Here at The Wine Company we are always on the lookout for the wonderfully odd, be it a region or grapes.
Why? Because it makes for fun conversations, a way to connect with the intrinsically curious, and most of all to support the smaller winemakers of these obscure but historically important regions.
A favorite amongst the staff is the region of Jurançon of far southwestern France with their native grapes Gros Manseng, Petite Manseng, and Camaralet de Lasseube.
Located in the foothills of the Pyrenees, south of Bordeaux (about 2/3 of the way to the Spanish border), Jurançon is little known but is a destination to seek out on your next trip to France. Lush forests, dramatic scenery, and a wine culture focused on pride in their native grapes makes for a wonderful experience. Being removed from the traditional tourism paths, there remains an untouched and pure culture around every turn, especially regarding their wines.
The main grape of the region is Gros Manseng, which translates directly to “Large Manseng” in reference to the size of the berries. The juice that flows from these grapes is grey and honeyed in color, rather than the clear white-edged juice of most grapes (including red grapes — for the color is located in the pigment of the skins), resulting in a surprisingly rich look for such a young white wine (this fools many people … the color can come across initially looking like an old Chardonnay). Don’t be fooled! The wine that results from Gros Manseng, assuming it was harvested at the right moment and produced by a talented winemaker, is packed full of flowers-meet-stonefruit aromas. Typical descriptors are apricot, quince paste, and peaches along with lilac, minerals, and talc. On the palate it can be relatively aggressive, making it an ideal match with fois gras. This is not your average forgettable white wine!
Two other grapes of the region are Petite Manseng and Camaralet de Lasseube.
Petite Manseng, as the name implies, is a smaller berry and it also produces the highest overall quality of any of the Southwestern French grapes. However, it is not planted en masse because of its low yielding nature (whereas Gros Manseng is a powerhouse of production). Some wine bloggers are sensing Petite Manseng might follow the same path to cult-like popularity that Viognier is now enjoying.
The Camaralet de Lasseube grape is very rare (referenced by Jancis Robinson in her book Wine Grapes as “endangered”), due to the fact that it only produces female flowers, produces incredibly low yields, and is prone to oxidation. However, when used in a wine it brings forth a tremendous wave of pepper and spice, along with a lower alcohol to help temper the sometimes aggressive nature of Gros Manseng. Our little Cahuape Jurançon Sec, listed below, is actually composed 40% of Camaralet de Lasseube with the balance being Gros Manseng.
Our two Jurançon selections and where to find them
CAUHAPE 2013 JURANCON SEC SOUTHWEST FRANCE
Biodynamic | Between Biarritz and Lourdes, facing the Pyrenees in heart of Bearn, Henri Ramonteu creates dry and sweet white wines from an exceptional terroir, the land of Domaine Cauhapé. The wines of Jurançon with their fruity, complex aroma and elegant golden color, will assuredly enchant lovers of fine, signature wines. Situated in the southwest corner of France, the Jurancon region produces exceptional dry and sweet white wines.
Along the clay slopes that define the province of Béarn in France’s Southwest, Jurançon faces the Pyrenees dressed in vines. Here 60% Gros Manseng contributes finesse and fruit and 40% of the ancient local Camaralet revived by Cauhapé brings fragrance and mouthfeel to blend into exceptional dry Jurançon with fragrant white pepper and citrus a la ruby grapefruit with a juicy herby note akin to sorrel but without any hard edges pulling fast punches or pith to bring down the fragrant heights soaring atop the palate. Instead this is a picture of equipoise: a smooth yet crisp, fruity yet dry Jurançon – bright but polished, engaging and crowd pleasing –for neophyte and Sommelier alike but certainly for foodies as this is poised and ready to pounce on les fruits de mer of prawns and shellfish, on foie gras or fattened roast chicken… the list goes on and on…
Locations are listed alphabetically by city. Be sure to call ahead to confirm availability.Sunfish Cellars
Henry & Son
Cork Dork Wine Co
North Loop Wine & Spirits
Riverview Wine Bar
Premier Wine & Spirits -old Ownership
JOLYS 2012 JURANCON SEC SOUTHWEST FRANCE
Sustainable | At Château Jolys the Famille Latrille crafts their dry (sec) Jurançon Sec from 60% Petit Manseng and 40% Gros Manseng planted to the 80 acres of superb, sandy-clay slopes of Chapelle de Rousse in the heart of the Jurançon appellation where this south-southwesterly amphitheater faces the Pyrenees and the arc or the ripening sun. Hand harvested early October, this dry Jurançon fully expresses the freshness and aromatic intensity of its two grapes, iconic varieties of the Jurançon appellation. Exuberant and intensely aromatic, this refreshing, crisp white wine reveals citrus notes both floral and fruity: honeysuckle, jasmine, grapefruit, citrus. The mouth is rich with a fresh attack and true vivacity that comes to support a very expressive fruity mid-palate and a fleshy finish.. Pair with fish, shellfish and seafood, semi-hard cheese or simply enjoy by itself as an aperitif.
Locations are listed alphabetically by city. Be sure to call ahead to confirm availability.South Lyndale Liquor
North Loop Wine & Spirits
West Side Liquor - Waite Park