Jurançon is located in the foothills of the Pyrenees, in the Basque
region of the South West France, along with the neighbouring appellations of
Bearn and Irouleguy. It produces dry white wines, yet its fame
lies with its sought-after sweet white wines.
Vines are grown on steep mountain slopes and for the sweet wines the grapes
are often hand picked well into October and November to allow for the
development of noble rot.
Although small quantities of the strictly local Courbu, Lauzet, and
Camaralet grapes sometimes contribute to both the dry and sweet wine blends,
Gros Manseng the major grape variety in Jurançon Sec (dry), producing a
refreshing, full-bodied, richly-flavoured style, with pungent floral aromas
(acacia), candied fruits notes and nuances of toasted almonds. Jurançon Sec is
typically aged in stainless steel and reaches its peak just before its fourth
Petit Manseng is responsible for Jurançon (oak-aged) sweet wines, that
combine the mellow, overripe fruit characters with vivid acidity. With age,
these wines become golden and develop aromas of flowers, honeysuckle, coconut,
candied fruit (apricot, mango, pineapple), and sweet spice (cinnamon, clove,
vanilla). They have earned a place among the great sweet wines of France, along
with Sauternes, Touraine, Anjou and Vendange Tardive from Alsace.
Jurançon boasts a long wine-making history, with a famous royal connection.
In the 14th century, the Princes of Béarn introduced the concept of "Jurançon
cru", that reflected the value of the individual vineyards, aimed to safeguard
the authenticity and the quality of the local wines. This was a first attempt
at wine classification in France, long before its conception in any other
French wine region. According to the legend, in 1553, when Henri IV, born
Jurançon, was christened, had his lips rubbed with a clove of garlic and
moistened with a drop of Jurançon wine from which he allegedly derived vigour
and the fervent spirit which were never to leave him.