Every year about this time I break out my well-worn copy of Paula Wolfert's magnificent "The Cooking of Southwest France," and start thinking duck -- braised duck legs, confit, cassoulet, bowls of garbure -- a thick soup of salt pork, cabbage and beans embellished with duck confit. And that's when I hanker after an inky dark Madiran made from the earthy Tannat grape peculiar to that region. Alain Brumont at Château Montus makes one of the best, rounding out the Tannat with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The result can only be described as a lusty wine with the structure and heft to stand up to the richness of duck. Which is not to say the wine is rough: It has a lovely softness too.
Why not spend a day making one of Wolfert's meticulously researched recipes, then open a bottle of Château Montus and enjoy a taste of southwest France.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Region: Southwest France
Price: About $35.
Style: Earthy and full-bodied.
What it goes with: Duck, duck and more duck.
Where to find it: Amazing Grapes Wine Store in Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 888-9007, www.amazinggrapes; the Wine Club in Santa Ana, (714) 835-6485, www.thewineclub.com; the Wine Gallery in Corona del Mar, (949) 675-3410; Wine Exchange in Orange, (714) 974-1454 and (800) 76WINEX, www.winex.com; Wine Lab Newport in Newport Beach, (949) 515-8466, www.winelabnewport.com; and Wine Styles in Claremont, (909) 447-4400, www.winestyles.net /claremont.