The region of Jurançon in Southwest France has a white heart. With the principle grapes of Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng as well as smaller amounts of Lauzet, Courbu, Petit Courbu, and Camaralet de Lasseube the final wines are only white but available in both dessert and dry versions. What’s more interesting is that while the minimum alcohol is just 11.5% for dry wines, they’re often far higher than that. So don’t think for a minute that these as some little pliff-plaff wines for the ice bucket at the pool.
If this is the first time you’re hearing of this region, I can understand. Unless in the wine trade, a savvy wine drinker, or from near Jurançon, the wines are not often seen. In saying this, I hoping to be proven wrong and a chorus of fans will appear to defend these valiant wines. It is however the case that big, boisterous reds became the rage for awhile with dessert wines falling very much out of fashion and so it seems that Jurançon perhaps got a bit forgotten, or at least just not available outside of France. Despite their producing around five million liters annually, I have to say that I’ve never encountered these wines anywhere in Spain and when living in the US, it would only rarely pop up on some wine bar list that was trying to be especially hip.
The wine featured here I actually had to taste during my last trip up to London for the Vignobles et Signatures tasting, which is a group 16 quality wine producers claiming Domaine Cauhapé as a member. While Cauhapé had their entire line of wines there, this specific “La Canopée” really jumped out of the glass. If you want to know what’s amazing about Jurançon, this defines it with an exotic fruit profile that seems like it’s nearly mocking you from the glass with a touch of quince and pineapple, as well as the slightest touch of toasted notes which is impressive in its subtlety given that it sees 10 months in the barrel.
What gives the wine such an expressive profile? Oh, maybe the fact that they harvest in the second half November! This allows an immensely long growing season which is something rare to encounter in the wine world and while it can make for megaliths like you see in Napa Valley because they shoot for hyper-ripe reds, in the hands of the French, it makes this Jurançon, which is a truly unique wine to behold.
While not cheap at 23€ a bottle, if you’re looking to experience something quite out of the ordinary and broaden the horizons, I highly recommend it.