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DOMAINE BERTHOMIEU
2010 MADIRAN "Charles de Batz" $19.99
2005 PACHERNC DU VIC-BIHL  Sold Out
We are, in fact, a bit mad for Madiran!  How could we not be?
 

With big, teeth-staining red wines being so fashionable, Madiran ought to be the rage everywhere.  It will get extra points for its color and, since wine writers love young wines that slap you around a bit, this ought to score in the low 110s.



The Berthomieu estate has been around since 1850.  The sixth generation, Didier Barre, runs the show.  He has about 26 hectares of vineyards, predominantly in red grapes.  Tannat is king, of course.  But Didier has  Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux, after all, is not too far north) and Fer Servadou.  



We have a dynamite 2010 vintage in stock.  This is a wine that is so dark, you'll have trouble assessing its clarity is difficult.  We mean dark, deep, intense and inky.  


 

The color adheres to the glass...this is a deep, dark, full-throttle, pedal-to-the-metal red wine.

 



Tannat is the main grape, though
Barre uses a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon  blend.  You'll find, aside from the glass and teeth-staining color,  the wine displays lots of black fruit aromas.  Think of tiny blackberries, blackcurrants and dark plums.  You have to serve this with something fairly rich...it will overpower mildly-seasoned foods, for example.  Lamb...duck...beef: all good accompaniments.  The wine, his top bottling, is named after Charles de Batz.  That name might be obscure to most people, though his "other" name, D'Artagnan (of Three Musketeers' fame) is better known.


But, be warned: Not for those who drink fruity California Chardonnays or basic Beaujolais.

The estate also produces a dynamite dry white called "Pacherenc du Vic Bihl."  This is a white wine that's well under the radar.  Quality of this sort of wine has escalated nicely over the past decade, or so.  I was enchanted by this wine when it was in tank in the winter of 2006.  Part of the total production is vinified in wood, part in stainless steel.

Barre's blend is quite good.  This wine features 50% Gros Manseng, 25% Petit Manseng and 25% Petit Courbu.  The wine in bottle is exceptional and even better than I tasted previously.  There's a wonderful citrusy note to the nose with a bit of a woodsy element.  There are floral aspects here with some herbal undertones.  And then the wood chimes in with a bit of harmony to produce a remarkably interesting and delicious dry white.  ((There are sweet versions of Pacherenc...this is not one of those!))




Didier served a plate of little "bites" featuring a bread laced with olive oil, a tiny morsel of ham, a red pepper and an bit of anchovy.  It's a flavorful mix and the white wine, Pacherenc du Vic Bihl was a good match.
 
 

 

 


 
CHATEAU LE ROC 
2009 FRONTON Red  Sold Out
2012 Fronton Rose Sold Out
FOLLE NOIRE D'AMBAT Sold Out

ch_le_roc.gif (7340 bytes)The main grape variety in the region of Fronton, just north of Toulouse, is called Negrette.   I read that this is the same variety which in California is called "Pinot St. George."  Since the French (and Italians) have to have multiple names for the same grape variety (to confuse us more easily), this also might be found as Morelet, Chalosse Noir, Cap-de-More, Dégoûtant and Saintongeais.  Fill your head with obscure info like that and you'll be branded a true wine geek and you'll probably need an aspirin. 



Chateau Le Roc is run by the Ribes family, who cultivate the 18 hectare property.  We had a dynamite red wine from them which is a field blend (the various varieties being inter-planted and harvested and fermented together) based on Negrette.  Syrah, Cabernet and Cot are the other varieties. 
 


The Folle Noire red wine was a delight!  It's predominantly Negrette and is vinified to be drinkable in its youth.  And it is!!  You'll find fairly deep color to this wine with a marvelous fruit fragrance and an underlying spice tone.  
 
We like this served at cool cellar temperature, so leaving the bottle in the 'fridge for 40-60 minutes is ideal.  It can be paired with all sorts of foods, too.

.
 
They make a lovely dry Rosé...the most recent vintage, now sold out, was a bit fruity and mildly smoky...

 


The Ribes Brothers.


Large wood and larger wood in the Le Roc cellars.




Lots of bottles get opened when we visit!



Apparently a previous generation made some sort of aperitif or vermouth-styled wine.


Until next time!


The Ribes Brothers in 2011.


Jean Luc Ribes in the winter of 2008.


The Le Roc cellar in 2008.

 


One of the Le Roc Pooches, making good use of a French oak barrel.

 

 


DOMAINE DE SULAUZE

In 2004 Karina and Guillaume Lefèvre purchased scads of land in the western-most part of Provence and immediately set about cultivating grapevines in an organic manner.  These days they've gone beyond mere organic farming and are biodynamic.  
 


Why is the estate called Surlauze?  Well, "lauze" is a kind of stone and a rock quarry is called a "lauzières" in Provence or a lavières in Burgundy.  This sort of stone is often used for making the roof of a house or barn, as you can see below.


The property is quite large and they cultivate something like 3 dozen+ varieties of wheat (and have some fellow come and bake breads in an ancient oven which was built in 1882).  There's barley and hops being cultivated, too, as a former cellar rat is now making quite a range of beers under the Sulauze banner.

They have a few hectares of olives, too and make some oil.  

There was a field in the distance with a herd of bulls, too.


I asked them about this...saying I was just in Burgundy where there were no bulls, but a fair bit of bull-shit, while here in Provence they have a lot of bulls, but no B-S.
Maybe this is a matter of perspective?

The cellar is rather simple.  It's not the museum-of-a-winery you might visit in Bordeaux.  And it's not one of those Burgundian showplaces, either.  This is Provence.  It's neat, clean and functional for making wine, which is as it should be.

The crew at the shop have been big fans of the estate's Cochon wine...a cool blend of Grenache, Syrah, Vermentino, Cinsault and Mourvedre.

The 2014 Cochon is currently in stock...fairly dark in color and sporting all sorts of red and black fruits.  The idea is they've gone "whole hog" on this wine and make this blend of all sorts of grapes. Most likely you'd find Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvedre and a little bit of the white grape Rolle in the blend. 
You'll find it to be along the lines of a youthfully exuberant Beaujolais, except with more spice notes and more body.  
But like a good Beaujolais, this shows most handsomely lightly chilled to cellar temperature and it's quite versatile in terms of food pairings, so anything from lighter fare to full-throttle, well-seasoned meats can work with this.

On the day of my visit, there was an entire crew from some restaurant in Norway being hosted for a tour and tasting.  It seems they are quite enthusiastic for the Sulauze wines and so they took a busman's holiday to come to France.
I'm quite certain the Sulauze wines will pair nicely with Kjøttkaker, Fårikål, Stekte pølser or tørrfisk, but Mediterranean cuisine also works handsomely.


The Welcoming Committee had a little rest and relaxation, watching the festivities.

 


The group members were quite enthusiastic for the Sulauze wines (and beers)...

And the few Provencal vittles they offered didn't hurt, either.

 


Galinette is a dry white wine.  
To me, it simply "tastes like Provence."  
The crew at the shop was perplexed by this description, but if you've ever spent time in Provence, perhaps you will recognize the character in this wine.
It's a blend of 40% Grenache Blanc, 20% Ugni Blanc, 20% Clairette and 20% Vermentino.  The Grenache is pressed immediately after crushing, but the others are given a bit of skin contact.  Most of the juice is fermented in tank, but just to give an additional layer of complexity, 10% is fermented in seasoned oak cooperage.
There's a suggestion of green apple here, along with a faintly stony, minerally tone.  But we find that underlying character which offers notes of herbs and spices that haunts us as being decidedly Provençal in character.
Try a bottle with some starters...olives, salame, etc. or pair this with some grilled seafood.
The 2014 is in stock.

 


Les Amis is an especially delightful, friendly wine if you're on its wavelength.
A blend of Syrah and Grenache, they do a brief cold soak before initiating the fermentation, so the skins macerate for about two weeks in total with the juice.  After the fermentation, the wine is transferred to large wood vats where it stays for about 9 months.  
They add no cultured yeast...no sulfur has been added, either and yet the wine shows quite handsomely.
Oh...!  The Syrah: it's said to be the grape some Northern Rhone vignerons called "Sérine."
At the very least, it's a massal selection of Syrah cuttings likely taken from vineyards in Côte Rôtie.  Or it could simply be Syrah, but there's a bit of confusion regarding Sérine as some growers regard it as a grape variety that's different from typical Syrah.
Is it a smaller-berried version of Syrah?  Was it originally Syrah and it's morphed over the years into a uniquely regional type of Syrah??  Or what???
Whatever it is, it's very charming and damned good.
This is a wine which probably is best consumed in its youth...the color is radiantly purple and the wine is teeming with dark plummy fruit, a bushel of red berries with a bit of spice and a touch of tapenade...
We suggest serving it lightly chilled to cellar temperature.

Currently in Stock:  2014 SULAUZE GALINETTE (White Blend) $17.99
2014 SULAUZE COCHON (Red Blend) $15.99
2014 SULAUZE LES AMIS (Sérine/Grenache Blend)  $22.99

 


They make an interesting range of beers...One day, perhaps, we may have a Sulauze brew in the shop!


Those wires near the ceiling allow them to hang bunches of grapes there in an effort to dehydrate the fruit.
They make a dessert wine from these and the wine is somewhat along the lines of a Banyuls or Maury.


 

 

 

DOMAINE D'OURÉA

The name of this winery comes from Greek mythology...the Primeval gods, it's said, emerged at Creation and amongst these protogenoi are Air, Sea, Light, Sky, Day, etc.  Another of these is Ουρεα or Ourea...the Roman term is Numina Montanum and this all translates to mountains.  

The various Ourea were offspring of Gaia and these are "gods" represented the 10 mountains known to the Greeks way back when.  Aitna (or Aetna) was one of these...Sicilian, of course.  Etna.  
Olympos (or Olympus) is another of the Ourea.

They had no knowledge of Mount Diablo or Mount Tamalpais back in those unenlightened times, it seems. Or the French Dentelles de Montmirail in the Vaucluse...
 
Winemaker Adrien Roustan is not yet viewed as a winemaking god, but he's still quite young and his best vintages are ahead of him.  Still, he's off to a good start.

He inherited 12 hectares of vines from his Grandfather back in 2010.  He began preparing for his enological adventure by getting an education at the wine school in Beaune (Burgundy).  He must have been an impressive student, as he got an internship at the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.  Then, for something completely different, he came to California and interned at Turley Wine Cellars.  DRC cultivates its vineyards according to biodynamic principles.  Turley is big on organics, too.

Grandpa wasn't a winemaker, though, and neither were Roustan's parents.  So his efforts have been somewhat Herculean, if you will.

Today Adrien has about 20 hectares with close to half his vineyards in the Vacqueyras appellation.  This wine comes from two parcels and we understand both were planted in 1950.  One is called Les Hautes Garrigues which is planted on red clay.  Roustan explains this contributes finesse and minerality to his wine.  The other parcel is Les Pendants and the soils there are blue and yellow marl which Adrien credits with providing a measure of strength and depth.

He also has magnificent vineyards in the highest part of the Gigondas appellation.  And the Dentelles de Montmirail, as the craggy "teeth" of the mountain top appears, is the Southern Rhone's version of Aetna or Olympos.

The road to these vineyards seems fairly normal as you pull off the main drag to drive to the vineyards.  Eventually, though, there's a sign suggesting you not proceed further.  It's a very bumpy, twisting and turning stretch which would have damaged a normal automobile, but in Adrien's heavy-duty van it was a mild rollercoaster ride.

His Gigondas vines are planted at approximately 500 meters in elevation, one of the secrets to his wine.

With an emphasis on "organic" in the vineyards, it's not much of surprise to learn he's a careful winemaker with an eye towards "natural."  

The grapes are all harvested by hand.  Indigenous yeast fermentation.  He strives for whole cluster fermentations with but gentle crushing of the berries as he doesn't speak so much of of "extracting" color, tannin and character to the wine, but more in terms of "infusing" these elements.

A cellar full of oak barrels?

The only wood we saw at D'Ouréa were some pallets on which to stack and ship cases of wine.  Roustan, ever so passionate about the vineyards, wants to showcase the fruit and not a tree.

We currently have the 2013 D'Ouréa Vacqueyras in the shop.  It's a showcase for Grenache as Roustan prefers not incorporating other varieties into this.  His other wines, though, are blended with typical Southern Rhone grapes.
No oak, as noted earlier, so the wine displays ripe berries, dark fruits and a suggestion of a floral tone...the tannins are not aggressive, so it's showing well in its youth and is quite handsome on the dinner table with lamb (of course), pork or beef.  A vegetarian friend said it went well with her Ratatouille, too.

Currently in stock:  2013 D'OURÉA VACQUEYRAS  $23.99

 

 

CHÂTEAU LA COUSTARELLE

Wineries in the once-famous region of Cahors have become jealous of the 'fame and fortune' garnered by vintners in Argentina with the Malbec grape.

You see, from their perspective, Malbec's home is in France's Southwest region of Cahors.  

The wines of the Cahors region, about 60 miles north of Toulouse (and 2+ hours' drive east of Bordeaux) has long been known for its deep red wine.  It was, we understand, on the table during the wedding celebration of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Hank-the-Second (around the year 1152...and we were not invited!).  Pope John the 22nd was born in Cahors and it was his Sacramental wine.   Russian Emperor Peter The First was a fan of Cahors wines (this was around the late 1600s, early 1700s).  

Cahors wines were darker and deeper in color than Bordeaux way back when...and it was described as "the black wine of Cahors."  

The region experienced a disaster in 1956...winter frosts (like they have frost in the summer?) killed off the vineyards.  Growers replanted in the following years and the Malbec grape (also known as Côt or Côt Noir and even as Auxerrois, which is truly confusing since in Alsace, Auxerrois is a white grape!) became more greatly entrenched in Cahors.



The La Coustarelle estate is a bit below the radar of most French wine aficionados.  The property is owned by Michel and Nadine Cassot and they're in the village of Prayssac next to an on-the-radar property called Clos de Gamot.

We usually have two wines from La Coustarelle.  The 'regular' bottling is approximately 80% Malbec, tempered with Merlot.  It's a good, medium-bodied red wine showing hints of dark fruits and a faint minty/woodsy character.

The "Reserve" bottling is called "Cuvée Prestige" and this is usually 90% Malbec with 10% Tannat.  As you might imagine, it's a bigger, more structured wine.  But it's not especially astringent as the Cassot family does a great job with the vinification and maturation of the wine.  Small oak gives a really attractive wood component.  It's medium+ to full-bodied.  


The Cassot family in their tasting room at La Coustarelle.


Currently in stock:  LA COUSTARELLE CAHORS $11.99
LA COUSTARELLE Cuvée Prestige  $16.99

CLICK HERE TO SEE SOME CAHORS CUISINE...
MY LUNCH WITH THE CASSOT FAMILY

 

 

 
 


L'HORTUS

2011 "Bergerie" Blanc List $16  SALE $13.99
2012 ROSÉ SALE $12.99

l'hortus.gif (964 bytes)
North of Montpellier is the rising appellation of Pic Saint Loup.  One of the wineries behind this notoriety is L'Hortus and winemaker Jean Orliac and his son François.  












They have some 67 hectares in a fantastic little valley.  The vineyards are in three parcels.  The soils are quite rocky (as you can see if you look closely at the photo).

Red grapes dominate, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah being the main varieties.  About 10% of the vineyards are devoted to white grapes, Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne and Sauvignon Blanc accounting for those few hectares.


They have a considerable number of stainless steel tanks for the fermentation and clarification of the various L'Hortus wines.  The top cuvée are given some time in small oak. 

 

The Bergerie Blanc is a magnificent dry white wine.  The 2009 is a bit less Rhone-ish than last year's wine.  I'd describe this as showing more apple and pear, rather than the peach and citrus.  Still, it's nice.  Dry.

Oak is not a major part of the wine.  Actually, come to think of it, it's not a minor part, either.


Apparently someone needed more "wood" in their white wine, so they gnawed on the bench outside the Orliac's residence.





 

 

DOMAINE CHIROULET

The word "chiroulet" refers to a whistling sound, a sound one might hear as the wind whistles over the hills and dales of this Gascony estate.  

The property is owned by the Fezas family, with  Philippe at the helm.  He not only makes wines and brandies (they are in the region famous for Armagnac, after all!), but also represents the barrel-making firm of Seguin-Moreau.  

The Fezas family makes both white and red wines of note.  And their wines seem to show a dedication to quality that's exceptional.  After visiting I sensed they'd like their wines to compete with those more famous estates in Bordeaux.

Especially good is their Côtes de Gascogne white wine, the Cuvée Terres Blanches.  While many wines of this humble appellation are based on Ugni Blanc or Colombard, this wine is of terrific pedigree.  Fezas blends Gros Manseng, a more "noble" grape variety that's more commonly found in the Jurançon wines, along with Sauvignon Blanc and Ugni Blanc.  

"We have planted our white grape vineyards on northern facing slopes and higher elevation sites," says Philippe.  "The chalk and limestone translates to good acidity, floral, mineral and fruit notes in the wine.  

The 2012 is very fine and quite flavorful.  Bone dry, too.  "I don't like the green acidity in the Gros Manseng," Fezas explains.  "With time on the lees and some battonage (stirring the spent yeast sediment), I can create a wine of greater complexity."  
Indeed.

The wine displays some citrusy notes, but you can also sense that underlying minerality and chalky quality.  Though he is a big fan of barrel aged wines, oak is not found in this white wine.  The fruit is in the spotlight.   We like this quite a bit as an aperitif wine, especially with nibbles such as sushi.  But it pairs handsomely with seafood, too.

We currently have the 2008 Red wine.  It is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and about 10% Tannat.  The wine displays remarkable finesse and elegance while costing a mere fourteen bucks.  Very fine!  

They make a seriously fine dry white called La Cote d'Heux.  It's Gros Manseng matured for a brief period in well-seasoned oak cooperage.  The oak is not intended to impart wood to the wine but to allow them to leave the wine on the spent yeast and to stir the lees from time to time.  This is one of the little treasures in the shop and it's known just to the 'regulars' who don't mind venturing off the beaten path.

MORE CHIROULET PHOTOS

Currently in stock:  2012 Chiroulet Côtes de Gascogne Blanc $11.99
2008 Chiroulet Côtes de Gascogne Rouge $13.99
La Cote d'Heux White Wine Sold Out

Chiroulet "Reserve"  Special Order: $18.99 per bottle - 10% case discount

We usually also have Chiroulet's Floc de Gascogne, a lovely white aperitif wine.   

 

 

 

 

 



CHÂTEAU du CÈDRE

Say the name "Cahors" to most fans of French wines and they'll immediate associate the name with "the black wine" of Cahors.  That's because many years ago the wines of this appellation in the southwest were much darker than those made in nearby Bordeaux.

Malbec, or "Cot" as it's known in the region, is the predominant variety.  We've periodically had the wines of the Verhaeghe family, Château du Cèdre, here in the shop.  The wines have typically been deeply-colored, muscular, mildly astringent, somewhat coarse wines.  Some vintages are more "plump" and balanced than others.  

This estate is located due west of the city of Cahors.   The Verhaeghe family farms about 25 hectares of vineyards, all but two of them being red varieties.  That means "Cot," though they have a bit of Merlot and Tannat (half of the white vineyards are Viognier!).  Brothers Pascal and Jean-Marc run the domaine, the former having done some "industrial espionage" at Napa's Saintsbury winery as an "intern."  

The wines, to my taste, have been improving and evolving in a nice direction.  They have the dark color one hears about Cahors wines as having.  The 2004 displays a touch of toast and a hint of wood which I didn't find until the 2002 vintage.  

I read they've fine-tuned their winemaking...fermenting in wood, rather than stainless steel or cement tanks.  They're doing some micro-oxygenation, according to Pascal Verhaeghe, who told me they like the more approachable "texture" or structure of their wines today.  The secondary, malolactic fermentation is now being done in barrel, a popular technique which winemakers like because it "fixes" the color of the wine.

We sometimes carry the "Le Prestige" bottling from du Cèdre.  As mentioned, the 2007 is a deeply-colored wine and the fragrance displays lots of black fruit notes...blackberry, dark plum, etc., along with a nice woodsy note.  This may be cellared for several more years, but drinking it now, with well-seasoned red meats, for example, will show off this wine magnificently.

They make an entry level wine called "Heritage" and this is predominantly Malbec.  We understand they blend in a small amount of Merlot, though we couldn't possibly discern this when we tasted it.  The 2009 is a deep, dark red...full-bodied and young.  Be sure to pair it with savory, soulful cuisine.  It's not intended for cellaring...


By the way...we were surprised to see the word "Malbec" on the back label, but it seems the appellation laws changed recently to allow this on bottles of Cahors.  The producers had lobbied the French government for this change, since they were having trouble getting recognized alongside competitors from Argentina.


The "Le Cedre" Cahors is magnificent.  It's made entirely of Malbec and it's matured in small French oak barrels, typically about 80% of the cooperage being brand new.  The wine is massive, bigger than most Bordeaux from a warm vintage.
You can put this on the table in place of a good fifty-buck Napa Cabernet, too.  

They make a wine labeled "GC" for "grand cru," but the wine, for our taste, is well "over the top."  It's big and brawny, for sure, but the oak takes center stage and it's, for us, merely a show-piece for wine critics.  
For wine drinkers, it's too much...too big and too palate-fatiguing.  Never mind the price.

Currently in stock:  CHÂTEAU du CÈDRE 2009 "Le Prestige" CAHORS  $23.99
CHÂTEAU du CÈDRE 2009 "Heritage" Cahors  $14.99
CHATEAU du CEDRE "LE CEDRE"  $49.99




 

 




DOMAINE ILARRIA
 
 
The vineyard land in this south-west appellation struck me as rather rugged, perched on steep hills and worked by rugged individuals.  I suppose it's little wonder, then, that the wines of the Irouleguy area are some of the most "sturdy" in France and they're a galaxy apart from today's modern, internationally-styled wines so prevalent thanks to point-counting world.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


You're in the Pyrénées and Basque Country when visiting producers of Irouleguy.   The language is different, the people are wonderfully different and the wines, thank goodness, are different.  

Domaine Ilarria is owned by Peio Espil, one of the top vintners in the region, not that there are hundreds.  In fact, most of the wine of the appellation is made by the local growers' cooperative.  Most of the production from the region stays at home...only 10% is exported.  But then, when you think about it, not many foreigners probably have a palate to appreciate this sort of wine.  They make a rosé, for example, which is screamingly dry and tart.  

Here's a wine based on the Tannat grape that's "tempered" with Cabernet Franc (yikes!), so it pairs well with red meats, duck, etc.  The word "austere" comes to mind as a good descriptor.  I like the 2009 from Ilarria.  It's big, moderately herbal and I found the Cabernet Franc to give much of the aroma in this wine.  If you're a fan of Madiran and Cahors wines from the Southwest, you might consider trying a bottle of Irouleguy.  The 2009 is best paired with well-seasoned red meats or game.

Some people liken this wine to a good, sturdy Cab Franc from the Loire.  I find it a bit more aggressive, but can understand the comparison.
 
  
Mrs. Espil.



American wine geeks visiting the Ilarria cellar.


Peio Espil in explains cultivating Tannat and Cabernet vines in Basque Country.  The vines, just 6 miles from the Spanish border, are cultivated organically because Espil says the indigenous yeast on the grapes is 'stronger' or more capable of a complete fermentation.  Yields are rather small in an effort to maximize quality.


A recent vintage of Ilarria...
 


Here's an antique bottle of Irouleguy...a 1928!

Currently in stock:  2009 ILARRIA "Irouleguy"  $17.99 


The next generation of winemakers...

 





CHARLES HOURS

France's Southwest region is a marvelously rich viticultural area, dominated by Bordeaux.  Everything else in the region stands in the shadows of the sweet wines of Sauternes and the majestic Cabernet and Merlot-based wines of the Medoc, Graves, Pomerol and Saint-Emilion.

But for people who look closely at their enological radar screens, you can locate some amazingly good wines.  Those of the Jurançon can be remarkably good and yet few of our customers even know these exist.

First, there's often confusion with the wines of the Jura in the Alps and the wines of the Jurançon from the Pyrenees.  The wines are worlds apart!  

Most famous in the Jurançon appellation are the sweet wines.  But there are some very good dry wines to be found, as well.  These are usually a bit austere for the American palate, frankly.

Charles Hours is one of the leading lights in the region and a winemaker to watch.  He owns a famous little vineyard called Clos Uroulat, which we've had in the shop for several years.  

Hours took over the domain in 1983 and had 3.5 hectares of vineyards.  Over the past two decades his holdings have increased and he now tends, with the help of his young daughter Marie, something like 14 hectares.

Happily, there's no Chardonnay here.  Instead you'll find the vineyards devoted predominantly to Petit Manseng for the sweet wine and Gros Manseng and a tiny bit of Petit Courbu for the dry wine.

We've had their Uroulat wine for a number of vintages.  This is made entirely of late-picked Petit Manseng.  The harvest usually takes place in November and the fruit attains high sugar through a drying-on-the-vine process called passerillage.   Unlike Sauternes where they have long relied on Botrytis cinerea to shrivel the grapes, here the fruit hangs on the vine and essentially dehydrates thanks to a warm wind from the south.  You'll hear winemakers in the Jurançon speak of the "Foehn" winds, a dynamic where the wind blows up one side of the mountain where it dehydrates and cools and then as it flows down the other side, it becomes significantly warmer.  This wind pattern is common in the Jurançon and the Petit Manseng grapes are dried, concentrating the sugar and acid.

Hours crushes the Petit Manseng and allows the juice to settle before racking it into barrels for the fermentation.  He's sensitive to the character and quality of the juice each vintage, but generally employs about 25% new wood for the wine.  It's typically bottled after nearly a year in oak, enough time to take a touch of wood, but not so much that the oak is a prominent feature of the wine.

Uroulat is a delicious wine with fruit desserts, but it also shines when paired with baked apples, apple pie, white cakes, poached pears, etc.  In the Southwest, though, you'll find this wine being partnered with foie gras at the start of a meal, too.

The dry wine from Monsieur Hours is remarkably good and quite complex.  It's made primarily of Gros Manseng which gives the wines it backbone and crisp structure.  There's about 10% of Courbu in this which Hours says contributes a measure of finesse.  Whatever the blend, it's a good one!  We like the hint of toasty oak here, too.  The wine displays a fantastic aroma, reminding us of peach and citrus.  It's quite dry and austere on the palate, but there's a bit of weight to the wine.  Try it with seafood.

Currently in stock:  CUVÉE MARIE JURANÇON SEC $19.99
2009 UROULAT JURANÇON  $31.99 (750ml)





DOMAINE BRU-BACHÉ

Founded by Uncle Georges Bru-Baché in the 1960s (or possibly even earlier), this famous winery is today operated by nephew Claude Loustalot.

The estate comprises some 10 hectares of vines and makes 6 different wines.  Many of the wines, I understand, are fermented in barrel.

We've had their seriously sweet Jurancon in stock, but currently have  the 2010 Jurancon "Moelleux" styled wine.  It's, we understand, Gros Manseng and made of fruit that's been dried a bit to further intensify the sugar.  With the fairly high level of acidity in the wine, this comes across as lightly sweet, but not nearly as sugary as a Sauternes or seriously late-harvested wine.


Currently in stock: 2010 BRU-BACHE JURANCON $21.99








 

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