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Madiran, Domaine Pichard 2008

Red Wine from France - SW France (excl. Bordeaux)
2008 was a lovely vintage in the south-west. The wines have just the right balance and are poised with great finesse. The traditional wines from this small region of south-west France have found themselves in the media of late due to recent research extolling the health benefits of drinking wines made from the tannat grape. Domaine Pichard is famous locally for having been the first to bottle its own wine. It also has the southern-most vines in the appellation. From the cellars, the Pyrenees can be seen on a clear day. Having revisited Pichard, my conclusion is that of all the vintages available, this is the one to buy. Full-flavoured, full-throttle Madiran to drink this year or next.
is no longer available
Code: FC22401

Wine characteristics

  • Red Wine
  • Full-bodied
  • Tannat
  • 14% Alcohol
  • Oak used but not v. noticeable
  • Cork, natural

South-West France (ex Bordeaux)

Most of the wine regions representing the south-west of France are linked by river to Bordeaux and were once rivals of the Bordelais for trade. It was certainly not unknown for some of these wines to be brought to Bordeaux in order to stiffen the sinews of some of the thinner clarets in days gone by. However, there is more to the region than those appellations and the Vins de pays/ IGPs up-river of their erstwhile rival.

The south-west can be roughly compartmentalised in to four categories, as follows:

Bergeracois: running along both banks of the Dordogne River and including Bergerac, Monbazillac and other ACs where Bordeaux varieties proliferate, ably and interestingly supported by some local varieties.

Garonne: running along both banks of the River Garonne as far as Agen and featuring Côtes-de-Duras, Côtes-du-Marmandais, Buzet.

Haut-Pays: the area north and north-west of Toulouse including Gaillac, Cahors and the Côtes-du-Frontonnais.

Pyrenees: in the area between Adour and the Pyrenees. ...
Most of the wine regions representing the south-west of France are linked by river to Bordeaux and were once rivals of the Bordelais for trade. It was certainly not unknown for some of these wines to be brought to Bordeaux in order to stiffen the sinews of some of the thinner clarets in days gone by. However, there is more to the region than those appellations and the Vins de pays/ IGPs up-river of their erstwhile rival.

The south-west can be roughly compartmentalised in to four categories, as follows:

Bergeracois: running along both banks of the Dordogne River and including Bergerac, Monbazillac and other ACs where Bordeaux varieties proliferate, ably and interestingly supported by some local varieties.

Garonne: running along both banks of the River Garonne as far as Agen and featuring Côtes-de-Duras, Côtes-du-Marmandais, Buzet.

Haut-Pays: the area north and north-west of Toulouse including Gaillac, Cahors and the Côtes-du-Frontonnais.

Pyrenees: in the area between Adour and the Pyrenees. Here you will find Côtes de Gascogne, Madiran, Jurançon, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and Irouléguy, the latter of which is in real Basque country in the foothills of the Pyrennes, close to the Bay of Biscay.

The influence of the Atlantic Ocean is surprisingly strong even this deep inland and it merges with continental and alpine elements across such a large area to provide moist spring weather and wet winters counterbalanced by hot summers and long, sunny autumns just as the grapes are ripening. Naturally, the area is great enough in size for the soils to be incredibly varied across it. Alluvial and marine soils, often gravel and limestone respectively, are common factors in many areas, the former often on rising terraces above rivers or ancient watercourses.

In many appellations and IGPs it has taken the dynamism of forward thinking, passionate cooperatives and visionaries to save the vineyards and indigenous grape varieties of these regions from serious neglect or even extinction. The devastation of phylloxera around the end of the 19th century was particularly bad in these areas and it was not really until the 1970s, and even later in some cases, that a turnaround in fortunes occurred. The roll call of local varieites is impressive and promising – abouriou, arrufiac, baroque, duras, fer servadou, jurançon noir, len de l’el, petit manseng, gros manseng, mauzac, négrette, tannat and peiti courbu. It is a region that should make a curious wine lover’s mouth water.
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Domaine Pichard

Society buyer Marcel Orford-Williams' love affair with these wines began a good few years ago when he came across Pichard wines in a shop near the Place des Vosges in Paris. The bottles looked rustic with old-fashioned labels and a red wax top and he bought several vintages going back to 1971.

He didn't know it at the time but he had just uncovered one of the most important wines from what was, at that time, a very little-known backwater of south-western France.

The story of Madiran is long and goes back to the 12th century when Benedictine monks founded a nearby abbey. The grape varieties were local and may have originated from the Basque Country. The wines were full and generous and must have delighted the countless pilgrims that stopped here at the river Adour on their way to the Pyrenees and on to Compostela. Later, the south-west was generally ravaged by phylloxera and recovery was long so that when the appellation was granted in 1948, there were practically no vines.

At the centre of this recovery was a vigneron called Auguste Vigneau who in 1955 created Domaine Pichard. He made hand-crafted wines from a patch of land at the southernmost tip of the Madiran appellation. The view from the estate can be breathtaking with the Pyrenees there in all their snow-capped splendour. The estate was mostly planted with black varieties, with a tiny plot of whites for the estate's even rarer white pacherenc. One curiosity at Pichard is the importance of cabernet franc which plays a...
Society buyer Marcel Orford-Williams' love affair with these wines began a good few years ago when he came across Pichard wines in a shop near the Place des Vosges in Paris. The bottles looked rustic with old-fashioned labels and a red wax top and he bought several vintages going back to 1971.

He didn't know it at the time but he had just uncovered one of the most important wines from what was, at that time, a very little-known backwater of south-western France.

The story of Madiran is long and goes back to the 12th century when Benedictine monks founded a nearby abbey. The grape varieties were local and may have originated from the Basque Country. The wines were full and generous and must have delighted the countless pilgrims that stopped here at the river Adour on their way to the Pyrenees and on to Compostela. Later, the south-west was generally ravaged by phylloxera and recovery was long so that when the appellation was granted in 1948, there were practically no vines.

At the centre of this recovery was a vigneron called Auguste Vigneau who in 1955 created Domaine Pichard. He made hand-crafted wines from a patch of land at the southernmost tip of the Madiran appellation. The view from the estate can be breathtaking with the Pyrenees there in all their snow-capped splendour. The estate was mostly planted with black varieties, with a tiny plot of whites for the estate's even rarer white pacherenc. One curiosity at Pichard is the importance of cabernet franc which plays a big part in most vintages.

Auguste Vigneau retired just before Marcel Orford-Williams made his first visit there and our early purchases included the1981 and 1982 vintages (both outstanding). The estate was left to a nephew who carried on for a few more years but maybe not to quite at the same level as before. He in turn, having no obvious succession sold to a young and very dynamic lawyer, Jean Sentilles and his Lancastrian brother-in-law, Rod Cork.

Things have since changed and all of it to the good. Pichard was in need of investment and that is what it got with cleaned-up cellars and more importantly still, massive work in the vineyard. Vines needed retraining and dead vines were removed and replanted. Cabernet sauvignon, of which there had been a little, was grubbed up and replaced with cabernet franc and of course more tannat and the more whites were planted for the future.

Most estates in Madiran still construct their wines on tannat, often 100%. But here, the feeling is that cabernet franc is an important element and provides more finesse and fruitiness to the wines. Generally these wines are made from 60% tannat and 40 of cabernet franc though the exact proportions may vary a little with each vintage. The feel of hand-crafted wines is still there, if anything stronger than before. These are wines with strong personality reflected in every vintage.
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2008 vintage reviews

The Sunday Times

From the small areain southwest France that [Professor Roger] Corder [author of The Wine Diet]recommends for its health-giving properties. Robust and dry, it benefits fromdecanting.

- Will Lyons

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