Many years ago, in my early days of studying wine (rather than just drinking it), one of the bottles our tutor brought in for us to taste was a delightful sweet wine that none of us had ever heard of before. It was called Jurançon and it resulted in an immediate ‘Wow!’ from the whole class. I’ve been buying it ever since – when I can find it, that is, because production is not large and much of it is drunk locally, which, in this case, is in the far south-west corner of France in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
I couldn’t recommend one producer over another – they all have their own slightly different styles – but I haven’t had a bad bottle yet, so, if you enjoy dessert wine and see Jurançon, then I’d suggest you give it a try.
As I got to know these wines better, I realised that, apart from the lovely sweet bottles, there was also a dry equivalent: Jurançon Sec – if it doesn’t have ‘sec’ on the label it will be sweet. Both are made from a blend of Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng, with some Courbu and Camaralet added to some of the dry versions. All are local grape varieties; none, as far as I know, is grown outside the region, so those in search of membership of the ‘100 Club’ should take note!
As with the sweet versions, Jurançon Sec from most producers is worth buying although we particularly enjoyed Domaine Montesquiou’s Cuvade Préciouse (Vine Trail, £13) recently. Its tangy flavours of citrus and herbs and just a hint of spicy smokiness from the gentle oak ageing reminded me of a nice white Burgundy – there were certainly shades of the same flavours in an Auxey-Duresses we had in a restaurant a few days later; the only difference: excluding the inevitable restaurant mark-up, the Jurançon would be about half the price!