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A Medieval French Peasant Dish and French Winemaker Sisters #Winophiles

This month The French Winophiles, with Gwendolyn from Wine Predator leading the charge, are looking at France's women in wine. As March in Women's History Month, it seems a fabulous topic that is not often the focus of wine pairings. 

If you are reading this early enough, feel free to join us on Twitter for a live chat on Saturday, March 19th at 8am Pacific time. Follow the hashtag #Winophiles and be sure to add it to anything you tweet so we can see it. Here's the line-up of articles...

French Winemaker Sisters

Though this isn't a topic I see often, I remembered that the #Winophiles did look at women in Champagne when Julia hosted a similar topic in two years ago for the same group. At that point, I shared Glazed Beet & Burrata Toasts + Alice Paillard. And last summer I participated in a digitasting that focused on wines from Alsace. For that, I met with five different winemakers in online meetings. Despite the time difference and my very rusty French language skills (please don't tell Mr. Pucci!), I enjoyed chatting with Marine and Lydie of Domaine Sohler Phillipe as well as Margot of Domaine Saint Remy - Ehrhart. You can read about the entire tasting experience in my post: A Wine Fair Reimagined + Braised Rabbit with Alsatian Dumplings.

But, for this event, I decided to turn the spotlight on French winemaking sisters: Catherine Armenier and Sophie Estevenin of Domaine de Marcoux. The Armenier family has been involved in viticulture since the 1300s though winemaking at the domaine didn't begin until 1989. The bottle that I sourced was the Domaine de Marcoux Côtes-du-Rhône 2018.

Catherine and Sophie began managing Domaine de Marcoux in the mid 1990s after their brother Philippe Armenier moved to the Napa Valley. Now Catherine heads the winemaking while Sophie manages the business side of the winery. They were the first to farm biodynamically in the region.

These pioneering sisters were the driving force behind the domain, devoting themselves to the estate and dedicating themselves to making quality wines. The legacy continues as in 2014, Sophie’s son Vincent Estevenin took joined his mother and aunt. And in 2019, Catherine retired!

This bottle is a Grenache-dominant cuvée with grapes from two vineyards just north of the boundary of Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Maucoil and Bois Lauzon. For each vintage, the Grenache is blended with small percentages of Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah.

The wine was racy but graceful and was a beautiful match for one of my favorite Medieval French peasant dishes.

A Medieval French Peasant Dish

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!

  • 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 cups 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 cups 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 cup diced celery
  • duck confit (4 breasts)
  • 3 cups chicken stock + more if needed
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 links sausage (I used a venison sausage)
  • duck fat, as needed
  • 2 cups bread crumbs

For the stock, place all of the ingredients into a large stock pot. Pour in 10 cups 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 cup from mine and added 2 cups of pre-rendered duck fat to do the confit.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  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 cups 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 Fahrenheit. In a Dutch oven, or other heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt 1 to 2 Tablespoons 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 cups 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 cup 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 wine. The Domaine de Marcoux Cotes-du-Rhone 2018 fit the bill beautifully. 

That's a wrap for the March #Winophiles' event on French women in wine. Join us next month as I host a discussion about Easter. Writers can share French wines, Easter traditions, and recipes. Stay tuned.


  1. What an immensely hearty dish and I love the legend behind it! I also love that the sisters were the first to farm biodynamically in their region!

  2. Cassoulet is such a soothing dish. I can imagine it with this Grenache-dominant Cotes-du-Rhone. Love seeing sisters in business with one another!

  3. The Domaine de Marcoux Côtes-du-Rhône 2018 and your Medieval French Peasant Dish looks and sounds like a great pairing Cam!


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