that original programme, Ray Smith. A few people there were just starting with their own pig-keeping but most (like me) were simply there to learn and experience how this most versatile of animals can be prepared for food in a true “nose to tail” fashion. Hugh and Ray were excellent presenters, and we saw a host of porky treats prepared (and tasted, of course); had a delicious roast pork lunch; and learnt how to prepare, cure and age bacon, ham, salami, chorizo and sausages.
Which brings me neatly back to the subject of sausage wines, because last night I enjoyed the sausages that were made on the day. They were really good, slightly sweet and gamey thanks to the well hung organic pork that they were made from. As well as my best mustard mash and onion gravy, I needed a proper sausage wine to accompany them. But what to choose?
By my (admittedly arbitrary) definition, most sausage wines come from a band of southern Europe running from northern Italy, the southern Rhône, Languedoc-Roussillon, through northern Spain and Portugal. Usually, southern France is my happiest hunting ground, and with 20% off any 2 bottles or more from that region at the moment I inevitably gravitated towards this area.
A good choice might have been Château Guiot, which has for years been one of the most popular £5-or-less wines among Majestic staff – plenty of berry fruit backed with a really nice herbal edge that makes it great with all kinds of food, not just sausages. I’m also a fan of Château Camplazens, a Languedoc Syrah which offers a distinctive smoky, animal style reminiscent of the great Northern Rhône reds but at a significantly lower price.
Instead, though, I picked a wine from the Côtes du Roussillon, the 2006 Mas Las Cabes from Jean Gardiès. It has really good concentration without being too heavy, terrifically herbaceous garrigue-y fruit and just the right grippy tannic edge to make the perfect sausage wine.