Tantalise Your Taste Buds With a Gourmet Weekend Break to the Tarn, South-West France
The undiscovered region of the Tarn in south-west France is a foodie lover's dream. The local produce is rich and flavoursome and includes wine, cheese and cured meat, with duck and sausage being the main specialities.
The local delights can be sampled at one of the many authentic food markets (see notes to editors section for full listings) in Albi, Castres or Lautrec; three villages steeped in a long history of food production. For example, pink garlic is grown exclusively in and around the medieval town of Lautrec. Pink garlic is distinguished for its aromatic and subtle taste, sweeter and milder than the usual white garlic.
The charcuterie processing industry has particularly shaped both the economic and cultural environment in the area as the Lacaune low mountain range is the perfect environment for drying salt meat.
To find the perfect wine to accompany your meal of choice, head to the stunning Gaillac vineyards, one of the oldest wine growing regions in France, dating back to the Gallo-Roman times. The development of the vineyards was a result of excellent growing conditions; the heat from the Mediterranean combined with the ocean humidity of Bordeaux.
The Gaillac AOP wine area has been awarded Vignobles & Découvertes certification under the name 'Pays des Bastides et Vignoble du Gaillac'. The area covers over 3,000 hectares and there are seven grape varieties; braucol, duras, prunelart, mauzac, loin de l'œil, ondenc and muscadelle, producing red, white, rose and perle (slightly sparking) wine.
There are two wine tours that you can take in the area by car; Circuit du Vignoble Gaillacois and Boucle de Campagnac. Both tours allow visitors to explore various vineyards and winemakers in the region and also take in the incredible bastide villages in the area; Penne, Castelnau de Montmiral, Cordes-sur- Ciel and Puycelsi.
Local gourmet treats in the Tarn:
Melsat & bougnette: These are egg based specialities made with bread and pork from the Lacaune area. The Melsat is boiled and the bougnette is fried
Saussice de Toulouse: said to be the finest French sausage, it contains pork, smoked bacon, red wine and garlic
Cassoulet: a rich-flavoured, slow-cooked casserole made with beans, sausages, and other meats such as pork and duck
Carre du Tarn: a rich, hazelnut-tasting creamy cheese made with goats milk. It is made in February and left to ripen until autumn into a blue-veined cheese
Foie Gras: the liver of a duck or goose which has been fed using a method designed to fatten it rapidly. The most expensive is foie gras entier and it may be obtained cooked, semi-cooked or fresh
Lautrec pink garlic: a garlic grown exclusively in and around the medieval town of Lautrec, distinguished for its aromatic and subtle taste, sweeter and milder than the usual white garlic
Gaillac AOP wines: all the Tarn's specialities can be accompanied with the extensive range of premier wines produced in the Gaillac wine region, one of the oldest wine-growing regions in France
Croquants de Cordes sur Ciel: Originating from the medieval town of Cordes sur ciel, these wafer thin biscuits are a Tarn speciality, made out of almonds and caramelised sugar
With all the fabulous food on offer, it is no wonder there is a strong fine-dining scene in the Tarn. La Table du Sommelier, Hotel Alchimy and Chateau de Salettes all offer exquisite service and exceptionally prepared food, carefully paired with the local Gaillac wines. Chateau de Salettes offer an eight course tasting menu with matching local wine and La Table du Sommelier provides you with a coaster explaining all about the wine you have ordered!
If you want to work for your appetite and fancy trying your hand at cooking the traditional cuisinse, La Vigneronne's cooking classes start from £34 approx (€40) per person for two hours. La Halle aux Terroirs in Gaillac offer culinary workshops, all of which are negotiable in terms of the package offered. Preparation of a starter, main course and dessert could be organised but so could a pastry lesson.
For more information on food and wine in the Tarn, visit www.tourisme-tarn.com/en/tarn/en