British author and wine expert Hugh Johnson once said of Madiran that it: ‘is Gascony’s great red wine . . . fine Madiran is truly admirable: aromatic, full of flavour, fluid and lively, well able to withstand comparison with classed growth Bordeaux.’ Domaine Sergent’s Cuvee Tradition is certainly an impressive example of these Gascon greats. The domaine lies in Maumusson Laguian and extends gently over a south-facing hillside in the heart of the best parcels of the appellation. It has been owned by the Dousseau family since 1902 and is now run by sisters Brigitte and Corinne, who have taken the domaine to new heights.
Madiran wine is named after the village of Madiran in Gascony which lies east and south of Bordeaux, in the Hautes Pyrenees, south west France. Madiran is one of the oldest wine-growing regions in France and for a long time the red wine produced here was known as the ‘Pilgrims Wine’, referring to the 11th century pilgrims who walked the famous pilgrims path to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. Wine making in the area goes back even earlier to Roman times and it’s thought that the name Madiran comes from the Latin ‘Dona Maria’ (Lady Mary) which was the name of the patron saint of the great monastery which existed there.
Legend has it that the occupation of Bearn by the Black Prince (the eldest son of King Edward III of England), who became the Prince of Aquitaine in 1360, lead to the English discovery of the wines of Madiran. King Edward III considered it as a wine for special occasions and the heavy oak barrels were transported by cart to Saint-Sever, and then by flat bottomed barge on the Adour to Bayonne.
Madiran is renowned for its home grown Tannat grape, world famous for its health properties. Tannat is a cousin of Malbec and is exceptionally rich in polyphenols within its tannins, which are natural anti-oxidants. Subsequently Tannat has been hailed as the best representative of the ‘French Paradox’ (the phenomenon of people from south west France having a much lower incidence of heart disease than other nations).
Domaine Sergent’s Tannat is blended with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, which soften the wine, adding different dimensions to its structure. The Dousseau’s also use micro-oxygenation, which was invented by Madiran grower Patrick Ducournau in 1990. This involves bubbly tiny amounts of oxygen through the wine, reducing the power of the tannins. It’s a technique now widely used across France. Cuvee Tradition can be cellared for 10 years or more but its beauty is that you can enjoy it now. Approachable and expressive, it’s a delicious wine to relax with. It’s also glorious steak and with rich gamey foods that scream out for a serious wine with good structure. Try it with marinated lamb, duck, venison in cherry sauce, glazed roast ham, smoked salamis, spicy risotto, Thai beef curry, strong hard cheeses and roast bell peppers.