Madiran: Local Producers Making Original Wines from Native Grapes
“The wines of Southwest France are originals,” says French enologist Pierre Casamayor, author of How to Taste Wine. The region’s winemakers, he says, don’t try to copy wines from other regions but rather preserve their identity by promoting indigenous grape varieties and applying passion and commitment to their work. A prime example is the appellation of Madiran, which has staked its identity on the local grape Tannat. Many wine enthusiasts recognize Madiran as offering the best expression of Tannat in the world.
Madiran AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée, equivalent to AOC) surrounds the village of Madiran and extends across 3,400 acres of rolling countryside. Located 35 miles from the Pyrenees Mountains and 50 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, Madiran experiences a mix of Atlantic and Pyrenean influences – an ideal climate for the region’s indigenous grapes.
Three soil types are found here (clay-limestone, clay with pebbles, and pebbles), all of which encourage the development of dark, intense red wines – some bolder, others softer.
Madiran AOP is strictly a red wine appellation, and it shares the same winemaking zone as its sister appellation for white wines, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh AOP.
About the wines
Madiran wines are made primarily from the Tannat grape, a native variety with dark skins and a highly tannic character. Secondary grapes are Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are full, rich, intense, and aromatic, with flavors of cherry, blackberry, and black currant. Characterized by freshness, silky tannins, and notes of spice, Madiran wines can generally be divided into two styles:
Those made to be enjoyed young, which display intensely fresh and fruity qualities and pair well with appetizers.
Those at the top of the range, which are more powerful and elegant, marked by aromas of leather, licorice, and spices. In these cuvées the Tannat is more dominant, making the wines fine partners for meat dishes such as rib roast, leg of lamb, tagine of duck, or Thai-style beef curry.
Madiran wines generally pair well with grilled meats, chocolate desserts, local cuisine (sheep’s cheese, lamb, goose, and duck), and flavors from around the world, such as Asian, Indian, North African, and Mexican fare.
In short, the wines of Madiran are distinctive, honest, and generous – just like the men and women who create them.
Madiran hosts two wine festivals each year – summer and winter – to showcase the unique wines of the region. Travelers from all over France visit the country’s Southwest to enjoy music and sample the wines. Madiran also is recognized for its quality of life, plentiful sunshine, and unspoiled beauty. In the heart of the village, local wine information can be found at La Maison des Vins de Madiran, the information center for Madiran wines.
Note: Madiran is one of several appellations in the Southwest France wine region being highlighted in a monthly press release series. Madiran wines are increasingly available in the United States. For a sampling of producers, see the Madiran page at the Wines of Southwest France website.
Wines of Southwest France, known in France as the Interprofession des Vins du Sud Ouest (IVSO), is a professional organization of wine producers, cooperatives, and trading companies in the southwestern corner of France. The organization represents nearly 30 appellations in the area of France bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, and Spain and the Pyrenees Mountains on the south. Headquartered in Toulouse, the IVSO is actively building its membership and increasing its promotion of the wines of Southwest France around the world. More information can be found at www.WinesofSouthwestFrance.com or on Facebook.