Jurancon is a wine growing region of South Western France located around the commune of Jurancon, in the Basque region, in the foothills of the Pyrenees. All of the wine production is white. Dry Jurancon wine accounts for about three quarters of the total wine production in Jurançon. However, the region is much more famous for its sweet, late-harvested dessert wines. Only white wines are permitted to be called Jurancon. Top producers of Jurancon include Domaine Cauhapé, Domaine Castera, Clos Lapeyre, Clos Uroulat and Domaine Larreyda.
Jurancon is an historic wine growing region and was even granted an early sort of “appellation controlee” in the 14th Century by the Princes of Bearn who introduced the idea of a Jurancon Cru. It is alleged that. in 1553, sweet Jurancon wine was used to baptise the future king, Henry IV, and was considered to be “wine of the King and the King of wines” maintaining its royal connections well into the 19th century. The region suffered terribly during the phylloxera epidemic and was very nearly wiped out. In 1936 Jurancon becames one of the first Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée. Due to the tenacity of a handful of independent wine growers and a forward-thinking co-operative Jurancon has managed to survive and now prosper as wine connoisseurs seek out their wines.
The vineyards of Jurancon are generally planted on the steep slopes of the foothills of the Pyrenees at an an altitude of three hundred meters and cover 1000 hectares. The influence of both the Pyrenees, the nearby ocean and the warm sunshine of southern France helps to create Jurancon’s unique climate. The vines are trained high to help prevent damage by spring frosts. The warm climate, with Indian summers and the warm southerly Foehn (or Fohn) wind known as the Fogony, allows producers to leave grapes on the vine until late in the year so that they become over-ripe and very sweet. This allows Jurancon wine producers to make their great sweet wines. Harvesting often takes place between mid-October and mid-November, although picking can be as late as December in some vintage. On a Jurancon wine label you will often find reference to when the grapes were harvest and, as a rule of thumb, the later in the year they are harvested, the sweeter wine.
Jurancon Grape Varieties
Vines grown in Jurancon are traditional varieties such as Petit Manseng, Grand Manseng, Lauzet and Courbu. Gros Manseng is the main grape variety used for making Jurancon Sec whilst the small-berried Petit Manseng is the main grape variety used for sweet Jurancon wine or Jurancon Moelleux. Sweet Jurancon wines are characterised by aromas of white flowers, blossom, candied fruit, toast and honey.