One of the premier red wine appellations of the Southwest, Madiran is on a par with Bergerac and Cahors in terms of the quality of its wines. Wine labeled Madiran is required to be red. Though Madiran's wines have never been widely renowned due to their heavy, unusual flavors, they are currently gaining in popularity. Also, new technology is helping to bring the naturally high concentration of the Tannat grape to a more reasonable level.
Madiran includes 3,000 acres of vineyards that are spread across three departéments; the eponymous village of Madiran is the source of many of the wines. Approximately a million cases of wine are being made each year here. Tannat is the primary grape, although some others are used.
Madiran officially received AOC status in 1948. Although the region has had a long history, Madiran never enjoyed the type of popularity that Bordeaux or even some of its neighbors did. Its heyday is in the future, not the past: in recent years, thanks to progress in production techniques and a general trend toward more full-bodied red wines, Madiran is rapidly becoming a more important appellation.
Climate and Viticulture
Madiran's vineyards are located in the foothills of the Pyrenées mountains, and are spread across three adjacent departéments. Almost all the wine produced in the surrounding areas is white. The best vineyards are located on steep hillside slopes with clay and limestone soils and Mediterranean climate conditions. This mountainous climate is perfect for the cultivation of the Tannat grape.
The Tannat grape, which is also well-known for its usage in Uruguay, makes its best wines in Madiran. The Southwest has long been considered a stronghold for Tannat, but only recently has Madiran emerged as the area whose winemakers are most capable of cultivating the best flavors of the grape. The best of these wines have delightful earthy richness, bitter aromas of chocolate, truffle, and dark fruit, and great concentration. Other grapes allowed in the region include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Fer Servadou; these usually are blended in for the purpose of making the wine softer and less overbearing. Although regulations require that the wines must be blends, there have been reports that these rules are not strictly enforced and hence some producers are making varietal Tannat. Generally, these powerful wines are better off aged 5-10 years.
We have selected eight producers who are at the forefront here, whose wines are both high-quality and commonly exported.
- Château d'Aydie: One of the pioneering producers of Madiran and still one of the best, Aydie has greatly benefited from the rise of the Madiran appellation in recent years. The varietal Tannat, titled simply Madiran, is powerfully smoky and complex with oaky richness and perfect concentration. The cuvée, Odé, is more of a fruity style, but is still intense and rich.
- Château Barréjat: Apparently this château only makes one wine, the Tradition, but it is distributed all over the world and has powerful, classical flavors.
- Domaine Berthoumieu: The basic wine here is a blend of Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Fer Servadou, and shows balanced, velvety flavors of black fruit. The spicier, more concentrated Charles de Batz cuvée is also good.
- Château Bouscassé: Bouscassé is owned by Alain Brumont, who is also the proprietor of Château Montus. Brumont is clearly the most prolific winemaking mind in Madiran, since at this château alone he makes four wines. These are the basic wine, the Vieilles Vignes, and cuvées Les Menhirs and Argile Rouge, and all are among the best wines of the appellation.
- Domaine Capmartin: Though Capmartin makes a good Tradition wine, their Vieilles Vignes, a blend of Cabernet and Tannat, is more balanced.
- Chapelle Lenclos: The varietal Tannat made here is deep and concentrated, with powerful black fruit and spice flavors as well as ripe earthy notes.
- Château Laffitte Teston: This château's Vieilles Vignes is definitely their best wine; made from 70-year-old low-yield vines, it has deep, plummy, chocolatey flavors. The Reflet du Terroir is far more conventional and with its vivid red and black fruit flavors is Bordeaux-like in style. The Cuvée Joris is the most elegant of the three wines.
- Château Montus: This property is also owned by Alain Brumont. The basic wine is balanced, surprisingly soft and open-knit, one of the more elegant styles of Madiran. Brumont's greatest wine, La Tyre, is a viticultural triumph, made from varietal Tannat planted on vineyards on the steep slopes of cliffs. Released only in great years, this wine could easily be compared to 3rd or 2nd growth Bordeaux in terms of depth and sophistication.
From the same exact land as Madiran, the Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh appellation makes solely white wines.