Tannat is a red grape variety indigenous to the Basque region of southwestern France, and is historically grown in the Madiran appellation that lies in the foothills of the French Pyrenees. It is a variety of deep color, assertive acidity, and brawny tannins (hence the name “Tannat”), and wines produced from the variety can be edgy and astringent if not carefully crafted. In fact, the modern winemaking technique known as “microoxygenation” — which is the controlled introduction of oxygen into a wine to soften tannins — was developed by Madiran winemaker Patrick Ducournau in his work to tame Tannat’s naturally rigid tannins during the winemaking process.
For wine drinkers in the United States, Tannat is most closely associated with South America — Uruguay, in particular. Basque settlers brought the variety into Uruguay in the 19th century, and thanks in part to modern winemaking sensibilities and techniques that have made it more approachable, Tannat is now the most widely cultivated red grape variety in the country and celebrated as the nation’s “signature” red varietal wine. In the United States, by contrast, Tannat has only a small presence — in terms of vine cultivation and winemaking — and little recognition. Just several hundred acres of Tannat plantings are scattered across the west coast (mostly California) and a few other regions, and it is rarely bottled as a single varietal wine (mostly used in blends).
Troon Vineyard, in southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley, stands among a valiant few U.S. wineries taking on the challenges of Tannat and showcasing the best of what the variety has to offer. We recently reviewed Troon’s “M*T” blend of Malbec (57%) and Tannat (47%), rating it an outstanding 93 Points (click here for that review).
Troon’s 2013 Estate Tannat is 100% of the variety and a revelation to the senses. The wine’s aromas are vivid, with suggestions of black cherry, lavender, and sweet cured tobacco; and its flavors are savory, with notions of pomegranate, dried cherry, and Herbes de Provence — all deeply layered with undertones of black licorice, celery seed, and leather over an energetic finish. The wine is dry, full-bodied, and zesty on the palate, with chewy (but tamed) tannins, tart acidity, and subtle oak. It aged for 18 months in French oak, 2% new.
Whether French, Uruguayan, or otherwise, Tannat has a reputation for being a rustic wine. Troon’s rendition is not so; we found it to be fresh, sophisticated, and a promising example of how expressive Tannat can be, standing on its own, when produced in the right environment by the right hands.
13.7 ABV | 213 Cases Produced
Food Pairing: Troon’s 2013 Estate Tannat will pair well with hearty foods such as strong, sharp cheeses, Prime Rib, wood-grilled lamb chops, Cassoulet, seared duck breast, and game.
Availability: For more information on the availability of Troon Vineyard’s 2013 Estate Tannat or to purchase, visit Troon Vineyard virtually at www.troonvineyard.com; at the winery, located at 1475 Kubli Road, Grants Pass, Oregon; or at their Carlton, Oregon, tasting room at 250 N. Kutch St.