Nestled in the heart of Jurançon, in the Aquitaine region, Domaine Cauhape covers 40 hectares of slopes that are generously exposed to the south and east. Protected by the Pyrenees to the east and moderated by the Atlantic ocean to the west, the climate is Continental with ideal growing conditions. The soils are composed of an invaluable mixture of clay, silica and stone allowing a quintessential expression of the traditional varieties of Jurançon, Gros and Petit Manseng, the latter of which is left to raisinate on the vines in good years, providing Jurançon moelleux with its characteristic notes of crystallized fruit and honey. When the vine offers us its last bunches shrivelled by freezing and withered by time, they are gently picked, lovingly vinified then patiently aged in oak barrels.
In the Oct 07 issue of WS, there is a report on the wines from the Southwest region of France…and here is an excerpt:
The Sweet Wines of Jurancon
“Of all the regions of the southwest, this is perhaps the most distinctive, its reputation built on viscous and richly flavored sweet whites made mostly from the Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng grapes…
The leading vintner of the region is the genteel and knowledgeable Henri Ramonteu at Domaine Cauhape. His best wines are pure-tasting, late harvest sweeties; Ramonteau picks his grapes in stages through the autumn (and even into the winter) at ascending ripeness levels. Jurancon Symphonie de Novembre 2004 (93 pts) shows rich flavors of apricot, peach and ripe pear backed by fresh acidity, whereas the Noblesses du Temps 2001 (93 pts) is riper, featuring plenty of honey and butterscotch notes. Both wines were fermented in new oak and saw extensive oak aging.
As is the norm in Jurancon, the sweetness of Ramonteu’s wines is a product of what the French call passerillage. Rather than being infected with noble rot, as in Sauternes, the natural sweetness of the grapes is concentrated by allowing them to dry or raisin on the vine through an extended harvest, a process aided by the region’s normally warm and dry autumns.
Despite his sweet success, Ramonteu has his eyes on dry wines. ‘My challenge is to create a new generation of dry wines. I want the same reputation for dry wines as I have for sweet,’ he says.”