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Heart of Darkness
filed under: Winning Wines

madiran.jpgThere's nothing like a crazy winter storm to make you crave a deep, dark bottle of wine that's as brooding as what's happening outside. After waking up Friday to the biggest storm I've seen since moving here and an eerie all-day power outage (rumor has it some San Franciscans are still without power), I've been contemplating a wine that matches my mood. As luck would have it, I was recently sent a bunch of samples of Madiran wines - inky, wonderfully brooding reds from southwestern France that perfectly fit the bill.

The best of the bunch was the 2002 Plaimont Plenitude, an awesomely complex bottling comprised of 80% Tannat and 20% Cab Sauvignon. Tannat is the signature grape of the Madiran region, and Cab's the key player in blends from nearby Bordeaux, so it's not surprising that the latter shows up in the blend. Plus, Tannat has been recently recognized for its remarkably high amounts of heart-healthy compounds called procyanidins - always a good thing in wine.

The attractive bottle came with a really pretty pewter-looking label and red wax closure - all very dark and medieval-esque. But even more intriguing was the taste, which was soulful and perfect for the weather outside. The nose teems with notes of blue and black pie fruits including blueberry, blackberry, and boysenberry; black plum makes an appearance, too, followed by scents of clove, damp forest floor and black currant. The palate offers up surprisingly integrated tannins (but don't get me wrong, this one's still a bruiser!) before ripe to jammy black fruits take center stage. The finish is smooth, with the 14% alcohol never overwhelming.

The wine's balance is what really won me over, particularly when you consider the inky quality of both Tannat and Cab. The years in bottle can only have mellowed what was before most certainly a burly wine, and for that I'm thankful! I'd pair it with braised ox tail or venison or a hearty winter beef stew, or just sip it alone to the tune of the latest monster storm. Like the weather outside, it's dark, but promotes warmth on the inside.

The bottom line: Though my teeth were black when I finished, I'd gladly reach for this bruiser again.

Posted by Courtney at