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Bittersweet November

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2001 Jurançon “Symphonie de Novembre” (Southwest France) – Thinning just a bit, which is odd considering that the less-ripe October-harvested version was, at last encounter, still chugging along. The vagaries of late-harvesting (or better acidity), I guess. It’s still very good, with the lightness that counters the sugar still entirely present, but greens and golds are fading to paler greens and transparencies. There’s more apparent minerality as a result, but the overall texture of the wine suffers a bit. I’m thinking that I might drink most of the rest (I bought some of this at the domaine, and then a fair additional quantity in the States), perhaps leaving one bottle for later…which will, of course, end up being the best of the lot. (12/11)

Happy cow

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2001 Jurançon “Nobelsse du Temps” (Southwest France) – Purchased at the winery, and showing precious little development since that time. Alas, opening this now was a regrettable error in back-of-the-cellar archaeology; I’d meant to grab one of the earlier-picked sweet wines, laid my hands on this, and didn’t notice the mistake until…cork 75% out of the bottle…I realized that there was no back label. Rescue was probably still possible, but at that point I decided to just go with it. It tastes, as it did when I bought it, of a proto-Sauternes-like wine as much as a Jurançon, with a lot of apricottish texture, honey, and woodspice enveloping the more geographically-specific and brighter fruit at the core. Balanced, incredibly pure, and surprisingly delicate given the intensity of the components. A beautiful wine that will, alas, not see the full duration of its life in my cellar. (2/11)

Monein changes everything

[sign in pau]It’s a miracle we’re here at all. I can only conclude that “fun” in the Languedoc involves moving signs around so that non-locals can’t find anything. Time and time again, signs point exactly in the opposite of the true direction, and eventually we end up navigating by feel and landmark, keeping the massif of the Montagne d’Alaric firmly on our right. This works until we lose sight of it, after which there’s a lot of stopping to check the Michelin map, driving to the next town, stopping to check the Michelin map…

There’s a rustic charm to the area, despite its navigational vandalism. Historic sites are strewn like litter, and with a few exceptions, villages seem not to have changed for centuries. And vines? They’re everywhere.

…continued here, and featuring a visit to Jurançon’s Domaine Cauhapé.

Gregorian Chant

[vineyard work]Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2005 Jurançon Sec “Chant des Vignes” (Southwest France) – Mountain minerals and dried thyme, white-out fruit with a dominant foundation of dirt, light but insistent presence, and a fine, very precise and almost rigid finish. This isn’t a particularly expressive wine, but it more than makes up for it with striking confidence. (5/08)

Just a sec

[vines]Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2005 Jurançon Sec “Chants des Vignes” (Southwest France) – Gros manseng in stainless steel, with six months of lees contact. Grass and bitter almond dominate, with pine nut and pineapple lurking. The structure is firmly acid-based, and takes the form of a tsunami of green apple. Long, crisp, and quite nice. I don’t know if I’d call it refreshing, exactly…it’s a little too razor-like for that…but what it lacks in gulpability it makes up for with low-key complexity. (10/06)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2004 Jurançon Sec “Sève d’Automne” (Southwest France) – Gros manseng, picked at the end of October and aged sur lie in wood. Riper, with a lightly yeast-driven nose and a papery texture. A full-bodied palate of walnut- and pecan-like bitterness draws a contrast with huge minerality and an overwhelming “wetness.” This has an appealing drinkability the Chant des Vignes lacks, though it also carries a bit of baggage: some light woody tones to the finish. It’s a “better” wine, but I prefer the lighter cuvée. That might change with age, however. (10/06)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2005 Jurançon Sec “La Canopée” (Southwest France) – Petit manseng, drying on the vine, fermented in barrique with batonnage, and aged sur lie for ten months. Much woodier, with bitter almond extract persisting but this time paired with ripe citrus. The wine seems almost salty with minerality. Very long. All that said, at this point, the wine’s mostly structure. Interestingly, the domaine suggests less than half the suggested cellar time for this bottling than for the Sève d’Automne (6 vs. 15 years). (10/06)

Calendar girl

[barrels]Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2004 Jurançon “Ballet d’Octobre” (Southwest France) – Gros manseng, picked very ripe at the end of October, and fermented in slightly older wood. This is meant to be the early-drinking entry in the sweet lineup, which is demonstrated by the lightness and balance of the wine; “ballet” is an excellent name. There’s sweet apple and sugared walnut, some of that unmistakable almond, and crystallized peach skin (both fruity and texturally bitter). Long, fresh, and clean. (10/06)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2004 Jurançon “Symphonie de Novembre” (Southwest France) – A first pass at petit manseng picked in the early weeks of November, fermented in a mixture of new and two-year wood, than given an additional nine months in wood, plus another six months in tank. Concentrated peach and pear with a healthy layer of spice, apple, and even some clementine. Very rich, but with fine acidity preserved throughout. Lovely. (10/06)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2001 Jurançon “Noblesse du Temps” (Southwest France) – Dried-on-the-vine petit manseng, picked after the first frost and in multiple passes from late November through early December, vinified in new wood and spending an additional eighteen months in wood (I think not new, but our host isn’t clear). Spiced honey – said spices being mostly cinnamon and nutmeg, both in a rich, freshly-baked form – with an apple-tang edge to a fruit syrup palate that’s energized by firm acidity. There’s a bit of caramel at the tail. A beautiful wine. (10/06)

Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2000 Jurançon “Quintessence de Petit Manseng (Southwest France) – Petit manseng (of course), picked in multiple passes in the latter half of December, from grapes well past mere passerillage or normal icing and into an advanced state of shriveling and water loss. Fermented in barrique and aged for two years more (not sure in what). Absolutely noble, with incredible density. Peach essence, apricot, orange marmalade, and bursts of flowers. This explodes with character. Texturally, it’s lusciously creamy, but still with a backbone of acidity for support. The finish is all honey, fresh cream, and nut oil, and it’s long, long, long. Majestic. (10/06)