Madiran & Pacherenc du Vic Bilh (South-West France)
Domaine Labranche Laffont is living proof that a tannic beast can be tamed by a woman’s touch. The wines of Madiran are often thought of as robust, with the Tannat grape throwing its significant weight around the palate. Enter Christine Dupuy, a game changer in the region, with a mission to fight the Tannat stereotype. Dupuy took over Domaine Labranche Laffont in 1993, becoming the youngest female winemaker in the region. The vineyard, located in the small commune of Maumusson-Laguian, has grown from 6 to 20 hectares under Dupuy’s guidance, with organically grown native varieties- including Tannat, Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng as well as Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The estate is known as the keeper of hidden gems, as Christine is one of two winemakers in Madiran (with legend Alain Brumont) to own Tannat vines that date back to the pre-phylloxera era at the end of the 19th century (1870's). Trust us; they are a big, gnarly deal.
The vines benefit from the silty clay and limestone soils, along with south - southeast facing, gentle hillsides around the domaine. The vineyard is certified 'ecocert', with Christine working mostly by hand in the vineyard. Soils are ploughed in Spring and Autumn; vines are fertilised using compost in the Autumn, and grass is left to grow between every second vine. Grapes are hand-harvested at perfect ripeness, before being sorted and de-stemmed. Fermentation is conducted in a temperature controlled vat with gentle pumping over for the reds. Malolactic and ageing occurs in old barrel, with a focus on minimal sulphites and lightly filtered (unfined) bottling.
The red Madiran is deep, with aromas of spices, leather, and dark chocolate. The palate brings ripe, soft fruits and liquorice, and an elegant framework with fine tannins. It’s safe to say Dupuy has nailed her aim to produce approachable, elegant Tannat. These wines, much like their maker, have a natural ability to charm and leave you with a smile.
Red grapes: Tannat, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon
Whites grapes: Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng