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History on the Table – A Dish from the Hundred Years War Meets Wine from the Land of the Bible: Cassoulet + Tabor Adama Shiraz 2013 #WinePW

This month the Wine Pairing Weekend bloggers are looking at the Ancient World Wine Pairings with Nicole of Somm's Table at the lead. You can read her invitation here

I was immediately intrigued as my inner historian is always dying to unearth some (new-to-me) connections between food, wine, and history. I started my exploration with a Retsina from Greece, pairing it rather unsuccessfully with Kouneli Stifado (Greek rabbit stew) before finding it a nice match with some Juniper Chocolate from Lithuania. Then I uncorked a bottle of wine from Lebanon and baked some Lebanese flatbread, Man'oushe, to match.

However, the duo I chose to share as my official post for this month's #WinePW is a French dish paired with an Israeli wine because Jake and I both loved this wine! I do have one more wine to try for this topic; it was made with an ancient technique, e.g. aged in amphorae, that hails from Portugal. Stay tuned for that post. It was delicious, too.

But before we get to my post, here are the others' offerings on the topic of Ancient World Wine Pairings. These will all go live between Friday, April 10th and early morning Saturday, April 11th. And if you are reading this early enough, feel free to join us for a live Twitter chat. You can find us with hashtag #WinePW; if you chime in, be sure to use the hashtag as well, so that we can see your tweet.

Ancient World Wine Pairings

In the Glass

I'm going to start with a little bit of winemaking history from the land of the bible. Viticulture has existed in the region since biblical times. In fact, in the book of Deuteronomy, vines are listed as one of the seven blessed crops in the land, "a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive trees and honey" (Deuteronomy 8:8).

Israel's location placed it on a historic trading route between Mesopotamia and Egypt. And, in addition to goods, that commerce brought winemaking know-to to the area. During the Roman empire, wine from Israel was exported to Rome. In fact, historically Israeli wine has almost always left the area; when the Egyptians ruled the region, taxes were often paid in the form of wine.

I was fortunate to find two of these bottles - Tabor Adama Shiraz 2013 - online. So, they were delivered right to my door and I didn't have to venture out to many stores while California's shelter-in-place order stands. The Tabor winery sits in the heart of the fertile Galilee, in the foothills of Mt. Tabor, while the grapes for this wine come from the Kibbutz Malkia in the Upper Galilee, near the border with Lebanon.

The bottle label calls out 'Terra Rossa' which means 'red earth' in Italian. That refers to a well-drained, reddish soil with neutral pH that is typical of the Mediterranean. It's a popular substrate for wine production.

The wine poured a clear pale garnet color that belied its true depth. On the nose, there were notes of berries and soft florals. On the palate, the wine was round with silky tannins and a lengthy finish. It's simultaneously fresh and fruity with some weightier earth elements of cedar and oak. What a wine!

Jake and I first poured this with a white bean hummus and homemade Israeli flatbreads.

I'll post those recipes soon! But the pairing that absolutely cemented this wine as one of our favorites is a French dish from the Hundred Years War era.

In the Bowl

While the roots of this dish are debated - some place its origins as Arabic - the story I told the boys over dinner was that legend places its inception during the Hundred Years War. Legend says that while the English lay siege on Castelnaudary, the French were threatened with famine. To feed the soldiers, the people pooled their resources, adding bacon, pork beans, sausages, and meats to simmer in a large cauldron. Bolstered by the filling meal, the soldiers succeeded in forcing the English to retreat all the way to the edge of the Channel. Not sure about the veracity of that legend, but we liked it!

I have made cassoulet before. But these days of being sheltered in place have inspired me to revisit recipes that require longer prep times. I made some Kouign Amann recently. All that rolling and chilling and folding and rolling again don't happen very often. Thankfully, I had duck breasts and venison sausages in my freezer, though the stock I made was from a whole chicken. But, this was a nice project for the day. A whole day.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 to 3 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 4 to 5 celery ribs, cut into chunks
  • 2 green onions
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 whole juniper berries
  • parsley sprigs
  • black pepper
  • 10 C water
  • 4 duck breasts
  • duck fat, as needed
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic
  • 3 to 4 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary 

  • 4 C dried cannellini beans
  • small bunch parsley, chopped, approximately 1 C
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs, destemmed so you have just the leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and diced, approximately 2 C
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced, approximately 1 C
  • 1 C diced celery
  • duck confit (4 breasts)
  • 3 C chicken stock + more if needed
  • 2 C tomato sauce
  • 3 T minced garlic
  • 4 links sausage (I used a venison sausage)
  • duck fat, as needed
  • 2 C bread crumbs

For the stock, place all of the ingredients into a large stock pot. Pour in 10 C water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook for at least 2 hours, skimming any foam that forms on the top. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.

Remove as much skin and fat as you can from the duck breasts and place that in a large saucepan. Over medium heat, render as much duck fat at you can. I got about 1 C from mine and added 2 C of pre-rendered duck fat to do the confit.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.  Place your duck breasts, garlic, bay leaves, and rosemary in a roasting pan; I had to use two smaller dishes, so two breasts in each pan. Add the duck fat (I used 3 C total) and olive oil to the pan until the meat is almost completely submerged. Cook in the oven for at least 90 minutes.

In a large pot, place the beans. Cover them with water by about 3 inches. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Drain the liquid out and replace the water, covering the soaked beans, again, by about 3" water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the beans are tender, approximately 90 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a Dutch oven, or other heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt 1 to 2 T duck fat. Add in the onions, celery, and fennel and stir to coat with the duck fat. Nestle the sausages into the veggies and pour in 2 C stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and place pot in the oven. Braise for 90 minutes.

After 90 minutes remove the pot from the oven. Pour in the tomato sauce and ladle in the beans. Stir in the minced garlic. Nestle the duck breast slices and bay leaves into the beans. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves and 1/2 C chopped parsley. Pour in the remaining stock and bring to a boil. Cover and return to the oven for another 90 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven and sprinkle in the remaining parsley. Cover the top with breadcrumbs. Cover and return to the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the cover and bake for a final 15 to 20 minutes. The top should be dried and a crisp crust covering the entire dish.

Serve this immediately with a nice red wine.

If you can't finish off the pot, don't worry. This is just as good the next day as leftovers, too.

And that's a wrap for our April #WinePW look at Ancient World Wine Pairings. Next month we'll be back looking at skin-fermented wine with Martin of ENOFLYZ Wine Blog at the head. I can't wait. I'm pretty sure he's the one who first introduced me to the concept with a wine from Donkey & Goat Winery. Cheers.


  1. Great history background, thank you! I've been told Israel is more or a red wine country that the white wines find it harder to gain an audience; did any of your research say anything about that?

  2. This makes me hungry for duck again. I need to order some more.

  3. Ooo. My husband is going to live this. I also love your choice for ancient wine making.

  4. Yum! Love a good cassoulet, fun to learn more of its backstory. As I mentioned in the chat, I got to an Israeli wine tasting last fall and was impressed with the quality. I don't recall your bottle being in the lineup.

  5. What a delicious pairing! Don't you just love learning the history of the wines? Thank you for this-I'll have to look for the Israeli wine you suggested. Cheers!

  6. I've had a number of top-quality Israeli wines - seems they've come a long way in recent decades. And cassoulet - yum! The ultimate comfort food for these times!

  7. OMG! This post has made me so hungry! I love the history. Thanks for joining! I have to say that I was so impressed by the wines in Israel overall. I wish we saw more of them here.


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