THEY say that the people of Gascony (les Gascons) live the longest of all the French.
The locals will testify that this comes down to their diet of hearty dishes involving duck and garlic all washed down with a glass or two of the local Madiran wine.
The region is perhaps France’s best kept secret full of picturesque sleepy villages, long flowing rivers, gastronomy to die for and, most importantly, top wine offerings.
Here are some of our favourites.
Pujalet, Vin de Pays du Gers 2010/11 £4.99 Waitrose
A great value white made up of the rather unusual grape varieties Colombard and Ugni Blanc with fresh and tangy aromas of green apples and grapefruit. Proof that although the budget has hit wine prices hard, you can still pick up a top, fresh tipple for under £5.
Château de Sabazan, Saint Mont 2005/06 from £12.50 The Wine Society, portlandwine.co.uk
A deliciously herb-scented full bodied red from the Saint Mont appellation. Showing similarities to neighbouring Madiran with its gutsy black fruit and olive flavours but with smooth, and supple tannins. Ideal with chargrilled meats and vegetables.
Plénitude, Madiran 2008 £18.50 cellarandkitchen. adnams.co.uk
The top Madiran offering from the dynamic co-op Plaimont reveals a rich, robust yet eminently accessible Tannat-dominated red. Tannat is perhaps best known as the wine with the highest concentration of polyphenols and procyanins which have been proven to protect your heart and blood vessels’ health. The black cherry and toasted cocoa flavours and fresh acidity make this the local’s choice to drink with magret de canard.
Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, Saint Albert 2009 £13.95 (50cl) corneyandbarrow.com
From robust reds to sweet treats, the Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh region is an area neighbouring Madiran that produce both sweet and dry white wines produced using local grapes. This particular example is gorgeously sweet, although with fresh acidity to prevent it from cloying, and is full of aniseed, fennel and orange marmalade flavours. Serve chilled with fresh fruit based desserts or pavlova to really impress.