Written by: Jancis Robinson

A gap filled, with Tannat.

We try to make our coverage as comprehensive as possible but there has been a particularly obvious lacuna: the far south-west of France, the bit between Bordeaux and the Pyrenees. Much as I’d love to conduct a leisurely tour of the region, that’s not looking possible any time soon. (Thanks, COVID-19.)

However, there is one standout producer there whose wines we have not covered in any depth at all since Tam’s 2010 profile of him and Richard’s tasting article in 2009. Since then we have published the grand total of 12 tasting notes on the wines of Alain Brumont, the king of Madiran.

The story in brief, lifted from Tam’s article and updated, is that Alain Brumont, pictured above, started with his father in the early 1980s with only 15 ha (37 acres). Then his neighbours thought that this man without any training or experience was absolutely crazy as he doubled the density of his vines to 8,000 vines/ha, ruthlessly reduced yields to under 40 hl/ha, green-harvested in July, dumped green grapes when veraison was uneven, and introduced such modern wonders into his cellar as stainless steel (they were early adopters of optical sorting). Single-handedly he upgraded the reputation of Madiran as he produced wines that astounded the critics around the world, although not without incurring some financial problems along the way.

A prod from Purple Pager and Brumont fan Ray Bruno to fill our lamentable gap in Brumont coverage was extremely welcome. His UK importer Thorman Hunt kindly pleaded my case and the result was a set of four horizontals of the most important wines – Ch Bouscassé, Ch Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes, Ch Montus, Ch Montus Prestige and Ch Montus La Tyre – from fairly youthful vintages 2017, 2016 and 2015 and from the much more mature one of 2010, which included an intriguing example of the local white Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh.

Not that these are the only wines Brumont produces. A look at the range on the website suggests a remarkable level of restlessness. There are 11 different brands of Madiran, eight of Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, five Côtes de Gascogne brands and three Vins de France, including a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir.

He has two estates. Ch Bouscassé was long in the Brumont family and its 50 ha (124 acres) of vineyards extending along what he calls a ‘cliff’ are mainly on clay-limestone. Ch Montus (which Brumont avers is known as ‘the Petrus of the south-west’) is on slopes of large pebbles on red clay, in which 20 different plots have been identified. The château itself is pictured above. The tannin-heavy Tannat grape is king as far as Brumont is concerned, and so most of the Madirans are deliberately made for a long life.

The basic Chx Bouscassé and Montus bottlings, which include some Cabernet, are given between 12 and 24 months in barrique (30–40% new) followed by a year in foudre and are not put on the market until the end of their fifth year. The youngest vintage that is physically available in the UK and the US seems to be the 2016 at around £30 or $40 respectively, although there is no shortage of en primeur offers for subsequent vintages.

The all-Tannat wines (Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes, Montus Prestige and Montus La Tyre) are aged for longer, 18 to 24 months, in new barriques. From the 2017 vintage onwards this is followed by an additional period of two to five years in foudres until they are released at 10 years old! Brumont says he is inspired by Vega Sicilia’s release strategy.

Certainly I am all for producers who are prepared to do the necessary ageing themselves. But, knowing how obdurate Tannat can be in south-west France (much less so in its adoptive home of Uruguay), I was quite surprised by how approachable the regular Chx Bouscassé and Montus are. Although they are very obviously wines in the same family as long-lasting red bordeaux, they both seem to drink pretty well from about five years old – for quite a while.

The more expensive, all-Tannat bottlings are clearly fashioned to last for much longer, but La Tyre (pictured above), from a special 10-ha (25-acre) plot on the highest ground in Madiran at 260 m (853 ft) planted by Brumont in 1990, is so cleverly made that one is tempted to drink it straight away even though it is clearly meant to be aged for decades. It seemed much more approachable than Montus Prestige. La Tyre sells for around £80 a bottle and Bordeaux-based online retailer Millésima seems to offer a particularly wide array of Brumont wines, including La Tyre – named, incidentally, after a local district in Madiran rather than anything vehicular.

I was thrilled to have this chance to discover these wines so systematically. I had bought quite a few 1995s but drank them rather randomly without forming too much of an impression. I was amazed by how consistently each wine conformed to its style; even the presentation (bottles and labels) hardly varied. Most wine producers, especially during the last two decades, have tended to be on a journey, often from opulence to more restraint, so that their wines might vary considerably between 2010 and 2017 vintages, but not these.

The only wine that was remotely disappointing was my particular bottle of Ch Montus 2010. I wondered whether the fruit had been suppressed by low-level TCA (although I am generally quite sensitive to this particular taint and couldn’t smell it on this wine).

My main conclusions are that these wines are much more serious than their prices suggest, and that there is never any hurry to drink them.

The 21 wines are presented by vintage, younger to older, and going up the scale in price and prestige but you can change this.

Alain Brumont, Château Montus 2017 Madiran


Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon grown on a pebbly slope. Fermented for three to six weeks and aged for 12 to 14 months in barrique (80% new).
Very deep garnet-crimson. Colour right out to the rim. Intense nose with very light gaminess to add to the Cabernet family signature. Rather voluptuous – in fact very voluptuous! Only the light tannic bite on the end suggests this might be worth waiting for. Lovely freshness but sweet opulence too. I’ll be very interested to see how and whether the Montus Prestige bottling trumps this. It seems quite open! And gorgeous. 14% Drink 2022 – 2040

Alain Brumont, Château Montus La Tyre 2016 Madiran


Tannat sorted berry by berry. Grown on that famous slope with rounded pebbles, facing south-west with clay subsoil. Aged in new barrels for 24 months.
Very deep purplish crimson. Heady, voluptuous nose – almost buttery. Sweet start, with a sweetness, almost coconut sweetness, that almost disguises the massive tannic charge. You could actually drink this now – amazingly – but would be well advised to wait a bit. A real charmer. Tannat at its most luxurious? 14.5% Drink 2024 – 2042

Alain Brumont, Château Montus Prestige 2015 Madiran


Much deeper crimson than the regular 2015 bottling. Luxurious nose with layers of opulent fruit. Intense, rich nose with balsamic notes and then the palate has an interplay of spice (cinnamon?) and freshness – something almost citrus about this! Savoury, leathery finish after beguiling, well-resolved fruit. Pure pleasure already. With food. 13.5% Drink 2020 – 2032

Alain Brumont, Château Montus La Tyre 2017 Madiran

17 ++

Full bottle 1,575 g – too heavy! Grapes sorted individually. Aged for 24 months in new oak. Recommended with lièvre à la royale. Probably understandably.
Very dark purplish crimson. Unexpectedly fresh nose that’s actually quite complex. Lots of fine tannin on the finish but very ripe, voluptuous fruit that one suspects showcases Tannat at its most opulent. Soy sauce note – I could imagine dribbling this over sushi. Probably the most sophisticated Tannat one could imagine – though not ready yet. 14% Drink 2025 – 2050

Alain Brumont, Château Montus 2016 Madiran


Tannat with Cabernet Sauvignon on slopes with rounded pebbles. Three- to six-week fermentation/maceration and then aged for 12 to 14 months in barriques (80% new). Healthy, not impenetrable crimson. Attractive amalgam of aromas in the ripe, intense Cabernet-family spectrum. Then really quite luscious fruit on the palate with only light grip on the finish. Light meatiness round a firm spine. Very fresh and already broachable – with food. 14% Drink 2021 – 2033

Alain Brumont, Château Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes 2010 Madiran


Same background as the later vintages.
Very deep garnet shading to a narrow, pale rim. Very fragrant with some floral notes. Firm but not too dry, with a considerable charge of tannin which is subordinate to some pretty glorious fruit that really shines through. This would be a glorious demonstration of Tannat-ness. Really neat, clean finish. Zesty wine that holds its alcohol well. 14.5% Drink 2017 – 2027

Alain Brumont, Château Montus Prestige 2010 Madiran


All Tannat and made as later vintages though with considerably more alcohol.
Dark, glowing blackish garnet. Interesting, rather haunting, complex nose with notes of spice and marzipan. Juicy fruit encased by receding tannin. Reminiscent of mulled wine! Quite a dry finish with some alcoholic warmth on the end. 15.5% Drink 2019 – 2038

Alain Brumont, Château Montus La Tyre 2010 Madiran


Tannat selected berry by berry. Aged in 100% new oak for 14 to 16 months – just like the later vintages.
Very dark blackish crimson with a thin, pale rim. Heady, rich nose with considerable sweetness. For quite a while in the tasting experience the opulent fruit completely overwhelms the ripe tannins. Definitely Tannat. Really rather glorious but, arguably, La Tyre changes less with years in bottle than the other cuvées from Alain Brumont. 15.5% Drink 2015 – 2038

Alain Brumont, Château Bouscassé 2017 Madiran


Blend of Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. 14 months in barrique (30% new) on lees and then a year in foudre before bottling. Released at about five years old.
Transparent ruby. Really quite evolved nose with all the elements nicely knit together. I was expecting a wine that was unapproachably tannic but this is very friendly indeed – especially if served with food. Rather mild after a sweet palate entry and the fine tannins well covered with light Cabernet flavours. 13.5% Drink 2022 – 2030

Alain Brumont, Château Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes 2017 Madiran

16.5 ++

100% Tannat. Fermentation three to six weeks and ageing in barriques (one-third new). We are told on the informative back label to drink this at 16 °C in summer and 17 °C in winter – sensible advice.
Mid to deep crimson. The nose manages to be both silky and intense and rather reminds me of Aglianico in its obvious superiority. Another sweet start (like the non-VV version) and pleasing broad fruit before the pinch of tannins on the finish. You certainly want to drink this tincture of sweet ink with food – pork belly? It goes from the sweet start to the very dry end. 14% Drink 2024 – 2040

Alain Brumont, Château Montus Prestige 2017 Madiran

16.5 ++

Full bottle 1,325 g. 100% Tannat aged in 100% new oak for 24 months.
Deep garnet/crimson colour. Strong saline herbal note. Very ‘thick’ texture that reminds me rather of the St-Émilions of the turn of the century. With the same pinched acid and tannin on the rather drying end. I’m sure the fruit was originally top notch but it needs a heck of a lot of taming and there seems to be a bit of hot alcohol on the end. Needs a lot of time, and faith. Really quite painful at the moment – almost sour on the finish. I look forward to tasting the 2010. It may be an explanatory revelation. 14% Drink 2025 – 2043

Alain Brumont, Château Montus Prestige 2016 Madiran

16.5 ++

All Tannat, grown on slopes with rounded pebbles. Aged in exclusively new oak for 24 months.
Deep crimson. Really rather rich on the nose – unexpectedly so – with a medicinal top note. But then it dries up pretty smartly on the palate. Lots of firm tannin here. This is a very youthful wine! A lot of sandy tannin on the end. Nose and palate definitely not in harmony at this stage. 14% Drink 2025 – 2040

Alain Brumont, Château Montus La Tyre 2015 Madiran

16.5 ++

Lustrous mid crimson. Buttery but low-key nose. A little edgier and less resolved than the Montus Prestige 2015. Inky finish. I wonder whether La Tyre closes up in bottle as I’m enjoying this less than La Tyre 2016 and 2017? It’s just a bit inexpressive and angular at the moment. The tannins seem more jagged and demanding. 14% Drink 2023 – 2037

Alain Brumont, Château Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes 2016 Madiran

16.5 +

All Tannat on clay-limestone with sandstone. Fermented/macerated for three to six weeks and aged in barriques, one-third new. We’re supposed to decant two hours before serving, apparently.
Lustrous ruby – looks very healthy. Strong herbal note on the nose. Bone dry on the vigorous palate. Still very youthful. Impression of salt and iron on the lightly dusty finish. I can see why we are told to decant this. This would make a good teaching aid to illustrate young Tannat. 14% Drink 2023 – 2033

Alain Brumont, Château Montus 2015 Madiran

16.5 +

Glowing dark garnet. Lifted nose that adds a slightly ethereal note. Very lively palate though a little more transparent and lighter than the 2016 and 2017. The acidity is a little more marked than in these subsequent vintages. Tannins still very present on the end. This tastes more youthful than the 2016 and 2017, amazingly. 13.5% Drink 2021 – 2028

Alain Brumont, Château Montus Sec 2010 Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh


Blend of Petit Courbu with some Petit Manseng. 24 months’ ageing in 600-litre vats on lees. Made for ageing 10 to 20 years.
Deep orangey gold. Complex, pungent, toasty nose. Dry finish – again! – with very unusual flavours of dried citrus fruits (dried peel) on the palate. Seriously tangy. Most unusual! 14.5% Drink 2016 – 2027

Alain Brumont, Château Bouscassé 2016 Madiran


Blend of Tannat and the two Cabernets. Aged on lees in barriques (30% new) for 14 months.
See-through crimson. Light, lightly leafy fragrance. Sweet palate entry. Nicely balanced with quite marked acidity and a light charge of grainy tannins on the finish. You could certainly enjoy this already with food, but it should be quite chewy food. 14% Drink 2021 – 2028

Alain Brumont, Château Bouscassé 2015 Madiran


Easy garnet colour. Rather a light nose. Even a little simple on the palate. The tannins are receding. Lunchtime Madiran? Tannat informs the wine but does not dominate it. 13.5% Drink 2020 – 2026

Alain Brumont, Château Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes 2015 Madiran


All Tannat. See-through garnet. Very savoury nose with that dried-herbs note. Sweet, friendly, quite fruity palate with just a little light palate-pinch on the end as the tannins fade. Food still needed! Just a bit more density than the regular bottling. 14% Drink 2020 – 2027

Alain Brumont, Château Bouscassé 2010 Madiran


Notably more alcoholic than the later vintages of this wine.
Transparent ruby shading to a pale rim. Nicely evolved nose with a sweet start and a bit of spine. Clean and brisk with some relic of dry tannins even now on the end. Just a hint of alcoholic warmth on the finish. This vintage, definitely beefier and more concentrated than more recent vintages, still needs food! 14.5% Drink 2018 – 2026

Alain Brumont, Château Montus 2010 Madiran


Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 80% new barriques.
Dark lustrous garnet. Powerfully aromatic. Actually the Cabernet seems more prominent than the Tannat in this potent wine. It has a little leafy quality and is a little hollow in the mid palate. Dry, slightly scrawny, but not alcohol-heated, finish. I wonder whether this has very low-level TCA that has scalped some of the fruit? 15% Drink 2016 – 2026

Click here to read the original article 

Click here to learn more about Alain Brumont

Previous Post
11 Women Who Are Changing the Face of Southern California’s Wine Industry
Next Post
Forbes: Timorasso, The Extraordinary Piedmont Wine That Almost Disappeared, But Didn’t