The white wines of Madiran fall under the Pacherenc de Vic Bilh appellation. The name comes from the Gascon Pacherenc which means vine stakes and Vic Bilh is the name of a village. Both dry whites and sweet wines are made – dry whites fall under the name of Pacherenc de Vic Bilh Sec. In the past the wines were known as Portet (named after a village near Vielha).
The Pacherenc is made from the grape varieties Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, Arrufiac, Petit Corbu and Sauvignon Blanc. The sweet wines are made from late harvested grapes and not from noble rot (as in Sauternes) with a minimum potential alcohol level of 12%, and contain a minimum of 35 grams per litre of residual sugar. Top end sweet Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh wines are usually made from dried grapes.
The grapes are harvested from mid-October through to New Year's Eve and the wine is becoming increasingly popular. This is an old practice – a n edict of 1745 dictated that the Pacherenc harvest must not commence before November 4th. The sweet wines have aromas mixed with spices, honey, quince, ripe pear and tropical fruit and the dry whites have aromas of summer blossoms, lime, grapefruit and apricots.