"I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago -- the other day. . . . Light came out of this river since -- you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker -- may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings of a commander of a fine -- what d'ye call 'em? -- trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north; run overland across the Gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries -- a wonderful lot of handy men they must have been, too -- used to build, apparently by the hundred, in a month or two, if we may believe what we read. Imagine him here -- the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina -- and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages, -- precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay -- cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death -- death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here."
Madiran is an appellation in southwestern France. The grape variety Tannat is this region's traditional vine. In the past it produced heavily tannic wines requiring long bottle ageing. Modern producers soften the wine with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Bonny Doon 'Heart of Darkness' Madiran AOC 2002 ($16)
Caveat: this wine must breathe in a decanter or glass for a minimum of 45 minutes
- Grape varieties: Tannat blended to Cabernet Franc & Cabernet Sauvignon
- Deep, opaque indigo with a wide ruby-colored rim
- Scents of blood orange, licorice, and earth/spice/smoke
- Medium-bodied with moderately gripping tannins and flavors of orange peel, spice, black cherry. A rich slightly hot (high alcohol) finish with lingering burnt orange notes that I found unique and likeable.
*** (3 stars out of 5)
This wine is not for everyone. It's bitter and tannic. Yet, underneath this roughened shell, it offers very unique flavors that most modern wine drinkers never get the opportunity to experience. Try it with roasted game or grilled steak. Don't drink it in the absence of food; it's unforgiving.