Sunday, June 10, 2012

Madiran—No Spoonful of Sugar Required for this Medicine to go Down

Madiran is a small village in Basque-influenced southwest France just north of the Pyrenees. It is also an appellation, and it gained worldwide attention when Roger Corder published his 2007 book The Red Wine Diet and recommended Madiran wines as the most heart healthy in the world.

Corder’s research revealed that red wines contain procyanidin, an antioxidant that prevents heart disease. The Tannat grape, the basis of red Madiran wines, has more procyanidin than any other grape. Coincidentally, the lifespan of men in the Madiran district is among the highest in the world.

The Tannat grape produces tannic, complex wines with rich dark fruit and raspberry flavors and aromas of spice, coffee and vanilla. These wines have had a reputation of being fiercely tannic, requiring years of aging before being drinkable. Now, Tannat is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet Franc which softens the tannin and results in a much more approachable wine.

Another way to soften tannins is a process called micro-oxygenation, introduced in 1991 specifically for Tannat grapes. Oxygen is introduced into fermenting wine in a controlled manner. This results in polymerization of the tannins into larger molecules which are perceived as softer.

1907 Madiran (Producteurs Plainmont and Cave Crousilles) is a spectacular example of the level of flavor, structure, and complexity these wines can reach at a $15.00 price tag. It is a blend of 70% Tannat, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc.

The nose of spice, coffee, and cocoa is followed by a blast of dark fruits and raspberries layered against a background of tannin, licorice, minerals, and a beautiful acidity. The result is a remarkably complex wine for the price. Its unusual combination of power and freshness makes it a spectacular match for grilled steaks or barbecued ribs on the back deck.

The 1907 is named for the year the appellation was first defined. It is produced by independent growers jointly with two cooperatives.

Basques immigrating to South America brought Tannat there, and it is now widely grown and has, in fact, become the national grape of Uruguay. The wines there are much fruitier and less tannic, and  although good, are very different than the beautiful Tannats from Madiran, especially the 1907.

1907 Madiran is a must have wine. Find it and buy it—lots of it. As good as it now, it’ll probably be even better next year.

To your health!

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