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Cotes de Saint-Mont

Saint-Mont is an AOC for wines from an area just north of Madiran in the south-west of France. It held VDQS status as Cotes de Saint-Mont until 2011. This tier was then phased out and the local wines were granted full AOC status.

Saint-Mont and its wines could justifiably be seen as a substantial northern extension of the Madiran appellation. After all, its red wines are full-bodied and tannic, and are produced predominantly from Tannat blended with Cabernet Franc and Fer Servadou. The only difference of any consequence is that the red wines of Saint Mont may contain Merlot. However, even this distinction will be permitted only until the vintage of 2020.

The Saint-Mont portfolio is slightly more diverse than that of its more-famous southern neighbor. Unlike Madiran, Saint-Mont produces rose and white wines alongside its robust reds. These lighter wines make use of the ArrufiacPetit CorbuPetit Manseng and Gros Manseng grape varieties. Until the harvest of 2020, Clairette may also be included. The two Mansengs are together permitted to constitute a maximum of 60% of white wine blends.

All Saint-Mont wines are dry in style, and those with residual sugar levels exceeding the stated maximum (5g/L for reds and rose, 4g/L for whites) are not permitted to claim the AOC title. 

Vine densities have traditionally been more relaxed here than in other more quality-conscious French appellations. This is a legacy of the transition from VDQS to AOC and is likely to be tightened up over time. Cotes de Saint-Mont vineyards were permitted to have planting densities as low as 3600 plants per hectare, whereas vineyards in a prestigious appellation such as Pauillac must reach 6500 to 10,000 plants per hectare before claiming the title AOC Pauillac. This figure is important because the more vines there are in a given space, the harder those vines have to work – sending their roots down deep to find water and nutrients. This struggle results in more-complex, flavorful fruit, reflecting the character of the deeper soils. Stressed vines produce better wines.

The terroirs of Saint-Mont are divided into two clear groups: those on the higher ground in the hills, and those in the valleys and lower-lying land around the Adour river. The flinty, sedimentary rock of the hills gets very hot and dry in summer, providing growing conditions which are clearly distinct from the heavier, cooler, moisture-retaining clay soils in the valleys. The hillsides are also more exposed to weather conditions, including the intense sunlight for which this region is famous. The distinct terroirs are reflected in the wines, which are sometimes blended together to achieve a balanced style.


Madiran is an appellation for robust red wines from the village of Madiran, in the south-west of France. Madiran represents the rustic character of southern French wine. Its dry, tannic reds complement the white wines (both sweet and dry) of the Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh appellation and of Jurancon, 25 miles (40km) to the south. 

The terroirs of Madiran are divided into two clear types: those on the higher ground of the hills, and those in the valleys and on lower-lying land. The flinty, sedimentary rock of the hills becomes very hot and dry in summer, creating growing conditions which are quite distinct from the heavier, moisture-retaining clay soils of the valleys. The two soil types are reflected in the wines they eventually produce and many Madiran winemakers blend them together to achieve a balanced style.

The climate here has subtle maritime influences due to its location between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, but decidedly continental effects are also observable – particularly to the south-west and north-east of the appellation's catchment area. The average annual temperature is around 55F (12C), while yearly rainfall is 39 inches (1000mm) with precipitation occuring mostly in the fall.

The grape varieties sanctioned for use in Madiran wines are Cabernet Franc (also known as Bouchy), Fer ServadouCabernet Sauvignon and the all-important Tannat. Tannat must form 40–60% of the final blend and it is this that makes the resulting wines so distinctive. The Tannat grape, as its name suggests, is very high in tannins, most of which develop in its thick skin and densely clustered pips. Because the stems of all grape varieties contain naturally high levels of tannin, destemming (egrappage) is required under the Madiran appellation laws. The aim of this is to prevent the finished wines being unpalatably astringent. Nonetheless, traditional Madiran wines require several years of bottle ageing before the tannins are sufficiently relaxed to allow other organoleptic qualities to shine through.

Modern Madiran producers employ several methods to make their wines approachable at a younger age. In the early stages of production, these include the vigorous selection of only the ripest grapes (whose tannins are less astringent), and avoiding the intensive pressing which squeezes the tannins out of the skins and pips. Micro-oxygenation and barrel maturationin new oak are used in the later stages of the winemaking process, resulting in a more-rounded, supple style of Madiran which is appealing to today's wine consumers.

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Gascony  is the homeland of good country cooking. The food reflects a landscape: simple and unadorned, created by generations who have worked the land with love. The secret of Gascon cooking lies in its honesty. There are no overriding tastes, no strong seasoning, no disguising sauces. Flavours blend together, complementing each other rather than competing for attention. Natural flavours are allowed to speak for themselves. The colours of the food, from the beans to the jam, reflect the colours of the land, shades of golden brown running together, with nothing sharp or intrusive to spoil the harmony.

One of the best books about the food of Gascony is Pierre Koffman's Memories of Gascony. Kate Ratliffe's A Culinary Journey in Gascony: Recipes and Stories from My French Canal Boat combines cooking and travel. There is also Cuisinier Gascon: Meals from a Gascon Chef by Pascal Aussiganac of the Club Gascon in London's Smithfield. And of course, not to be forgotten is Elizabeth David's classic French Provincial Cooking, which sets out many of the basics.


There are many great restaurants offering local fare within easy reach of Tranche de Vie. The following is a list of restaurants we have enjoyed.


La Palombe Gourmande or Trip Adviser

11 Route des Pyrénées, 65700 Lascazères, France 09 52 64 59 43

La Brasserie des Arts or TripAdviser

5 boulevard Centule III, 32300 Mirande, France 05 62 66 50 27

Le Prieure or TripAdviser

4, rue de l'eglise, 65700 Madiran, France 05 62 31 44 52

Le Pigeonnieau or Trip Advisor

36 avenue de l Adour | 32400 Riscle, France+33 5 62 69 85 64

Le Balcon or TripAdviser

1 Place Saint Pierre, 32100, Condom, France+33 5 62 28 44 06

Restaurant L3B or TripAdviser

8, route des Pyrenees, 65500 Nouilhan, France 05 62 96 79 78

Trait Blanc or Trip Adviser

9 rue Victor Hugo, 65000 Tarbes, France +33 5 62 38 11 87

La Petite Auberge

16 Place de l Hotel de Ville, 32230 Marciac, France

Le Relais d'Aydie Restaurant

Chemin d'Aydie, 64350 Aydie, France 05 59 04 00 09

Restaurant de la Tour or TripAdvisor

29 place Marcadieu, 64350 Lembeye, France 05 59 68 97 16

La Peniche

Lac De Marciac, 32230 Marciac, France +33 5 62 09 38 46

Le Majestic

Place Royale, 6400 Pau, France




  • Short list of some of the local markets


  • Monday - Mirande has a large market on Mondays and Saturdays. Good fresh produce, wide selection of cheese, meats and bread. It’s a pleasant 55 minute drive but on market day makes a good day out. Enjoy lunch at a restaurant on the square.

  • Tuesday – Maubourguet – a bustling town only 15 minutes drive away with shops, cafes and a good buzz on Market day. If you enjoy good homemade British Sausages, you will find them at this market.

  • Wednesday – Marciac, 25 minutes away and well worth a visit. Stop and have a coffee and croissant in Café de l’Hotel de Ville.

  • Thursday – Plaisance, a short 10 minute drive and although the market is small you will again find a good selection of cheese and bread. If you fancy a longer trip then Eauze or Tarbes only 45 minutes away.

  • Friday – Vic Fezenzac, a drive of 45 minutes where you will find an interesting market with lots of local producers selling cured meats, farmhouse cheeses, luscious home-baking and local armagnac.

  • Saturday – Nogaro, 25 minutes’ drive to a market which takes over the whole of the main street - look out for the garlic lady and call at the patisserie to try the delicious chouquettes.

  • Sunday – Bassoues- a drive of 30 minutes -worth a visit for the ambience and maybe stay for lunch.