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Fabulously dense and concentrated Madiran, showing off the weight and richness of the tannat grape but keeping freshness of fruit and – compared to many – relatively easy-going tannins. Perfect with hearty fare such as duck, game, roasted vegetables or roast beef.
Product Code: FC37931
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With the Pyrenees as its backdrop, Château d’Aydie nestles in the hillside of the tiny commune of Aydie, just a few kilometres west of the village of Madiran in southwest France. This town has had its own AC since 1948, but the Laplace family has been making its mark on Madiran wines for three generations, since Frédéric Laplace breathed life into the family vineyards in 1927. The family has earned worldwide acclaim for its mastery of tannat – Madiran’s signature grape variety, which now must constitute a minimum of 50% of the blend, and the grape responsible for the AC’s famous dark, deep, elegant powerhouse reds – to the extent that renowned critics such as Robert Parker have claimed they are one of the best producers of red wines in southwest France.Frédéric’s son, Pierre Laplace, took the helm in the 1950s, and it was he who replanted many of the vineyards and modernised winery practices. Like their father, Pierre’s children (sons François, Jean-Luc and Bernard, and daughter Marie) followed in their father’s footsteps, joining the team in the 1970s. It was this third generation that first experimented with planting tannat on different soil types, giving the château a head-start on many neighbouring properties, and establishing that clay-limestone soils worked best.Today, the property has 58 hectares under vine: 49 of which are under Madiran AC, and the remaining nine of which are part of the neighbouring white wine appellation, Pacherenc du Vic-Bihl. Château d’Aydie vineyards possess a richly diverse array of soil types, from gravel on the hills – providing good drainage, and adding a roundness to the wines – to the sandy, moisture-retaining boulbènes soil on the lower lands, which gives flexible, fruity wines. The moderating influence of the Atlantic means the climate is also ideal for vine growth.Within the Madiran vineyards, tannat is the star, along with cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, whereas in the white vineyards it is ugni blanc, petit manseng, gros manseng and ugni blanc that take centre stage. In the winery, Château d’Aydie knows it needs to soften the highly tannic tannat grape, and has become proficient at doing so: the team employs uses both oak-ageing and micro-oxygenation (introducing small, controlled levels of oxygen to the wine) to create a rounder, more approachable wine that both suits modern tastes and shows the tannat grape at its sophisticated best.The whites are also aged in oak after a low-temperature maceration that retains their aromas and keeps them deliciously fresh.Maydie Tannat, the family’s fortified wine, is hugely popular with members, and is a festive treat with blue cheese or Christmas pudding. The family have been experimenting with wines like this since 1941, and it has now been perfected into a delicious, decadent blend.
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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