photo from Famille Laplace website
I visited my first winery in the Madiran region en route to my next accommodation, in Gascony. Madiran AOC is known primarily for the Tannat grape, which must make up at least 40-60% of the vineyard. For the red wines, it can also be supplemented by Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Fer Servadou. The Château d’Aydie has been owned by the Famille LaPlace over three generations, since 1927, and is part of a key piece of modern winemaking techniques. Patrick Ducournau, a cousin of the Laplace family, developed micro-oxygenation while working with the Tannat wines at Château d’Aydie in 1991. Micro-oxygenation is a process in winemaking of introducing oxygen to the wines in a controlled manner; it aims to mimic the effects of slow barrel maturation in a shorter period or for lower cost. It is now used around the world.
When I arrived at Château d’Aydie I was introduced to their cellarmaster, Jean-Luc LaPlace. He owns the winery, along with his two brothers, François and Bernard, and their sister Marie. The vineyards cover 49 ha of Madiran AOC and 9 ha of Pacherenc du Vic Bilh AOC (for white wines, that includes plantings of Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, Arrufiac and Petit Courbu). Although the same grape varietals for the whites are used for both dry and sweet wines, different plots are used for each as they are grown differently to suit the wine profiles. Jean-Luc showed me a map of the Madiran Region which outlines where all the different soil types are. Unlike some other regions, grapes aren’t planted all over the place. When I was driving, it was primarily fields of corn and sunflowers that I noticed, with grapes only being grown in certain plots. The grapes tend to be planted on the upper slopes that have the large galets or pebbly well-draining soils. The richer more fertile soils towards the valley bottoms are used for corn and sunflowers.
Jean-Luc showed me around the vineyard and the cellar, explaining his processes to achieve the quality wines that are grown at Château d’Aydie. Because Tannat is a very tannic grape, great care must be taken to not have too much extraction from the grapes, so Jean-Luc aims to keep the balance with cold maceration, lots of tasting throughout fermentation and maturation but minimal intervention throughout the entire process. Also, they don’t use any press wine for a Vin de Table, only the free run wine is used. The wines are aged for a minimum of 18 months prior to selling.
The 2012 Odé d’Aydie (Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Sec) is a blend of 60% Petit Manseng and 40% Gros Manseng that has been partly matured in barrel, with some lees stirring. It is a pale lemon colour with medium intensity on the nose with aromas of light floral, pear and pear. It is dry with medium acidity and medium body. It has flavours of citrus, spice and some complex nuttiness and fruitiness. The 2011 Aydie l’Origine (Madiran) is a blend of 70% Tannat and 30% Cabernet Franc, with only 20% of it being aged in barrel. This wine was developed for those who want a Madiran wine to be more accessible, ready for drinking sooner. It has a medium ruby colour and some nice Cabernet Franc notes on the nose of plum, dark fruit and spice. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and medium tannins. It is well-balanced and easy-drinking with flavours of dark fruit and spice and a medium length. The 2010 Odé d’Aydie (Madiran) is 100% Tannat and has an aim to keep the fruit but to still have some good density – a modern expression of a traditional grape. It is deep ruby in colour with a hint of purple. It has a bit of a closed nose but has some fruit and sweet spice with a hint of perfume. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and tannins with flavours of dark plum and black cherry. It has a medium-plus finish. The 2010 Château d’Aydie (Madiran) comes from the best parcels, has more extraction and is made for ageing. 2010 was an overcast cooler, darker summer. It is deep ruby in colour with medium intensity on the nose with aromas of black cherry, plum and dark fruits. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and big tannins. It is still quite young and a bit tight. Its flavours are still primarily dark fruit, with no hints of savoury notes yet. It has a medium-plus finish. To compare, I was served the 2009 Château d’Aydie (Madiran). Not only is this wine a year older, but 2009 was a much warmer year. The colour is a deep ruby and the wine featured rich dark fruit on the nose with a bit of sweet spice. It has begun to open up a bit more and has some complexity. It is dry with medium acidity and full tannins. It has flavours of dark fruit and is starting to develop some fruitcake characteristics. It has a very long finish and is quite lovely! Next we moved on to some dessert wines. The 2010 Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Laplace is 100% late harvest Petit Manseng. It is a medium gold in colour with pronounced intensity on the nose with aromas of orange blossom and honey. It is sweet with a relatively light body. There are flavours of white truffle, citrus and orange blossom. The finish is very fleeting but the wine is delicious! The 2010 Château d’Aydie Pacherenc du Vic Bilh is primarily Petit Manseng with a small percentage of Gros Manseng. These grapes were harvested in November, partially shrivelled but not completely, in order to retain some freshness and fruitiness. It is medium gold in colour with pronounced intensity of aromas of honey, spice and citrus. It is sweet with medium-plus acidity and flavours of citrus, floral and honey with a round mouthfeel and long finish. We finished off the tasting with a fortified wine made with 100% Tannat. The 2010 Maydie is made just as the Grand Vins are made; using top fruit, but the alcohol is added when the wine is sitting around 120-140g/L of residual sugar, halting the fermentation. The wine then sits in the giant foudres (oak casks) on fine lees for one year. The colour is deep purple with fresh rich aromas of cassis, cherry, plum and a bit of raisin. It is sweet with medium-plus acidity and flavours of prune and dried cherry and a long finish.
I very much enjoyed my first exposure to the wines and terroir of Madiran. Jean-Luc was a gracious host and also referred me to a winery in a region a little further in my travels: Château du Cèdre in Cahors, as they both belong to the same association of vintners of South West France. I did follow his advice when I visited Cahors and that winery will be featured in a later post.