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(NOTE: Chambers Street Wines is extremely proud to present another article by our good friend and neighbor at Racines NY, Pascaline Lepeltier. In 2014, Pascaline passed the Master Sommelier Diploma, and in 2018, she won 2 more major titles in her homeland: she is now a laureate of “Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France - Sommellerie” and Best French Sommelier 2018. In January 2019, the famous French magazine La Revue du Vin de France awarded her “Personality of the Year 2019”, the first woman to be given this prestigious recognition.)
As a Chenin lover, I am always on the hunt for this quite rare combination of vibrant, ripe freshness and density with a long, slightly tannic and salty finish. When you start to explore and taste, you realize very few grapes in the world have these qualities, and even less have an ability to translate terroir, be versatile to pair with with food, and are age-worthy. Of course Riesling, Savagnin, Verdicchio - but Manseng is up right there! The first time I tried a Petit & Gros Manseng with Petit Courbu, I was hooked. It was Domaine Arretxea Hegoxuri 2005. And when I tried my first bottle of the mythical Clos Joliette - the 1974, 100% Petit Manseng, I got even more addicted. More tropical than Chenin yet with the same delicious sweet and sour feel - think quince and passion fruit, full of delicate mountain herbs with a fleur de sel finish. Powerful without any heaviness, these types of blends became a staple of my wine lists, be they from Irouléguy or Jurançon - youthful expressions are perfect for fatty-fish crudo with exuberant citrus seasoning, thaï spices and spring vegetables. The aged versions (5 years and more) are a great match for delicate poultry, foie gras and fall veggies, bringing a white truffle and riesling-esque evolution. These wines have a very similar history to Loire Chenin as the dry style only recently became the focus of quality. For example, the first modern expression of white Irouléguy was produced in 1989 by Brana. So, like for Loire Chenin, we are just at the beginning of the exploration of their styles and terroir variations!
Another grape that fails to receive the attention it deserves is Sémillon. It is not an easy grape to grab and understand. It is often used as a blending partner to Sauvignon Blanc, and it is rarely vinified dry as a single grape (with the remarkable exception of the Hunter Valley Sémillon in Australia). It is often drunk too young. Sémillon is very similar in my mind to Marsanne, in the sense that these are grapes that need to “mineralize” in bottle (to use the word of the remarkable French sommelier Olivier Poussier). After a couple of years, Sémillon loses its baby fat, and gains tension, revealing zesty, smoky, salty, floral notes. It is quite incredible, and is a fantastic value, as we will see in the Côtes-de-Duras.
So I wanted to dedicate this article to the white gems of the Southwest. We won’t unfortunately talk this time about the fantastic diversity of Gaillac, nor the unique expression of Chenin in Entraygues-Le Fel or the white Bordeaux alternative that the Bergeracois area offers. The current state of the world also precludes us from presenting to you new producers we fell in love with. But don’t worry that will be for another time!
Nestled in the foothills of the Pyrénées, barely 30 miles away from the majestic Atlantic ocean, the French basque vineyard of Irouléguy lays its 240 ha of vines on the south facing emerald slopes of the Jarra and Arradoy hills, the undulating plots lost between forest and sheep pastures. If you like green, you will find all its nuances and variations in this breath-taking landscape. And if you like water, it is everywhere from rivers to cascades, to the Atlantic rains. Irouléguy, with Jurançon, is one of the wettest wine regions in France, with more than 1400 mm of rain in a year; yet today more than 30% of the vineyards are farmed organically, biodynamically or following Masanobu Fukuoka’s permaculture practices, a remarkable example for other regions! Between ocean and mountain, growing grapes here is only possible thanks to a specific topography creating a wind effect called Foehn (I explain it in the Jurançon section). “Peasant-vignerons” was not a vain expression there until the early 1980s, when the first independent estates paved the way to dedicate their farm only to viticulture, among them-Domaine Brana and Domaine Ilarria. Today, there are around 13 domains vinifying half the production of the AOC, the rest being under the control of the very dynamic cooperative - something to take note of, as typically cooperatives are not leading examples of quality. Needless to say, the wines are rare, and the white I want to share with you even rarer, with only 40 hectare dedicated to the superb Izkiriota Zuri Tipia (Petit Manseng), Izkiriota Handia (Gros Manseng) Xuri Zerratia (Petit Courbu) and Courbu. They all deserve your attention (as the red of cabernet franc & sauvignon and tannat do, but today’s focus is on white!).
If the vineyard of Irouléguy was slowly reestablished with the creation of the cooperative in 1952 leading the AOC status in the 1970 after the crisis of phylloxera, the two World Wars and the decline of the local consumption, it is an historic vineyard developed in the XIIth century by the Spanish Roncevaux abbaye to satisfy the thirsts of pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The lower slopes of St-Etienne-de-Baigorry, Irouléguy, St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and Ispoure on both sides of the Nive river, rising to between 100 and 450m, welcomed those religious plots. Today, they are still the heart of the AOC. Their complex geology has only begun to be discovered. The dominant terroir is poor, lighter soils of iron-rich sandstones. You will also find veins of metamorphic schists, ampelites, and volcanic ophytes mixed with clay and some very rare Jurassic limestone domes. When you taste the different single-terroir bottlings of Arretxea or the limestone based blend of Ilarria, the transparency to terroir of the Mansengs and Courbus become evident! It is heroic viticulture (Irouléguy doesn’t mean “the three mountain ridges” for nothing). And there still remains a potential of a 1000 ha to be planted, so we are just at the beginning of the white history - just note, there are barely 40 hectares today!
A hundred kilometers north east of Irouléguy in the Béarn, between the Gaves de Pau and Oloron, lies one of the greatest French appellations dedicated solely to white, albeit dry whites, sweet or liquoreux: Jurançon. The landscape is as beautiful as in the Pays Basque, the greeneries of pastures, forests, vineyards varying under the cloudy sky, overlooked by the impressive Pyrénées. Even in France Jurançon doesn’t have the reputation it deserves, maybe because there is no red wine production, maybe because most of the wines are produced by the cooperative, focusing on cheap sweet production for local consumption. Like Irouléguy, this is an historic vineyard that almost disappeared at the beginning of the 20th century but was saved thanks to its affinity for Petit and Gros Manseng. Here, these varieties find their most complete expression. Since the 13th century and the first mention of “Manseng”, the sweet version built the reputation of the region. A very high acid grape with thick skin and loose cluster, Petit Manseng can be picked very late, is resistant to disease, and shines when deprived of water, concentrating its sugars and pristine tropical aromatics to spectacular level. How is it possible when more than 1300 mm rain on average annually? First by selecting hardy grapes like Manseng, second thanks to a wind effect, the Foehn. The cold, humid winds coming from the south are blocked to form rainy clouds on the Spanish side of the Pyrénées, creating a wam (25 C), dry downslope wind on the opposite side called Vent Balaguèr. Gently blowing in the fall, this wind protects the grapes from botrytis and allows for a beautiful indian summer and November harvest (sometimes they can even happen in January!)
The 1000 ha of Jurançon’s vineyard are scattered over 25 communes on the south-southeastern facing slopes of hills looking at the Pic d’Ossau. Because of the relief, most of the plots are undulating amphitheaters allowing for more ripeness. There are two main pockets of vines. ? is roughly located in the southeastern part of the AOC around La Chapelle-de-Rousse, mostly on poudingues (calcareous clay cementing large pebbles, named after the English pudding) with in the south around Lasseube veins of limestone and flysch (a mix of hard sandy-marl) at higher elevation (300 to 400 m altitude) producing more piercing grapes. The majority of vineyards are to be found in the northwestern part around Monein on slightly lower, rounder hills (150 m) of molasses, a sedimentary mix of sandstone and clay, and gravels. Grapes are usually picked two weeks earlier than in La Chapelle-de-Rousse, and the wines tend to be softer. Vines are usually trained high (“hautain”, up to 2.5 m) to decrease frost risk and allow better ripeness, and nets are put at the end of the season to prevent birds' damage.
Thanks to Dr Doléris’s work (repudiation of hybrids planted after phylloxera, return to Manseng and quality, scientific delimitation of the appellation, determination of the best winemaking practices, etc.), the AOC was granted in 1936, but as with Loire Chenin, the evolution of the consumption led to a profound crisis for sweet wine production. In 1975, the Jurançon “Sec” AOC was created under the request of the powerful cooperative with some long-term consequences. Thought to enhance the quality of the sweet wines (by pushing the minimum residual sugars up to 35g - since 2011, 40g, with the Vendange Tardive mention allowed in 1994 asking for 55g) by discarding less ripe or interesting grapes now sold under the “dry” AOC, it created on one side a rush to more and more sweetness, some artificially added, and led on the other side to the use of heavy oenology in the cellar, from the overuse of sulfur to protect a thiolic expression to deacidification to make the dry wines palatable. The “noble” Mansengs were privileged over the historical grapes used for dry wine (Courbu, Camaralet de Lasseube and Lauzet). But here, like in the Loire, we are now today witnessing history being written by independent growers disagreeing with the productive and industrial trend. The 70s and 80s saw the first wave pioneers with S. Hondet, The Migné family of the mythical Clos Joliette, C. Hours, H. Ramonteu, J. Guirardel. deciding to regain quality by farming better with lower yields and investing in their cellar. A second wave arrived in the 90s which included J.-B. Larrieu, J.-M. Grussaute, Y. Hegoburu, D. Dagueneau and G. Pautrat, focusing even more on dry wines, exploring organic, biodynamic farming, low cellar intervention, and restoring the nobility of the Camaralet, Courbu and Lauzet. And since the 2000s the third wave is bringing even more energy with the talents like M. Salharang or M. Lacanette-Naba, more than ever determined to show the identity of Jurançon through its white version, in an approach opposite to the lean, thiol-driven expression still dominating in the appellation. With the majority of the production of the independent vignerons dedicated to dry wines (and not sweet!), the hard work of these real vignerons starts to pay off, and Jurançon sec for the insiders is for certainly reaching new heights and will continue in the future!
Just east of the Entre-Deux-Mers, south-west of the Bergeracois and north of the Marmandais, Côtes-du-Duras is a little known appellation consisting of two thousand or so hectares. This appellation is full of undiscovered potential. Originally most wines produced here were considered to be copycat renditions of Bordeaux style wines without Bordeaux status. But in the right hands and with the right farming this appellation can produce great wines with remarkable quality for value.
Further from the Dordogne than Bergerac, the area did not enjoy the same commercial access to important markets. The consumption remained local, supported until the World Wars by important farming communities. Historically, quantity supplanted quality, with an important production of semi-sweet and sweet white mostly from passerillage - a style allowing for the Côtes-de-Duras to be granted the AOC status. Monbazillac and Saussignac are neighbouring appellations, and the Dropt river occasionally allows for fog and noble rot. Gentle rolling hills offer a polycultural landscape. The richer soils are dedicated to grain and cereals while the best exposed coteaux and plateaus are devoted to vineyards, often planted wide (in order to use the same tractor from one culture to another.) Here you will also find orchards and forests.
Quite similar to Bergerac in terms of terroir, you will find different types of limestone, some with a high content of silex, on the plateaus as well as some “molasses”, a geological name for clay-limestone conglomerates with sand. Historically planted with Sémillon - you can still find some old vines from the 1920s at Mouthes-Le Bihan, more and more Sauvignon Blanc is planted, yet in order to express a different “personality” than generic Bordeaux blanc, a mix of varieties are authorized: Muscadelle, Chenin, Ondenc, Mauzac, Colombard and Ugni Blanc. I am not sure this broad diversity is helping to determine a clear identity for the appellation... . If the whites are the minority of production, it doesn’t mean though there is no potential: when planted on the right site with the right grapes, you can obtain some very special wines, like the Sémillon driven wines from Domaine Mouthes-Le Bihan, the quality leader of the appellation, a remarkable estate in term of quality/price point!!
Maison Arretxea / Riouspeyrous Family - Irouléguy
Assisted by their two sons Iban and Teo, Michel and Thérès Riouspeyrous produce undoubtedly some of the most impressive wines of Irouléguy (and of France), thanks to their remarkable vineyard works and true respect for their terroirs. After travelling the world as an agronomist and realizing the catastrophic consequences of industrial farming, Michel returned to Irouléguy. This was the village where he was raised by his grand-father, a man who practiced polycultural farming, including a touch of vines. Starting from zero, he worked for a couple of years alongside Peio Estil at Ilarria before producing in 1993 his first red under the label Arretxea (“The Stone House”). The first white came in 1997, and took the name Hegoxuri, “White from the South.” In 2009, they started to bottle their white by terroir: Grès, Schiste, Pantxuri (Ophite), all blends of Gros and Petit Manseng with more or less Petit Courbu. It was a revelation, and I encourage every wine lover to hunt for these special bottles, unfortunately very rare in the US! We will keep you informed if, and when they happen to become available.
Dedicated to organic farming from the very beginning of the domain and very influenced by the work of geologist and agronomist Yves Hérody, the Riouspeyrous received organic certification for their vineyard in 1998. They have been applying biodynamic principles with a certain intellectual independence since 2008 without being certified. Currently farming 8.5 ha, the estate acquired recently 3 additional ha on ophite. They planted all their original plots, paying great attention to the vegetal material – Michel, with Peio Espil, is part of an association protecting the old vines and their genetic patrimony. The whites are hand-harvested by plot and grape variety, with usually the Petit Courbu and the warmer sites first. Freshness is never a problem in Irouléguy, it is all about finding the balance with ripeness, thus harvests are quite late, usually early October, in order for the Mansengs to lose some of their structural acidity. All the grapes are usually destemmed, the Mansengs are macerated to release some of their aromatics and structure. All the different pickings are vinified and aged separately in Stockinger foudres and a mix of aged demi-muids, to be blended by cuvée once fermentation is over, usually in January-February. Malo-lactic does not occur, by choice and because of the pH. The wines are usually bottled in September with a very light filtration. Sulfite is carefully used, and is never over 60ppm. On top of their quests of terroirs, the Riouspeyrous have been working for a couple of years with locally made dolia, a type of amphora Michel designed with Luc de Conti from La Tour des Gendres and a type they very much like for the Tannat. The whole range of Maison Arretxea is absolutely remarkable, and deserves to be in the cellar of any serious wine lover.
Domaine Ilarria / Peio Espil - Irouléguy
Domaine Ilarria is a favorite of David Lillie and Chambers Street Wines for some time now. One of the pioneers of the rebirth of the independent domains in Irouléguy following the model of Jean Brana, Peio Espil has roots in Irouléguy since 1340. First dedicated to the peace core in Africa as a civil engineer, he came back to France to take over the family farm after studying winemaking at La Tour Blanche (Sauternes) and Domaine Cauhapé with Henri Ramonteu (Jurançon). Taking over in 1987 the little family hectare of Tannat and Cabernet Franc, he cleared and replanted a unique coteau of hard triassic limestone above the historic cemetery of Irouléguy, planting Petit Manseng and Petit Courbu. Interested very early on by his reading of Masanobu Fukuoka, he implanted his philosophy of “Do Nothing,” observing Nature and its powers to farm with as little human intervention as possible. The whole 10 ha are farmed this way, and were also certified organic in 1999: no tilling, the spontaneous vegetation is mowed, in the winter ewes are coming to graze, their manure used as compost to enrich the microbiological life, which is for Peio the most important part of the health of the soils. Underground bacterias working in non-tilled soils are key partners to the vigneron to guarantee the health of the vines. All the plots are small, and surrounded by hedges and wild trees, to allow animals and insects to nest. Part of the association protecting the genetic diversity of the basque indigenous grapes, he decided on 1 ha of Petit Manseng and 1 ha of Petit Courbu as two grapes bringing each other equilibrium: the intensity, structure, high acidity and aromatics of the Petit Manseng are balanced by the more gentle and onctuous, softer and floral tones of the Petit Courbu. Due to the farming, there is naturally a lower yield (25 hl/ha) giving even more density to the different cuvees, yet without clumsiness. Without a doubt, sincerely respectful farming gives wines with soulful identity, and just for this reason you should try these remarkable wines from the “site of the Landes”, Ilarria. 50% Petit Manseng, 50% Petit Courbu.
Camin Larredya / Jean-Marc Grussaute - Jurançon
Without a doubt Jean-Marc Grussaute makes today some of the most brilliant wines of Jurançon, proving the world-class quality of his appellation. If Camin Larredya history can be traced back to the 12th century - “Larredya” means bardeaux, a traditional word for chestnut roof tile indicating the polycultural activity of the property - its wine story really started in the 1960s when Jean Grussaute, Jean-Marc’s father, decided with other growers and neighbours to revitalize the appellation and reveal the promising terroirs of La Chapelle-de-Rousse by replanting in terraces their beautiful coteaux with the Mansengs, and a little Petit Courbu and Camaralet. The first estate wine was not made before 1975 (grapes were sold before at the cooperative), but in 1983 Jean unexpectedly passed away, leaving the estate in the hand of Jean-Marc’s mother until his return in 1988. As he was the eldest it was his responsibility to take over. As this was not his original calling and he had a very shy, reserved personality, the first years were difficult and as Jean-Marc says today, he learned how to appreciate being a winemaker. Viticulture and winemaking were conventional at the beginning and it is little by little, talking and exchanging with fellow winemakers that he realized he could evolve his farming practices and be more in harmony with himself. Meeting Elian Da Ros and Matthieu Cosse in the early 2000s was an important moment as well as becoming a father: they introduced him to the idea that organic and respectful farming was producing more complex, alive wines, more in tune with the vigneron too. There was no going back, and today the vineyard is Demeter certified (since 2016). As he was modifying his farming, he also opted for quality over quantity, leaving the coop, and deciding to stay small in order to accomplish his demanding ambitions, investing carefully, constantly searching in the vineyards and in the cellar. Believing in team work (he is not a rugbyman for nothing) he created a structure with his neighbors to share equipment and progress together without forgetting the tradition - on that note, he is using the local Béarn dialect to name his cuvées. Abandonning the steel vats, all the wines are now vinified in oak with a cellar of used Seguin-Moreau barrels and Stockinger foudres.
Jean-Marc today is farming 11.8 ha, 10 ha of Mansengs, Courbus and Camaralet around Camin Larredya on poudingues, and 1.8 ha in Lasseube, 10 miles southeast in the mountain where he found a beautiful limestone vein on a coteau. After clearing and preparing the land, he planted a massale selection of Mansengs, Courbu and Lauzet: the first vintages of La Côte Blanche were just released and already shine as unique and remarkable expressions of dry Jurançon (unfortunately the wines are not yet available in NY…). All the other cuvées are produced in La Rousse but two are made with purchased fruit, a négoce he has been doing with the same parcels for 20 years. La Part Davant and La Virada are the Jurançon Secs, the last one being a special plot planted on the “turning” (virada) slope in front of the family house. Costat Darrèr, Au Capcèu et A Sólhevat VT are the Jurançon Moelleux. Finally, a rare, superb skin-contact 100% Petit Manseng called L’Iranja completes the line up (we are getting this wine soon so stay tuned!). The use of volcanic sulfurs is carefully thought of after racking and before bottling and stays around 50 ppm as the moelleux are sterile filtered. The exceptional quality of the range today did not arrive by chance, with their brilliance, purity and complexity! Bravo Jean-Marc!
Domaine de Souch / Hegoburu Family - Jurançon
The story of Yvonne Hegoburu and Domaine de Souch is world-famous thanks to her memorable appearance in Jonathan Nossiter's Mondovino. With an immaculate style, this lady with seemingly endless energy (I can still remember her handling 2 days of pouring at La Dive Bouteille without blinking) started to produce wine in 1989 at 60 years, as a tribute to her late husband René who sadly passed away. Just south of Pau, they had bought a property with the dream of one day planting a vineyard on this fallow ground. And with the advice and encouragement of Dagueneau, Grussaute and other local vignerons, she realized it, and brilliantly so, her wines quickly gathering a lot of attention. As she discovered the world of wine, she also discovered organic and biodynamic farming: within months, she attended local meetings with fellow biodynamists and by 1995 she converted the property (certified organic and practicing biodynamic.) After running the estate well into her 80s, Yvonne entrusted the estate to her son in 2014, Jean-René, a lawyer based in Paris who delegated the domain’s management to Emmanuel Jecker (since 2008) recently joined by Julien Pouplet to help with the admin/marketing side. The domain is isolated, located on the top of a ridge in Laroin, the 6.8 ha vineyard forming one block split in multiple plots protected from neighbors by woodlands. There, at 330 m elevation, the Petit Manseng (70% of the planting), Gros Manseng (20%) and Petit Courbu (10%), looking south east at the Pic du Midi d’Ossau, are grown on poudingues with a higher content of limestone. They are pruned in guyot double, not hautain - the traditional system - as the vineyard is very protected. All the cuvées but Marie-Kattalin are coming from the main plot in front of the house, and the cuvées are based on age of the vine and ripeness by tries - hand-harvesting is mandatory for all wines in Jurançon. With a full south exposure and a different soil (iron rich clay) giving lower yielding petit manseng, the 1.2 ha of La Palombière is the only “parcellaire” cuvée, for the Marie-Kattalin (95 g of residuals) and sometimes the Vendange Tardive (around 115 g). Usually the wines are vinified in stainless steel tanks, then aged either in steel or bordeaux barrels (second hand from Domaine de Chevalier) depending on the cuvée. Alcoholic fermentation is spontaneous, and malo doesn’t usually occur. Sulfur is added at crush, after the fermentation and adjusted before bottling. Since 2016, a spring cuvée both in dry and sweet, is produced - “Monplaisir” - allowing for selection of the best grapes for the historical range. If the domain may have had a little down moment a couple of years ago, it is back at its best level as Madame Hegorrubu celebrates her 93rd birthday in a few weeks.
Domaine Mouthes-Le Bihan - Côtes-de-Duras
A local native from British roots (when catholic Brittany large families were helping repopulating protestant areas with a one-kid-only policy), Jean-Mary and Catherine Le Bihan started to make wines a little by chance, after buying a property in order to increase farm land for Jean-Mary and pasture for Cathy’s Arabic horses haras. A few hectares of vines were part of the deal, and after contracting the viticulture and winemaking for three years and being disappointed with the result, they decided to give it a shot and made their first vintage in 2000. Jean-Mary was already producing all his other crops organically, so it was a no-brainer to do the same for the vines. As they really enjoyed winemaking, they decided to keep on going in parallel with their activities: today Cathy has 50 horses, and Jean-Mary farms 100 ha of wheat, sunflower, soy, lentils, walnuts trees with beehives and cows, with 22 ha of vines. This is a real farm… Located in St-Jean-de-Duras, 3 hectares surround the winery while most of the rest is in St-Astier. The vines are grown on different terroirs: the top cuvées (Les Apprentis in red and Pérette et les Noisetiers in white) are produced on Aquitanian limestone with a lot of silex; Viellefont blanc comes from boulbenes, a compressed silica soil typical of the Entre-Deux-Mers, and Pie Colette from Castillon limestone. They also have richer brown clay plots. In terms of wine influence, they met early on thanks to their local cooper some major figures of the Southwest, Elian Da Ros and Matthieu Cosse (if you don’t know them, read the first installment here: Vinifications are carried out with spontaneous fermentations with careful, lengthy aging with sulfur used when necessary. If most of the production is red, 3 whites are produced: Pie Colette, a jovial and textural Sauvignon-Sémillon-Chenin blend, and the two we are offering today, Vieillefont, a Sémillon-Sauvignon-Muscadelle made from vines planted in the 1920s and Pérette et les Noisetiers, a superb 100 % Sémillon.
Dedicated to Mme Hegoburu’s grand-daughter, Marie-Kattalin is a special cuvée at Domaine de Souch, the only single vineyard one, coming for a plot called La Palombière. With a full south exposure and a different soil (iron rich clay) giving lower yielding Petit Manseng this plot is always producing grapes so different - always later picked, smaller and more concentrated - that they had to be isolated. Usually the last hand-harvested as late as November, the grapes are whole-cluster pressed. The must is fermented and aged in second-hand Bordeaux barrels (from Domaine de Chevalier). Malo does not happen and levels of sulfurs are kept on the lower side for moelleux. The wine is sterile-filtered and bottled in September. In 2016, a late vintage, this is a superb example of Jurançon and Petit Manseng! With an explosive nose of roasted peach, Alphonso mango, jasmine and purple basil, the equilibrium between acidity, sweetness and alcohol is remarkable. The wine seems even to finish dry! Think about riesling ice-wine with more flesh and texture. The sulfur use is well managed. Still a little primary, this cuvée deserves a few years in your cellar to really unfold and would be enjoyable for the next 30 to 40 years. If you have to open it today, pair it with a crab-apple and mango Tarte Tatin, a powerful blue cheese or enjoy it just by itself! 100% Petit Manseng. 93 g RS, pH 2.94. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Run don't walk, this is just an extra-ordinary bottle of sweet wine, at a fantastic price. Joe Dressner, the famous and very-missed importer who helped introduce to America some of the most soulful European vignerons, imported Domaine de Souch for a number of years. As a tribute after he passed away in 2011, Madame Yvonne Hegoburu selected three superb barrels of her remarkable cuvée Marie-Kattalin (a 100% Petit Manseng grown on a plot called La Palombière, richer in red clay bringing more concentration to the berries) still in aging. These barrels, which were showing more depth and concentration, tasting almost like a Vendange Tardive (a rarely used special mention in Jurançon for the latest picks), were kept a little longer to age for a total of 18 months. Now 10 years old, the wine is barely showing any sign of evolution! It tastes so fresh, with an explosion of tropical fruit, ilang ilang, lily, dried apricot and yellow plum. The palate shows some herbal notes as well, especially dried lemon verbena, orange blossom and saffron. It will be very hard to guess the real sweetness of the wine as the balance with the quince-like acidity is thrilling. This is a real treat, you can still keep 20 years at least - the wine will probably take more and more white truffle note! A special one, to sip by itself or enjoy with a confit rhubarb and wild strawberry almond pie or a kumquat and alfonso mango soufflé. 76 g RS. pH: 3,12. Pascaline Lepeltier.
This cuvée is the principal wine of organically certified Domaine de Souch, the first produced in 1989 by Madame Yvonne Hegoburu when she decided to plant a vineyard and make wine as a tribute to her husband gone too soon. Jurançon, which per law has to have a minimum of 40 g of residual sugars since 2011, is a very unique moelleux in the sweet wine universe thanks to the incredible acidity and ripeness of the Mansengs concentrated by passerillage and not by noble rot, avoiding oxidative characters. An equal blend of Petit and Gros Manseng planted in 1985 on poudingues in front of the property, the grapes are hand-harvested and vinified in stainless steel for a year to preserve the varietal aromatics. Malo does not happen and levels of sulfurs are kept on the lower side for moelleux. The wine is sterile-filtered and bottled in September. In 2016, a late vintage, this is a text-book example of Jurançon with its crystal-clear notes of quince, mango, kaffir lime and Thai basil. Driven by the Petit Manseng, the sugar and the acid are perfectly balanced, and you would never guess the 73 g of RS (well above the minimum required for moelleux - 40 g or late harvest - 55 g! Drink now or keep 10 years or so. A terrine of goose foie gras with preserved kumquat, a sweet and sour chicken or a roasted pineapple pie would be great companions for this bottle. 50% Petit Manseng, 50% Gros Manseng. 73 g RS. pH 2.97. Pascaline Lepeltier.
This is the classic cuvée of Domaine de Souch, and if the estate mainly produces sweet wines, it builds a real following for this remarkable dry wine. Made from older vines on the main plot in front of the house, the blend is composed of a dominant of Gros Manseng, with some Petit Manseng and Petit Courbu (a very interesting, little known yet fragile grape taming down the Mansengs) grown on poudingues. Hand-harvested by tries the grapes are fermented in stainless steel then aged half in stainless steel and half in second-hand Bordeaux barrels from Domaine de Chevalier with a little batônnage until the bottling in September. 2015 was a very good vintage, with rain in the spring then regular sun and heat allowing for a long growing season. On the nose, this cuvée shows almond blossom, bergamot and a hint of petrol. In the palate its nervy tension reminding you that you are dealing with Mansengs, showing though a more savory side than usual with some notes of mountain herbs, celery salt and yellow plum pit. This is a very good bottle to keep 5 to 10 years as it will take more a Riesling profile with truffle hints, but you can enjoy it also today in a large glass with Poke or sea urchin tagliatelle. 60% Gros Manseng, 30% Petit Manseng, 10% Petit Courbu. pH 2.95. Pascaline Lepeltier.
A new cuvée conceptualized by Jean-René Hegoboru for this superb organically certified estate created by his mother, Madame Yvonne Hegoburu, Monplaisir is made from the main plot located just under the property with the first picking of clusters affected by passerillage. The idea is to offer a spring-time, easy-to-drink version of the traditional wines of the AOC, the wines drunk by the locals in the bistrots. The grapes are hand-harvested, whole cluster pressed and vinified in stainless steel vats. Malo does not happen and the level of sulfur is kept on the lower side for moelleux. The wine is sterile-filtered and bottled in the spring. With a dominant of Gros Manseng this moelleux has a gentler tension, without losing its addictive sweet and sour acidity - think Vouvray Première Trie. 2018 was a ripe, richer vintage yet alcohol is on the lower side here. On the nose, you will get passion fruit, white peach, gardenia flower and yuzu while the pristine palate has this remarkable quality of swallowing the sugar, and finishing with a dry sensation despite claiming 60 g of residual sugar. This is a great wine to pour for someone that does not like sweet wine! Pair it with a crispy Thai chicken salad or a rhum-flambéed pineapple. 80% Gros Manseng, 20% Petit Manseng. 60 g/RS. pH 2.94. Pascaline Lepeltier.
La Part Davant is Camin Larredya’s main white, produced around the family property in La Chapelle-de-Rousse on south exposed poudingues, a sandy-clay soil with cemented pebbles. Farmed biodynamically, the wine is a blend of Gros and Petit Manseng with a touch of Courbu for balance. Jean-Marc really appreciates the “complementary grapes” of the AOC, working to rehabilitate their potential! Hand-harvested, the grapes are whole-cluster pressed with a little bit of skin-contact for the Mansengs (10% of the volume) to bring aromatics and structure, and harder cycles to extract phenols. The Courbu being harvested usually two weeks earlier, it is used as levains to trigger the alcoholic fermentation for the Manseng. Blended then vinified and aged in Stockinger foudre, the malolactic does not usually occur . The wine is usually aged until the next harvest. 2018 is a rich vintage with small yields, offering a denser expression of the Part Davant. Yet it is a luminous wine with fantastic lift! The nose is layered and subtle for a Manseng based wine: you can imagine orange blossoms, lemon verbena and star fruit. In the palate, everything is in place, with a more unctuous feel than usual but with such a back bone of acidity that there is no heaviness. Slight grainy tannins in the finish bring even more dimension. A great bottle to drink now, the wine would be even more enjoyable with a couple of years of cellaring. Decant and serve in large Bordeaux glass, and pair it with a bottarga and etrog tagliatelles or a sole meunière. If you like Saumur Blanc or Rheinhessen Riesling, this wine is for you. 65% Gros Manseng, 25% Petit Manseng, 15% Courbu.
Costat Darrèr is a great introduction to the style of the domaine and how Jean-Marc Grussaute is capturing the concentration of the sugar without remarkable elegance This wine is a blend between Mansengs grown on the west facing slopes of the property, blended with grapes he buys since 20 years from three dear friends - they have another job and are tending their small plots for pleasure. The goal of this wine is to offer a delicious, refreshing moelleux in the way it was done last century at a fantastic price for value. Hand-harvested, the grapes are slowly pressed to extract aroma and structure from the Mansengs. Vinification and aging happen in foudres. Volcanic sulfur is used with parsimony and the wine is sterile filtered. 2017 is an ideal vintage in the region, a little bit too perfect for Jean-Marc who likes the character a complex growing season can bring! This Costat Darrèr is a delicious candy, a pure gourmandise with a little more concentration than usual. If you like orange marmalade, membrillo paste, cinnamon and lily of the valley, you will love this nose. Once again, the sweetness seems swallowed by the acidity, leaving the palate fresh and ready for another glass. Enjoy it today or keep it 5 years. A pan-sautéed foie gras with apple-cider reduction, a passion fruit panna cotta or a mild blue-cheese would make some great pairing. 75% Petit Manseng, 25% Gros Manseng. 60 g RS. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Beware, this is a superb yet addictive moelleux! Au Capcèu is a 100% Petit Manseng coming from the highest plot of Camin Larredya in La Chapelle-de-Rousse. On these poudingues at 300 m, slowly concentrated by the Vent Balaguer (the local name for the hot, dry wind generated by Foehn) the Petit Manseng delivers a crystalline expression of fruits, flowers, spices, herbs, all in their pure essence. 2017 is an ideal vintage in the region, a little bit too perfect for Jean-Marc who likes the character a complex growing season can bring! So that year he decided to macerate 20% of the grapes for a couple of days to bring more tannins and some phenolic bitterness to bring complexity to the structure (his experience with macerated Petit Manseng for his cuvée Iranja was particularly useful). Vinification and aging happened in used Seguin-Moreau barrels on fine lees. Volcanic sulfur is used with parsimony and the wine is sterile filtered. In this vintage, the surmaturity of the late harvested grapes gives complex aromatics to the wine, showing of course the classic primary notes of passion fruit purée, lemongrass and lilies but already showing some hints of secondary notes like yellow plumes, bergamot, dried lemon verbena, kumquat zest. On the palate, the wine has a superb balance, carried on of course by the acidity but also by the bitterness and the tea-like tannins, enhancing its saltiness. This bottle will age for decades, but you can already enjoy it if you are craving a sweet treat. Pair it with a Canard Apicius, a passion fruit soufflé, a soft blue cheese like a Fourme de Montbrison or indulge in it by itself. 100% Petit Manseng. 90 g RS. Pascaline Lepeltier.
A new cuvée conceptualized by Jean-René Hegoboru for this superb organically certified estate created by his mother, Madame Yvonne Hegoburu, Monplaisir is made from the main plot located just under the property with slightly younger vines (around 15 years) grown on poudingues. The idea with this cuvée is to offer a fresh and balanced, light expression of Jurançon sec (it is not unusual for some wines in the AOC to reach 14.5%) bottled in the spring, yet complex and delicious, while giving more concentration to the historical range. Made mostly with Gros Manseng as the grape is rounder than the Petit, the grapes are hand-harvested, whole cluster pressed and vinified in stainless steel vats. Malo does not happen. The wine is slightly filtered and bottled in the spring. This is a perfect wine for lovers of sleek Chinon or Coteaux-du-Loir Chenin or trocken Saar Riesling, with the same appealing elderflower, kaffir lime and celery salt nose, the same bracing yet ripe acidity with the addictive salty finish. 2017 was a pretty perfect vintage, and the wines are already quite open. You can keep this wine up to 3-5 years or enjoy it this summer with some Peruvian ceviche, spring pea gazpacho or fresh goat cheese. 90% Gros Manseng, 10% Petit Manseng. pH 2.85. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Régine and Jean-Joseph Aurisset of Chateau Lapuyade/Clos Marie-Louise produce sensational dry, moelleux and dessert wines from Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng on their Biodynamic estate deep in the hills of Jurançon, southeast 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. The Aurissets prefer a very full-bodied style of Jurançon - all their wines are aged in used barriques which gives amazing complexity and phenomenal richness to the 100% Petit Manseng Cuvée Marie-Louise. 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 drinks beautifully for weeks, re-corked in the fridge.) David Lillie
It is very rare to be able to enjoy a 100% sémillon from old vines, and made with all the due respect to the plants and the wine. Here it is a great occasion, allowing you to discover the potential of this underrated grape which is the main component of iconic Haut-Brion and Laville Haut-Brion blanc. More subtle and maybe more long-lived than Sauvignon Blanc, this rich grape reveals itself gaining superb depth and tension with bottle age, something that Jean-Mary Le Bihan understood very well for this cuvée. Originally produced from 1925-1929 Sémillon-Sauvignon-Muscadelle on boulbènes, it has come since 2008 only from 1938 Sémillon planted on Oligocene limestone. After being hand-harvested, the grapes are slowly pressed over 6 or 7 hours, then vinified in new (¼) and used 300 and 400 liter-barrels (from local copper Francis Miquel) with spontaneous alcoholic and malolactic fermentations. The wine is just topped off until bottling, with sulfurs added if needed (50 ppm total usually), and aged for 24 months in oak then 24 months in a 27 hl cement tank before being bottled and kept to rest for more time. This is the current release in the US (in France they just started to sell 2014). From a cooler vintage with a great late summer, this is quite a spectacular wine that would please and probably confuse mature white Hermitage or Pessac-Leognan lovers! Full of lilies and almond blossom, honey and lemon pie, the palate is rich yet dry, with a superb texture, serene and poised, spicier, smokier and racier than you could expect from the nose with a salivating gentle bitterness. This bottle can still gain with a couple more years of aging, yet opened today, decanted and served in large glass, it will be perfect with a poached guinea hen and root vegetables, a morels risotto or aged hard-press cheeses. 100% Sémillon. Pascaline Lepeltier.
I so wish more white Bordeaux would taste like this wine, with an assumed ripeness, and the trust that limestone terroir and careful viticulture will preserve the acid backbone! Made from 2 vineyards called Pérette and Noisetiers, the blend of these grapes used to compose the original Pérette et les Noisetiers cuvée until 2008 when Jean-Mary started to farm a 1938 vineyard on limestone and switch there the production of his top white. The Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc vines are some of the oldest of the Côtes-de-Duras appellation, planted in 1925 and 1929 on boulbènes, a silica based soil typical of the western part of Bordeaux. Some Muscadelle are also used. After being hand-harvested, the grapes are slowly pressed over 6 or 7 hours, then vinified in used 300 and 400 liter-barrels with spontaneous alcoholic and malolactic fermentations. The wine is just topped off until bottling, with sulfurs added if needed (50 ppm total usually). A light filtration is done, then the wine is aged in bottle before being released to rest and gain in precision. 2014 is the current release in the US (2016 was just released in France), one of the last classic years in the region with a great Indian summer allowing for late picking. With a very generous nose revealing rosemary, yuzu zest, oriental spices and blond tobacco, the palate is unctuous yet very firm, with great acidity. Dry, it gets saltier with more lemongrass, peach pit and toasted hazelnut and a perfectly handled oak treatment. With more time, this wine will continue to feel smokier and drier. Serve it today in a large Bordeaux glass, and pair it with a white asparagus with black garlic flavored Hollandaise or braised octopus with aioli. 50% Sémillon, 30% Sémillon, 20% Muscadelle. Pascaline Lepeltier.
From organically certified vineyards, 1 ha dedicated to Petit Manseng and 1 ha to Petit Courbu, permaculture-pioneer Peio Espil offers a very unique interpretation of Irouléguy Blanc as he is one of the few growing grapes on Trias limestone, a soil so hard he had to use dynamite to plant the vines. No tilling, use of ewes to graze the spontaneous vegetation and compost the soils leads to balanced yields of very concentrated grapes. Harvested almost at the same time despite the fact Petit Courbu is usually an earlier ripening grape than Petit Manseng (Petit Courbu has usually dense cluster and thinner skin berries, but not at Ilarria thanks to the farming), both see some skin maceration (6 hours or so for the Petit Courbu, 12-14 hours for the Petit Manseng) in order to extract aromatic compounds and structure, the musts are blended right away, and fermented spontaneously, with malolactic always occurring, something very rare for the region! Long fermentations are preferred for texture. A little bit of sulfites are used after the fermentation when the wine needs to be racked from inox to demi-muids from tonnellerie de l’Adour. Then the wine stays untouched on its fine lees with racking if needed. The wine is aged up to 18 months, and doesn’t need to be filtered before bottling. Sulfites are adjusted at this time for a total round 45ppm. Peio likes the 2017 as the wine is balanced with a density he likes. At 13% of alcohol, it has a surprising density with so many layers: a very complex nose of passion fruit, chamomile, yellow plum and smoked salt, the palate is very savory with a saline quality, and more dried hawthorne and thai basil leaves. It is a salivating wine with so much to give, that you want to sip on it little by little. Enjoy it today in large Burgundy glass or keep it for 10 years. For pairing, a rabbit agnolotti with dried sage or a cauliflower panna cotta with crab meat flesh and grapefruit segment. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Hegoxuri, the “White from the South”, is without a doubt one the greatest white wines of the Southwest. Made since 1997, the blend and the site evolved over the year as the Riouspeyrous continued their exploration of their terroirs, creating in 2009 single cuvées highlighting their soils: the light and poor iron-rich sandstone “grès”, the powerful and structure schists, and the volcanic dense “ophite” mix with clay. Per the appellation decree, Irouléguy must be a blend of at least 2 grapes so the domaine is growing Gros Manseng (a bit more than 1 ha), then Petit Manseng and a little bit of Petit Courbu. In 2017, Hegoxuri is composed of Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Petit Courbu from the two main terroirs of the vineyards, the grès and the sandstone. All grapes are harvested by terroirs and ripeness, Petit Courbu first, destemmed and Petit Manseng sees a light maceration. They are looking to have quick spontaneous alcoholic fermentation. All the different pickings are vinified and aged separately in Stockinger foudres and a mix of aged demi-muids, to be blended by cuvée once fermentation is over, usually in January-February. Malo-lactic does not occur, by choice and because of the pH. The wines are usually bottled in September with a very light filtration. Sulfite is carefully used when fermentation is done, and is never over 60 ppm. The vintage was a balanced one, with a good growing season but rain in September that led to a slightly earlier harvest than usual. With a great nose of elderflower, grapefruit zest and sage, the palate has even more aromatic complexity with subtle tones of white peach, kaffir lime, fleur de sel, and just a touch of very well balanced blond tobacco. There is a great tannins grain texture too! Not as high in alcohol as usual yet unmistakably Manseng with its density and texture, the wine is really approachable today yet with a 10 year aging potential (think about the evolution of some dry riesling on schist!). Decant it and serve it in a Burgundy glass, and pair it with a wild salmon gravlax (from the Adour river nearby is a must), pan-sautéed sweetbreads or aged sheep milk cheese. 60% Gros Manseng, 30% Petit Manseng, 10% Petit Courbu. Pascaline Lepeltier.