This month our French Winophiles group is exploring a more obscure region of France: Sud Ouest, aka Southwest France. Although it is the 5th largest wine producing region in France, its location, tucked away between the Pyrénées Mountains and Spain to the south and Bordeaux to the north, results in a sparsely populated area. Sud Ouest is divided into four sub-regions, the Pyrénées sub-region, specifically Madiran, will be the focus of this exploration and put to a head to head knock down drag out battle against Applegate Valley, Oregon.
So I may have exaggerated the upcoming wine battle. It is less of a “taste off” and more of a side by side comparison of two wine regions, one ancient, viticulture has been a part of Madiran for centuries with the AOC forming in 1948, and another modern by comparison, the first grapes were planted in Applegate Valley in 1853. But first a little bit about Madiran.
Madiran is a village that rests in the rolling hills of Gascony, Southwest France. It is an area known for rich cuisine, magret de canard and cassoulet are two local favorites, and opulent red wine. Gascony is the home of Tannat, a black grape variety known for its high tannins and acidity with bold structure, the perfect wine to pair with the local gastronomy. Madiran is a red wine producing region. By law each wine bearing the Madiran AOC label must be comprised of 60 – 80% Tannat, with other blending grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Madiran wines age beautifully and patience in the cellar reaps the best rewards to enjoy the full potential of these wines.
Winemakers of Madiran are challenged by the Tannat grape. They must tame the grape’s heavy tannins and acidity while not compromising the grapes characteristics. Madiran’s Tannat may actually be a leading component to the “French Paradox.” As stated earlier, Gascony is a region of rich French cuisine, it is the home of foie gras. However, research has shown the citizens of this region live longer and have lower instances heart disease. Professor Roger Corder of the William Harvey Research Institute, London has done extensive research on the French Paradox and overall wine consumption for his 2007 book The Wine Diet. In his studies he concluded, “The best results I’ve had in my laboratory have been from Madiran wines. These have some of the highest procyanidin levels I’ve encountered, as a result of the local grape variety, tannat, and the traditional long fermentation and maceration.” Drink up!
Does Tannat produced outside Madiran have these same health benefits? Unfortunately, I don’t have the research to answer that question. However, let’s head to Applegate Valley, Oregon for more studying. Why Applegate Valley? It is home to Troon Vineyard and their 100% Tannat wine. Craig Camp took over as General Manager at Troon Vineyards in 2016. Craig is a man I admire. Not only does he have great insight to the wine industry, everywhere he goes high quality wines follows. Craig “gets” it. This is evident because the quality of Troon wines is elevated and keeps going up with every new vintage. As Craig explains, Troon’s Tannat is organically grown in their estate vineyards on the second bench of Applegate Valley in granitic soil, it has a bit of the tannic edge removed, revealing “a distinctive Southern Oregon personality – all without taming its wilder side.”
Both wine regions grow Tannat in higher altitudes with cooler climates and ocean influences. So let’s have a little wine geek fun and explore the qualities of both the Madiran and Applegate Valley Tannats.
2009 Brumont Chateau Montus Madiran France ($30): 80% Tannat, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon; deep inpenetrable ruby with black ink hues; medium aromas of dried cherries, blackberries, plums, cranberries, currants, dried roses, tar, dusty earth, medicinal, fennel, black pepper, licorice, graphite, forest floor, dark chocolate, toasted walnuts; rich and robust on palate, high acidity and grippy tannins, however, not too much to enjoy, quite elegant with a wonderful graphite, dusty earth mouth-feel, full body, long dusty finish; if drinking young I recommend opening the day before consumption with a several hour decant before enjoying; click here to locate this wine.
2014 Troon Vineyard Blue Label Estate Tannat Applegate Valley USA ($35): 100% Tannat; medium+ ruby with inky purple hues; pronounced aromas of dried roses, baked cherries, blackberries, plums, and currants, dusty earth, baking spice, minerality, smoke, graphite, hazelnut, licorice, and forest floor; elegant yet powerful on the palate, layers of robust flavors that elegantly lift off the palate, medium+ dusty tannins and acidity, beautifully balanced with great structure, yes it’s rich but it delivers with grace in a quite tension between power and restraint; click here to purchase this wine.
Both of these wines were quite good, yet also different. The Troon Tannat is much more approachable now, but has aging potential of up to five years. The Madiran Tannat is eight years old and tastes like a baby. It is powerful but can be enjoyed now with my suggestions above. The Troon Tannat demonstrates restraint, the Madiran Tannat does not. Overall, a very fun comparison of two high quality wines that express differences in terroir and winemaking style where there are no losers.
Sadly, I had a difficult time locating wine for this article. Because of the multiple delays and poor customer service (Your Wine Cellar – Florida, buyer beware!) I was unable to prepare a meal to pair with these two wines in time to publish it in this article. However, keep your eyes peeled on my Instagram account and you will see in the coming days a killer Apricot Lamb Tagine dish that is perfect for Tannat.
Check out what other wines the #Winophiles have discovered in Sud Ouest:
- Jill at L’occasion shares “Périgord Wines: Bergerac and Duras”
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Southern France at a Midwest BBQ”
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Cam shares “Pistachio-Armagnac Sabayon with Strawberries and Meringues”
- Rob from Odd Bacchus shares “Bergerac: Underappreciated Wines & Controversial Cuisine”
- Martin from Enofylz shares “Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Arrufiac? Oh My!”
- Olivier from In Taste Buds We Trust shares “If it makes you happy…”
- Nicole from Somm’s Table shares “Cooking to the Wine: Paul Bertrand Crocus Malbec de Cahors with Lavender-Herb Ribeye” and Grilled Veggies
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest shares “Basque-ing in the Sud-Ouest: Wines of Irouléguy“
- Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares “Toast #TDF2017 with Wines from the Côtes de Gascogne“
- Jeff from Food Wine Click! shares “Exploring Madiran with Vignobles Brumont”
Join our Twitter chat this morning at 10am CST to discuss Sud Ouest. Cheers!