Following on from a pair of whites from France’s mountainous eastern marches in Part 1, we now turn to some excellent Jurançon wines distributed by Nomad Wine Importers.
The wines of South West France receive only limited recognition outside of their region(s) – and to be honest the plural is more fitting here as they are actually a diverse collection of wine regions with some geographical proximity.
In fact, looking at a map of south west (no caps) France shows that the biggest wine region of the area – Bordeaux – is not included in South West (with caps) France.
Located in the foothills of the Pyrenees, south and west of Pau, Jurançon is an area whose wines I am quite familiar with after visiting the area several times.
At least I thought I was, anyway – cheap examples of an appellation picked up at a supermarket aren’t a good indicator of the quality available within a region.
The most important thing to know is that there are two different appellations, Jurançon itself which is sweet (moelleux) and Jurançon Sec which is dry. Not the easiest for novices to remember, just like Bordeaux’s Graves-Supérieures is actually sweet.
There are five grapes permitted for both AOCs – Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng (which must make up at least 50% of each blend), (Petit) Courbu (which ripens early and adds acidity) and the minor legacy varieties Camaralet de Lasseube and Lauzet.
Camin Larreyda is currently run by Jean-Marc Grussaute, son of Jean & Jany Grussaute who terraced and replanted the family property in 1970. The Domaine has been certified organic since 2007 and has 9.5 ha planted to 65% Petit Manseng, 27% Gros Manseng and the remaining 8% Petit Courbu and Camaralet. They also make wine from their neighbours’ grapes.
Here are the four wines I tasted recently, each named after the plots where the grapes are grown:
Domaine Larredya Jurançon Sec “la Part Davant” 2015 (14.0%, RRP €28 at Jus de Vine, Greenman Wines)
The “entry level” wine from Larredya consists of 50% (very ripe) Gros Manseng, 35% Petit Manseng and 15% Petit Courbu & Camaralet. The Part Davant plot is 4.5 ha and is farmed organically.
This is a lighter and fresher style than the other wines made by Larredya – there’s the typical peach stone fruit notes but also citrus and a touch of minerality. For me this is a pleasant drinking wine but even better with food such as white fish, poultry, pork or veal.
Domaine Larredya Jurancon Sec “la Virada” 2015 (14.0%, RRP €40 at Jus de Vine)
This is a blend of equal parts Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng and Petit Courbu, harvested at a very low 20 hl/ha. The grapes are whole bunch pressed then fermented with natural yeast. Fermentation and maturation take place in barriques and foudres.
The alcohol is quite high at 14.0% as all the sugar has been fermented to dryness, but it doesn’t stand out on the palate. Peach and apricot fruit flavours are to the fore, but there’s also honey all the way through with a bracing, fresh finish. Superb!
Domaine Larredya Jurancon “Costat Darrer” 2015 (13.0%, 60g/L RS, RRP €27)
Just below the name of the appellation on the label, “Les Grains des Copains” shows that this wine was made from their friends’ grapes rather than their own. The average age of the source vines is 25 years and the different vineyards are either organic or “lutte raisonnée” which roughly translates as sustainable. Yields are between 30 and 35 hl/ha and the blend is 70% Petit and 30% Gros Manseng.
This is definitely a sweet wine but the sweetness enhances the exotic fruit flavours rather than dominating them. This could be the perfect wine to match with a fruit salad!
Domaine Larredya Jurancon “Au Capceu” 2015 (13.0%, 130g/L RS, RRP €42 at 64 Wine)
This cuvée is 100% Petit Manseng and is from a three hectare plot, mainly higher altitude terraced vines with a southerly or eastern orientation; the location is excellent for producing late harvest wines without grey rot. The vines are 30 years old and yields are low at 20 hl/ha. Fermentation and maturation (for a year) are in a mix of barriques and foudres.
This is an intensely concentrated wine with a combination of stone fruit and citrus – it also reminded me somewhat of whisky marmalade. Although quite sweet it is nicely balanced and not at all cloying. An absolute treat!