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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)

Grin & Barrère it

Barrère “Clos de la Vierge” 2009 Jurançon Sec (Southwest France) – Mineral-infused wax, hard panes of glassy structure, secretive greenish-white forest fruit. A really intriguing wine, faceted and somewhat mysterious. (7/11)

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)

Bottom heavy

Labasse “Domaine Bellegarde” 2006 Jurançon Sec “La Pierre Blanche” (Southwest France) – Stealthy. An innocuous, bony-white frame sits there in full view, not doing much of note, while a much more texturally interesting patina of old rocks and leathery fruit sneaks up from behind. But if you turn to stare at the patina, it’s gone…only to reappear moments later, coating something else just out of view. A really interesting wine that plays an amusing game of elusiveness. (1/11)

Moe, Larrieu, & Curlycue

[vineyard]Larrieu “Clos Lapeyre” 2005 Jurançon Moelleux “La Magendia” (Southwest France) – Ripe, sweet, and pure. Lemon and apple paired, with a heart of cool alpine valley sunshine and little drizzlings of fresh acidity over the top. Pretty. (7/09)

Lend me your Barrère

Barrère “Clos de la Vierge” 2005 Jurançon Sec (Southwest France) – Beeswax, sand, dried pineapple bereft of all its sweetness, and beige minerality left naked by a great transparency of fruit. There’s some summer sweat, as well, but mostly the wine stands, stark and silent, waiting. Ready? Nowhere near? Wines like this are so deceptive. (3/09)

Virgin secs

Barrère “Clos de la Vierge” 2005 Jurançon Sec (Southwest France) – Intense summer vegetables, green and complex, with piercing acidity and a narrow, planar texture. It seems to possess an inner chill, as if it were turning to ice from the inside out, yet the solidity stays just underneath the surface of consumption. (8/08)

Virgin manseng

Barrère “Clos de la Vierge” 2005 Jurançon Sec (Southwest France) – Herbal with a post-rainstorm, humid, sweaty character and an acrid, biting acidity; it all works beautifully, but it’s not a wine you want to serve to New World chardonnay types. A wine in 7/8; not danceable, but forcing you to listen carefully, after which the pulse eventually permeates. (5/08)

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)

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