Rather unexpectedly I found myself, at half past ten this morning, seated opposite the rather charming Karl-Frédéric Reuter, one of 4 winemakers at Château Montus, with an array of his wines in front of me.
Château Montus and Château Bouscassé, are owned by Alain and Catherine Brumont in the heart of the Madiran AC area in the south of France, and although there is only 10k between the two estates the terroir is noticeably different. At Montus the large stony pebbles on the ground are like those of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, retaining heat throughout the day and night, while at Bouscassé the clay and limestone soils could be likened to those of Pomerol.
There are however many similarities. The freshness of the wines carries across reds, whites and is clearly visible in the pacherenc moelleux wines that I can still taste. The reds are made using Tannat, an emblematic Madiran grape variety. Tannat, more often than not, produces wines with chewy fruity flavours and agressively harsh tannins which don’t soften with time and although are good food wines, do not leave themselves much in demand. Not so here. The tannins are soft, beautifully balanced with freshness and acidity and although are clearly present, are not agressive or harsh.
The majority of these wines are made from free-run juice, not the pressed juice, are unfiltered and are hand harvested using hand/berry selection. There was investment in 2002 of 200,000 Euros in an optical machine (also in use at Ch. Latour & Grand Puy Lacoste) which analyses the grape colour and selects accordingly. ‘Optical Tirage’. This has produced wines of exceptional quality using grapes of optimum ripeness and acidity (a very hard balance to achieve with the Tannat variety).
The whites were a delight. The 2008 Château Bouscassé ‘Jardins’, made from Petit Courbu (85%, gives structure & freshness) and Petit Manseng (15% gives aromatics) was voted one of The Observer’s top 10 whites of last year. It has a touch of pineapple on the nose, a delicious burst of acidity and mineral flavours with wonderful purity. Drinking beautifully now. The Château Montus 2008 had spent 8 months in barrel and so while the delicious almost honeyed, tropical notes were there, the underlying aroma was of oak. It had a lovely rich colour, higher acidity and long, long length. In my opinion this would benefit from some ageing, although saying that would work rather well with spicy Asian food or the rich flavours of rabbit.
Moving to reds. Château Bouscassé 2007 (50% tannat, 25% each of Cab Sv/Cab Franc), was a warm spicy red. Very approachable with fresh open black fruity flavours. Voted best red in South West France in the Review de Vin de France last year . I’d leave it a bit to open up but certainly would have no problem in drinking it now. Unlike the taut Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes 2006 (18 months in barrel) which although was opulent and full of dark cherry spice, needed longer in a cellar. This was classic Madiran but still too young. The Montus reds were also very interesting. The classic 2006 had a perfumed nose, with firm but non -agressive tannins and a palate of black plums and morello juicy cherries. The balance between tannins/freshness and acidity was extraordinary. Château Montus ‘Prestige’ 2000 (100% Tannat) had a smoky, leathery nose of prunes with complexity starting to appear on the palate. Menthol herby notes alongside more prominent tannins. Drinking now.
The best was, as per most things, saved till last. For my part, the two sweet wines were the highlight. Pacherenc Moelleux wines of amazing freshness and flavour. The Bouscassé 2006 ‘Vendemiaire’ had a nose of fresh pineapple chunks and spring apple blossom, an amazing mouthfeel of ‘uberfresh’ tropical fruits yet with that great burst of acidity and freshness that made it a zesty sweet wine without the cloying texture of other sweeties. The Petit Manseng berries used for the Bouscassé sweet wines are ‘air dried’ by the warm winds of Spain, the berries being spaced on the vine so the wind can pass between them. I could quite happily imagine sitting out by a river in the sunshine, a bowl of mangoes and papaya and a glass of this delicious wine. The second sweet wine was the Bouscassé Baumaire 2007 which had an aroma of honeyed peaches and marmalade. A soft and luscious palate, less pronounced acidity and yet more concentrated. Almost like syrup on the lips, lip-licking. A glass of this would be enough. Quite delicious.
Rather an eye opener in all senses.