When my husband wants grilled steak for dinner, I rarely object, since it's a great foil for the big Cabernets and Syrahs in my cellar or an opportunity to open a fun, juicy Malbec or Zinfandel. But this last time around, I was feeling the need for a little more diversity. So I pulled out a Tannat, a variety known for its massive tannins, grown in the often-overlooked and somewhat remote Madiran appellation in southwestern France.
Alain Brumont is the leading producer here, aiming to put the wines of Madiran on par with the best in the world. (You can read more about him in Mastering Madiran.) He makes several wines under the Montus Bouscassé label: This one was the regular Château Montus bottling, sourced from hilly vineyards on very stony soils, blended with 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and aged a year in oak.
Very deeply colored, the wine started out all bold, rich, dark fruit—ripe blackberry, black cherry and black plums with a lush, almost meaty texture backed by fresh acidity and spice nuances on the lingering finish. The tannins, though powerful, were supple and well-integrated, their grip tamed by the grass-fed beef. Overall, beautifully balanced and harmonious; I loved it from the start. But at first Carlos wasn't as impressed.
He warmed up to it more as the wine opened up over time, picking up complex aromas of minerals, licorice, herbs, tobacco and fine leather, along with flavors of dark chocolate. Each sip seemed different, as the wine danced between brash youth and the nuances of early maturity, sometimes coming down more on one side, sometimes more on the other. It definitely has a fascinating life ahead of it. 91 points, non-blind.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Montus Bouscassé Madiran Château Montus 2003 (91, $23, Top 100 of 2007: Rank 68).
• Plus learn more about Madiran in Discovering France: The Southwest.