: The wine

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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This fashionable, tangy, distinctive white wine has been celebrated and fiercely protected since the Middle Ages, and Jurançon was one of France’s earliest appellations contrôlées. In the 14th century, the princes of béarn and the parliament of navarra introduced the concept of a cru by identifying and valuing specific favoured vineyard sites. Locals claim this as France’s first attempt at vineyard classification, just as they claim the drop of Jurançon with which the infant Henri IV’s lips were rubbed at his baptism in 1553 was responsible for most of his subsequent achievements. The Dutch were great enthusiasts for this wine and there was also a flourishing export trade across the Atlantic until phylloxera almost destroyed the wine. Jurançon’s reputation was further advanced in the early 20th century by the enthusiasm of the French writer Colette. The principal varieties are the indigenous petit manseng and gros manseng, but the dry version may include up to 50% made up of other local varieties petit courbu, courbu, Camaralet de Lasseube, and Lauzet. In the early 21st century vines were grown on about 800 ha/2,000 acres of vineyards in this hilly, relatively cool corner of southern France near Pau at the relatively high average elevation of 300 m/984 ft. Spring frosts are such a threat that many vines are espalier trained, but the Atlantic influence ensures sufficient rainfall. Vineyards on a mixture of limestone, sand, clay, and stones are protected by the Midi d’Ossau mountain. While the wines from Monein tend to be particularly rich in traditional style, those from the Coteaux (Chapelle-de-Rousse) tend to be crisper and more mineral.