Madiran Wine:A Good Winter Warmer
by Ian Blackshaw
It is that time of the year, once again, when the major French supermarkets, such as Auchan, Carrefour and Intermarche, have their wine fairs (foire aux vins) and tempt punters in with all kinds of offers. For example, buy two cartons of a particular wine and get the third one free!
It is also that time when, amongst the well-known French wines, such as those from Bordeaux and Burgundy, they often feature less well-known, but also very good wines. I noticed that in one supermarket there were offers on Madiran red wine – a wine that I do not really know, so I was tempted to buy some and was not disappointed, being a Bordeaux aficionado.
Madiran wine is produced in two styles – white and red – around, not surprisingly, the village of Madiran in Gascony in South West France, between the Dordogne and the Pyrenees. This area also produces Armagnac, which is considered by some connoisseurs to be just as good as a fine cognac!
Madiran acquired its AOC status for its two styles of wine in 1948. The area of production of Madiran red wine comprises 3,200 acres of vineyards and covers three Departments: Gers; Hautes-Pyrenees; and Pyrenees-Atlantiques. The main grape variety used in its production is Tannat, which, as its name suggests, gives the wine its distinctive tannin characteristics, which, according to some medical authorities, makes Madiran red wine one of the most healthy reds that you can drink, helping, it is claimed, to reduce high blood pressure and lower cholesterol!
Although some of the top Madiran reds are made from 100% Tannat, most are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Fer. Probably the best Madiran red is that produced by Alain Brumont, the proprietor of Chateau Montus, his 1998 reputedly being a fine example. However, the everyday Madiran red is eminently quaffable and does not break the bank either!
Madiran red goes down very well with hearty winter stews and casseroles (the season is fast approaching!) and also smelly French cheeses, such as Epoisses de Bourgogne.
So, look out for Madiran red in the wine sales; or, better still, buy some in situ. Gascony has been described by some travel writers on France as unspoilt and a haven of tranquillity fit to calm the most jangled nerves. It is the least populated area of France – 28 inhabitants per square kilometre – full of history (does the Battle of Castillon on 17 July, 1453 at the end of the Hundred Years War ring any bells?) with many medieval fortified villages (known as bastides) and fine castles – there are more than 500 of them. One of them, the Fifteenth Century Chateau de Fources has been converted into a very good Hotel, offering, on reservation, dinner with dishes typical of the region, such as duck confit!