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The wines of Jurançon may not be foremost in the minds of American wine-lovers, but these unique and distinctive dry, moelleux and very sweet wines, from the steep foothills of the Pyrenees, belong on your table and in your cellar! The six wines in today's email, ranging from quite dry to very sweet, are extraordinarily delicious and offer superb value!
Wine-making in Jurançon dates back to the Roman era, with the grape "Manseng" first recorded in the 13th century. The golden age of Jurançon was in the 15th and 16th centuries, when it was a favorite of royalty and was supposedly served at the baptism of King Henry the Fourth. Production increased in the 17th and 18th centuries, but the American gifts of phylloxera, oidium and mildew destroyed the vineyards in the late 1800s. Re-planting with inferior varieties delayed progress in the region, but in 1936 the AOC Jurançon was created, requiring Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng in a moelleux style, and Jurançon Sec received the AOC in 1975. At its peak, the vineyard of Jurançon covered about 5,500 hectares. The current area under vines is about 1,000 hectares on eight different terroirs, the largest area being "poudingues," a curious mass of limestone rocks from the Pyrenees with various clays and silex soils above. Cool spring weather requires the vines to be high-trained, to avoid frost. Abudant summer rain normally ensures healthy growth and maturation, which is followed by a very long, warm fall, allowing the production of sweet wines through "passerillage." Harvesting starts in mid-October, and can proceed through mid-December for the sweet wines. The reputation of Jurançon originates with the moelleux and dessert wines which possess riper and more exotic fruit than sweet wines of the Loire or Sauternes, but they are balanced by vibrant lemony acidity, with spice and mineral flavors, making them fabulous complements to patés, foie gras, cheeses and fruit desserts. The dry wines of Jurançon are becoming more popular, for good reason, as their combination of fascinating complex fruit, firm acidity, and lovely terroir expression makes them great pairings for vegetable soups, asparagus, fish and chicken in sauce and full flavored cheeses.
Domaine Tinou and Chateau Lapuyade are doing perhaps the best vineyard work in the region - Domaine Tinou has been organic since 1964 and Chateau Lapuyade has been certified Biodynamic since 2007. This is a simply outstanding group of unique and delicious wines that deserves your attention. Join us at Chambers Street this Friday from 5 till 7pm to taste all six of these fantastic Jurançons!
This is a superb Jurançon Moelleux, harvested in late December, about 90 grams/liter of residual sugar. Wonderfully complex aromas of apricot, candied citrus, flowers and exotic fruit with a hint of vanillin. Lemon confit, apricot, brown spice and chalky acids on the palate. A young wine that is gorgeous now but perhaps best in five to ten years. With more acidity than Sauternes, this is a great match for foie gras, lemon tarts and strong cheeses, and for apple and mince pies on Thanksgiving! Absolutely superb! (The wine improves for weeks, re-corked in the fridge.)
The 2014 Domaine Tinou Jurançon Cuvée Tradition is made from Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng, grown in Serge Hondet's beautiful vineyard near Lasseube, certified organic since 1964. The soils are essentially sandy clays with stones and gravels from the Pyrenees, over the local limestone, "Calcaire de Lasseube." The wine shows lovely pale gold color, vivid aromas of lemon, pineapple, honeysuckle, stone and brown spice, elegant and subtle. Creamy lemon, pear and stone flavors on the palate, balanced by citrusy acids. 62 grams of RS per liter, but seems dryer. Lovely finish of lemon, exotic fruit and minerals. Serve this lovely wine with foie gras, patés, full-flavored cheeses and lemony desserts or just sip by itself. Highly recommended.
Clos Marie-Louise/Château Lapuyade is a beautiful Biodynamic estate deep in the hills of Jurançon, south of Pau. The soils are primarily "poudingue," a conglomeration of calcareous stones and gravel deposited during the formation of the Pyrenees, with sandy clay topsoil. This bottle, based on the two better white grapes of Jurançon, Gros and Petit Manseng, seriously over-delivers in terms of complexity for the price. You'll find aromas of pineapple, lemon oil, peach and pear, honeysuckle and caramel apple on the nose, along with a light oakiness that would not work for all white wines, but fits perfectly with this one. The palate is essentially dry with firm acidity with dried pear, spice, citrus, stone and mineral flavors, but leaves an enticing sense of sweetness that makes it an excellent choice for cheeses, especially the sheep's milk cheeses of the Pyrenees. The finish is long and elegant - just delicious! Note: Those with the patience to keep this bottle around for a few days, re-corked in the fridge, will be rewarded with an awesome display of rich, complex fruit. David Lillie
We're very excited about this new cuvée from our biodynamic friends at Chateau Lapuyade in Jurançon. Made from 100% Petit Manseng from 40 year-old vines always tended in organic and biodynamic farming, it's a tiny special production in the best vintages - we're fortunate to get 12 cases for the US allocation. This beautiful dry (or almost dry) Jurançon shows a lovely pale gold color with elegant aromas of lemon, lime-flower, almond, stone, honeysuckle and brown spice. There is fabulous density on the palate with dried fruits, citrus, spice, stone and mineral flavors with scintillating, firm acidity. This is a very unusual and outstanding dry Jurançon - serve with fish or chicken in sauce, patés, and a wide variety of cheeses. Put a few in the cellar and re-visit in ten years. David Lillie
Clos Marie-Louise/Château Lapuyade is a beautiful biodynamic estate deep in the hills of Jurançon, south of Pau. Their wines are harvested by hand, fermented with wild yeasts and aged in old barrels purchased from Yquem and Haut-Brion. Their 2012 Petit Manseng is a gorgeous wine and a sensational value. The wine needs a bit of air to open up, then shows deep floral honeyed apricot, candied citrus, stone, spice and caramel aromas with sweet fruit on the palate—lemon oil, exotic fruit and brown spice lifted by very firm acidity. Terrific length. With a few days open, more exotic fruit, pineapple and lychee emerge and the wine softens into something wonderful. An outstanding Jurançon moelleux that will accompany fois gras, patés, cheeses, fruit desserts and is fabulous on its own. (72 grams/liter RS) Highly recommended! David Lillie