When my CSA box arrived this week containing a beautiful bunch of collard greens, I immediately started craving southern food. I’m not talking about Paula Deen’s mayonnaise and jell-o “salad” version of southern food. I’m talking about the good stuff: greens and cornbread and black-eyed peas. You know, the stuff that is actually kind of good for you (depending, of course, on how much butter, bacon, ham hock, etc. you add to the mix.) Unlike most of the South, I don’t use any meat in my greens, and I don’t cook them to death. I like them plain and simple with salt, pepper and a tiny touch of red wine vinegar added at the end. It wasn’t a huge bunch of collards so I combined it with the dandelion greens that also came in this week’s box. They added a nice spiciness to the dish. I had some cheddar cheese sitting in the fridge so I used that to make cheddar grits (okay, I didn’t actually have any grits so I used polenta instead – close enough.) I also made blackened catfish and a simple succotash using fava beans (also from the box) in place of lima beans. Other than the butter and cheese in the grits, this was a pretty healthy southern meal.

So, what wine can you serve with southern food? The simple answer is probably beer. Since southern food is sometimes quite spicy, particularly dishes of Cajun or Creole origin such as my blackened catfish, it can be a tough cuisine to match with wine. That said, there are certainly wines out there that can be paired with southern food, especially if you, like me, aren’t too concerned with perfect wine-food pairings. One year, for Christmas, we did a Cajun-themed dinner, and the gentleman at the wine shop recommended serving a fruity, spicy Shiraz. That worked out quite nicely. However, with it being summertime, I think the perfect wine to serve with a southern meal right now is a nice, dry rosé. Rosés are known for being extremely food friendly. They are sometimes called picnic wines because they can be served with such a wide range of foods (the nickname also refers to the fact that they are ideal for casual occasions; these are not overly serious wines.)

I picked out a bottle of Domaine de la Petite Cassagne 2007 Costières de Nîmes Rosé from the huge rosé display at my store. This wine comes from the Costières de Nîmes appellation in southern France, an appellation known for having a very distinctive soil that consists primarily of round pebbles. Red wine predominates in this area followed by rosé. Only a very small percentage of white wine is produced. Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault are the primary grapes. The Domaine de la Petite Cassagne Rosé, in fact, is made using nearly all of these grapes: it consists of 50% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 20% Cinsault, and 15% Mourvedre. This is truly a hand-crafted wine. Not only are the grapes grown organically and in small quantities, specific vines are designated for rosé production only and are pruned and picked in such a way as to produce the best rosé possible (unlike at many wineries where rosé is more of an afterthought.)

The wine is a bit darker in color than other rosés, though not quite as dark as the Chateau Ste Michelle 2006 Nellie’s Garden Dry Rosé that I featured last year. I really like rosés that are on the darker side since that usually means that they will have a bit more heft to them; they are still closer to a white than a red, but you get a bit more of the complexity that people normally associate with red wine. Strawberries and sweet herbs, such as tarragon and anise, are the common descriptions used for this wine. Refreshing and gulpable are two words that come to my mind (but, at 13.5% alcohol – higher than you might expect for a rosé – you’d probably be better off sipping rather than gulping.) It was a great wine to serve with my southern meal. The spiciness of the catfish didn’t overwhelm the wine at all and, because it was a slightly heavier rosé, it was able to cut through the richness of the cheddar grits quite nicely. It’s summertime, pick up a bottle of rosé!

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