In anticipation of a steak for dinner, I stopped by a newly remodeled wine shop in the area and picked up a bottle of the 2002 Bonny Doon Madiran Heart of Darkness. I hadn't seen or heard of it before. I do love Bonny Doon wines, but they're a little scarce around here. The label bore blood-spattered designs by the great Ralph Steadman, as well as a map on the back that was similarly spattered. It seemed to point to an area in France near the Spanish border, but there was no other information.
The steak turned out OK, but I was really impressed with the wine. I decided to drink it "blind" with dinner and see if I could determine the mystery grape, as I wasn't familiar with the Madiran region. First off, this is a dark wine, almost black. So we're talking about a small grape... But it wasn't herbal enough to be Cabernet Franc or Petite Verdot, and wasn't fruity like Petite Syrah. It made me think a lot of Malbec, though it wasn't quite that either. So after dinner, I raced to the computer to figure out the mystery, and found that it was made up mostly of the oddball Tannat, a grape that is currently enjoying a boom in Uruguay of all places. Appellation America chose to illustrate the grape with a werewolf.
It's definitely tannic, and looking at some pictures, it is indeed a tiny grape with a dark skin. This particular wine is blended with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the percentages tend to vary depending on which site you check. Relatively high alcohol--14.2%. I realize that it's managed by an American company, but this is a four year old French wine that could knock you on your ass if you're not careful. Not subtle in the slightest, but a good match for hearty fare.
Now that I've had time to sit with it for a while, I'm getting some of the vegetal, woody qualities on the nose. Reminds me of woodcutting, oddly enough--fresh cuts into a green tree. There's some black cherry on the tongue, but mostly what you're tasting are tannins and... darkness.
All in all, a fascinating wine, and definitely one for some strong food. Take it along to your next blind tasting party to stump your friends!