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Domaine Berthoumieu, Haute Tradition, 2007

I haven't been drinking any wine in January (why not? Read all about it). The coverage of the Wine Rambler extended full committee meeting that brought me out of this lenten phase in style is coming up soon, and it will hold novelties and discoveries well worth the wait. But first, since it's still winter outside, how about another foray into the greasy skillet, the red meat, and the hard-chested red wines of the French southwest? Read on, if you not be too faint of heart.

The wines of Madiran, that little growing region north of the French Pyrenees, get their distinct, somewhat forbidding character from the aptly named Tannat grape. Enormously tannic and slow to soften and mature, they're tough, offish bastards, but if you need a partner for a slice of beef liver served with fried onions, apple slices and bacon, look no further. Wise to this fact, I am keeping a few bottles of Didier Barrés basic Madiran under lock and chain in my cellar. The current pack is actually still a little young, being from the 2007 vintage:

Blackish red, the Madiran emits almost no smell at all. Only after airing it for an hour or two did I get some dark cherries, plum jam and tar. That's some tight shit right there. But on the palate, it shows real intensity: Painfully dry and as tannic as sloe juice, it's effortlessly all over your palate, but whether this comes across as clobbering bitterness or as precise and even majestic is all up to the food (or lack thereof). The strong earthy notes of the liver, I found, are so well complimented by the iron grip of the Madiran that the wine loses its harshness and its fruit component is set afloat, making for a wonderfully focused and intensive dark red core where most other reds would probably drift apart into imprecision.

Not a wine I need to have more than two or three times a year, then, although medical research has famously suggested (or as German news media like to put it: "American scientists have discovered...") that you should, for purposes of heart disease prevention.

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