gros manseng, madiran, pacherenc du vic-bilh, petit manseng, tannat -


The south-west of France has so much history, with many regions and local grape varieties. But the regions are often forgotten about, overshadowed by nearby Bordeaux which historically had a port to ship its wines from which the other regions didn’t. Bordeaux gained an international audience, the regions of south-west France less so.

In general, the climate is quite warm but moderated by the Atlantic and by the nearby Pyrenees, so there’s a balance between ripe fruit, full body, and fresh acidity. In the past, I’ve had wines in the club from Bergerac, which is essentially a warmer, drier extension of Bordeaux, and Cahors, the only appellation of France for Malbec. I’ve now got some wines in from the twin appellations of Madiran and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh. 

The latter is a mouthful, but it’s pronounced more or less how it looks. This is the white wine appellation of the region, made in both dry and sweet styles from a choice of three grape varieties: Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, and Petit Courbu, all of which are also found across south-west France. 

Meanwhile, the better-known Madiran covers the same terrain but is red wine mostly made from Tannat, although Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and another local variety called Fer can also be in the blend. As the name suggests, Tannat is a very tannic variety; in the past, the wines could take 20 years to open up and be drinkable. Gently oxidative winemaking techniques have allowed the wines to become more approachable, although they’re still quite tannic and I’d recommend decanting.

The two wines in the club are from the same producer, Domaine Laougué. A fifth-generation producer, 30 hectares of vineyards are owned on gentle hillside slopes. I tasted through the whole line up, including their excellent sweet wine, but the wines I selected for the club were the two standouts. The Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh is a blend of Gros Manseng, which provides the body and weight, and Petit Manseng, which provides the complexity and acidity. It's a full, rich wine with waxy, honeyed aromas, balanced by fresh acidity. A wine which can be paired with spicier food, such as Korean Fried Chicken.

"Marty" is 100% Tannat, a black grape variety known for its high tannins which is evident in the wine which has a chewy, drying texture. At the same time, it's deliciously ripe and fruity, a pure expression of Tannat. It's a perfect barbecue wine or with grilled meat, such as smoked chicken skewers.

I'm thrilled to have such an historic region as Madiran in the wine club, bringing this remote corner of France to the USA.