Discovering Tannat

I’m sat infront of the roaring fire and I am replete and relaxed. 

It’s late, but I’m not ready to go to bed yet. I’m stuck on a French cloud of wine and duck and I don’t know whether I want to get off.

The canard in question was a recipe from a fond memory in Châtel, skiing with friends and getting rather merry in the process…sadly I couldn’t find any escargot. But the wine has blown my mind altogether.

You may remember me mentioning one of the readers of this blog, Frederic Massey, who recommended the mysterious Swiss wine following my favourite Amarone post. Well, Frederic is from a region in the South of France I’m yet to explore and to educate my taste buds he so very kindly sent me wine from where he calls home, which is predominantly produced from the Tannat grape.

I received this wine and instantly decided that I was going to message Tor Cutteridge (the magic behind the duck) for the recipe as this wine deserved a magnificent meal. Although my creation wasn’t quite up there with Tor’s, I don’t think it ever could be, I was really impressed with the results and the wine almost brought me to tears it matched so perfectly.

The producer of the wine, which I will tell you about in due course, was interview by The Decanter in 2011 and his passion struck me right to my soul:

Frosty relations with his own no-less-forceful father, Alban Brumont, can’t have been comfortable; nor can two broken marriages. ‘I’m not proud of having been married three times,’ he says. ‘I would prefer to have married just once.’ I recall talking to his second wife, Catherine, who told me Alain lived on ‘Planet Wine, not Planet Earth’. It was, she said, sometimes ‘difficult for terrestrial relationships’.

He admits he is ‘excessive in everything – every time I do something, I have to do it to the limit’. (He was a very successful downhill skier in his 20s – but made himself stop because he realised he was beginning to lose touch with the limits.)

There’s a quote isn’t there, “obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated,” I don’t know who said it first, but it’s perfect in this instance. Alain Brumont goes on to talk about the effort he has put into bringing the Tannat grape out in all of its glory, he has been told off numerous times for his methods and judged on everything from his opinion on using new vines to what he thinks of recycling oak barrels, but it’s not stopped him.

I use as many new barrels as ever, but I have an absolute horror of finding a single trace of wood in wine. The fact is – and I discovered this as long ago as the 1985 Prestige – Tannat eats wood. You don’t notice it. A part of La Tyre even spends time in [relatively small] 110-litre barrels, but people often say it’s the least oaky of the four top wines.

Tannat is Southwest France’s most famous grape, yet it’s not that commonly known (or is it?). The Madiran blend is usually Tannat (60-70%) combined with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The name comes from it’s high tannin levels presumably, but that doesn’t really affect the flavour. The deep skin resulting in a thick colour, is exciting, dark and mysterious.

This evening I had this particular bottle;

Château Bouscassé, Grand Vin de Madiran, 2012, Alain Brumont, 14.5%

This complex wine is exceptional, you can taste the blood sweat and tears, the failed marriages, the strive for perfection all in the first sip. Frederic recommended some aeration so I poured it through my little gadget but once it had been open for a while it was on the same level. It’s the Nigella of wines, full-bodied and luxurious.

Taste notes began with leather, but developed into blackberries, brambly notes and there’s a hint of spice and vanilla too. It couldn’t have been more perfect with the duck, and I’m so pleased I experimented with it.

You can find this wine on Le Bon Vin, here.

 With huge thanks to Frederic Massey for this post, it was greatly appreciated.




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