Madiran wine is produced around the village of Madiran in Gascony under two (AOPs): Madiran for red wines and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Sec for white wines. The production area for Madiran wine is spread over three départments - Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées and Pyrénées-Atlantiques - and is a part of the South West France wine region, making up approximately 1,400 hectares of Madiran vineyards. The vineyards were planted by the Romans and there reputation was spread by the pilgrims travelling through the area on their way to Santiago de Compostela - and are some of the oldest vineyards in France.
Madiran was created as an AOC in 1948, and only red wine can be produced under this appellation. The main grape variety in Madiran AOP is Tannat, which must make up approximately 55% of the vineyard area, which was allegedly brought by monks from Bordeaux. It is supplemented by Cabernet-Franc 34%; Cabernet Sauvignon 10% and Fer Servadou 1% (locally called Pinenc) - some of the appellation's top wines are in fact made from 100% Tannat; this is within AOP regulations.
The wine is typically very concentrated, high in tannin and traditionally requires several years aging to be at its best. The style of quality Madiran wine is not unlike that of high-end Cabernet Sauvignon dominated Bordeaux wines. However, recently some of the younger generation winemakers have been experimenting with, and producing, wines which are softer and more approachable in their youth. Madiran is also known as the healthiest of red wines due to the high levels of procyanidins it contains. This is said to be good for reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and encouraging healthy blood clotting.
Geographically the Madiran wine region is some 100km from the Atlantic Ocean - and 50km’s from the Pyrenees mountain range. The area has significant rainfall in winter and spring, though the region enjoys long, dry, hot summers well adapted to ripening grapevines. Madiran AOP wines must be aged for 12 months before being able to be presented for approval; to obtain such approval, the wines are compared to a ‘control’ and if their level or ‘typicity’ does not meet the standard, they are refused. The red wine styles of the area typically are very dense and deep in colour, dark purple to black, aromas of red and black berries (blackcurrant, blackberry), spices; significantly tannic structure, powerful on the palate, relatively high acidity, very pronounced typicity.