Since 1952, when Alain's grandfather came from Friuli as a sharecropper, the Bortolussi family has owned Château Viella. It is Alain, who is the third generation of vignerons, who now farms his 25 hectares of vines, classified AOC Madiran and Pacherenc du Vic Bilh. The formidable château is at the top of the extensive vineyard and is quite old, having been the country house of a Parisian Marquis. It was abandoned during the time of the revolution when its aristocratic owner was forced to abandon his land, his chateau, and France herself, or face la madame guillotine. The building was reduced to a state of ruin until Alain began renovation in 2003; it is now a chai for barriques and will eventually house a reception upstairs for visitors and events.
Madiran is an historically important appellation, whose original vineyards are attributed to the Roman Gallic civilization, and were classed AOC in 1945. The cultivars used in Madiran are the famous Tannat, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. These grapes give wines of beautifully red color, with both power and elegance. The AOC Pacherenc du Vic Bilh exactly mirrors the area designated for Madiran, and is only allowed for white wines, made from Petit and Gros Manseng, Petit Courbu, and Arrufiac. The white wines are fat, powerful, and charming and may be dry, or sweet ("moelleux").
The southwest is a breadbasket for France, producing a plethora of crops including grains and cereals, soybeans, corn, sunflowers, vegetables. The area has a wonderful traditional cuisine that includes duck, lamb, fois gras, and confit. One does not starve in Gers.
Alain is a serious man and a serious, creative producer. He learned his craft from father and grandfather, and then from attending school for enology locally. At the end of a recent visit, I tasted a first: a sweet wine from Tannat, left in glass demijohns to oxidize in the sun, which he called Vinosolis. Alain is a thoughtful farmer, extremely respectful of the land, and as of 2015 is practicing organic farming with plans to certify within 3 years. The winery buildings are equipped with solar panels such that they furnish 100% of the energy needed by operations. His vineyards are gorgeous, lovingly tended. The soils are friable limestone and clay, on top of chalk. The Pyrenees are a mere 5km to the south. It's a pretty stunning setting.
There are occasionally older prestige bottlings for sale, which are available from WorldWide Cellars on a special order basis.