2019 Tannat, Clarksburg


I was trained on winemaking techniques by the great Patrick Ducournau in Madiran, a small appellation in southwest France in sight of the Pyrenees which specializes in Tannat. He invented the technique of micro-oxygenation to tame the tannins of this extraordinary grape, which can have three times the tannin of Cabernet Sauvignon. His hunch that the wine was starved for oxygen proved correct, and the technique is similar to conching of chocolate, which the Aztecs discovered converts cocoa into chocolate.

I was delighted to find a rare planting of this little-known grape in Clarksburg, California. It was even more astonishing to discover how oily and feminine the Tannat wines from this special vineyard proved to be. Generally, Tannat needs several years to soften and open, yet here we are, just 18 months after vintage, bottling a highly drinkable wine with round, voluptuous mouthfeel.

The nose is instantly alluring. These generous and approachable tannins support intriguing aromas of tar, violets and sweet fennel. Its weight and authority tempt one to pair it with peppered steak, but I think the natives of Madiran are right to suggest that it is at its best with grilled duck breast. Check out my cooking show, Gracious Living in the Time of Corona, for tips on preparing duck.