Come on the reds
New wine-making techniques have made a world of difference. It was at Château d’Aydiein Madiran that the process of micro-oxygenation was invented in the early 1990s. By very slowly releasing controlled amounts of oxygen into a fermenting (or maturing) wine, the winemaker can mimic the gentle effects of barrel-ageing in a quicker and cheaper manner. The result is a smoother and softer wine.
This process is now used the world over to make young red wines more palatable, but nowhere has its benefits been more obvious than in southwest France.
Alain Brumont of Château Montus and Château Bouscassé favours the use of new oak rather than micro-oxygenation as a means of softening his wines. He and his family have been one of the driving forces in the regeneration of Madiran over the last two decades. Despite micro-oxygenation and new oak, the wines still have a robust vigour and meaty muscular depth, sometimes with an appealing rustic note. They are unlikely ever to be called warming soft and rounded. But they are certainly far more approachable than in times past.
It was also in this region that the French paradox was first discovered. Despite eating a cuisine based on large amounts of foie gras, duck and pork fat, the population appeared to live longer than most. Prof Roger Corder in The Wine Diet (2006) found that the red wines, and Madiran in particular, had some of the highest levels of procyanidins, helpful in lowering blood pressure and reducing cholesterol. The perfect accompaniment to belly of pork in more ways than one then.
A few wine merchants have a decent range of wines from southwest France, including Terroirs in Donnybrook, Honest 2 Goodness, French Wine Unlimited, 64wine, Karwig Wines, Cork, and Le Caveau in Kilkenny. All offer a mail-order/online delivery service.
BOTTLES OF THE WEEK
Domaine Laffont Erigone 2005, Madiran, 13.5%, €22.99Concentrated complex dark fruits, a solid tannic structure and a long dry finish. Stockists: Karwig Wines, Carrigaline; Eugenes, Kenmare.
Ch. Bouscassé 2007, Madiran, 12.5% €21.15Ripe spicy dark fruits with some new oak evident, nicely textured with a solid core of tannins. Stockists: Redmond’s, Ranelagh; World Wine Wines, Waterford.
Domaine Moureou 2010, Madiran, 13.5%, €16A very approachable yet correct Madiran with blackcurrant fruits and a smooth finish. Stockists: Listons, Camden St; 64wine, Glasthule; Lilac wines; Fallon Byrne.
En la Tradition 2009, AOC Saint Mont, Plaimont, 13%, €13.50A perfect example of modern Tannat; smooth dark plums with a lightly dry finish. Stockists: honest2goodness.ie; Corkscrew, Chatham St.