News from the Estate

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News from the Estate

Cauhapé's Estate Life

Article published in the République des Pyrénées on October 1, 2021.
Author : Emma Chevallier – Photos by Ascension Torrent.

Grape harvest has begun in the area of Jurançon, in southwest France. At the Cauhapé estate in Monein, about thirty workers are taking turns. Our report in the heart of the harvest.

Article published in the République des Pyrénées on October 1, 2021.
Author : Emma Chevallier – Photos by Ascension Torrent.

Secateurs, crates and busy hands: the bunches of grapes, well ripened, fall quickly. The harvest is in full swing at the Cauhapé estate in Monein, located on the slopes of the Jurançon area, in southwest France. At the end of September, thirty people are busy stripping the vines. Pickers and collectors coordinate in this waltz of the grape.
Dark hair, work clothes and rubber boots, Henri Ramonteu, the vineyard owner, watches over the team: "They are mainly locals, we have almost no foreign workers this year". "Be careful, you forgot a bunch of grapes!" he tells a picker, before maliciously boasting that he has "an eagle eye". The harvesters will repeat the same gestures every day on two hectares, until they have processed the 54 of the estate.
They will walk these vineyards for a month. "Some of them gave up after a few weeks, it was too hard," says the team leader. But that day, the workers are numerous, hidden by the height of the foliage.

Smell of mushrooms

Oak and chestnut forests border the vineyards of the Cauhapé estate. Autumn has favored the growth of ceps, rare, flavorful mushrooms that have popped out of the ground. Henri Ramonteu hurried to pick some in the early morning. This smell really perfumes the place," he says. It makes the grapes taste good. It's up to everyone to believe it or not.
Full of juice, slightly acidic, the berries of petit and gros manseng are revealed under the vine leaves. The owner of the estate will blend them to produce dry white wines. In the bottles, "they will show notes of fresh fruit", with a "smell of grapefruit", promises the winemaker. These berries will all go through the same process. The stalks, that is to say the supports on which the grapes are hung, take a first round on the destemmer. This is necessary to avoid too much bitterness in the glass. Once crushed and shriveled, the grapes are introduced to the press. A white juice then flows to the generous stainless steel vats that sit in the cellar of the estate.


The juice will rest in the steel vats for a dozen days, until fermentation. It will then be aged in oak barrels for six months. The history of the Cauhapé estate and its owner is written over forty years. Henri Ramonteu, son of farmers, took over the reins of the estate in the early 1980s. He knew nothing about the world of wine and commerce. His parents, however, taught him what the land meant and the sometimes harsh, sometimes sublime work that it implies. "I am a Peasant, with a capital P, because I put some nobility in it", says the very proud winegrower, 100% Béarnais. The land of Jurançon is an obvious choice. The clay soil, the whims of the sky, the brushing with the mountains... It could only be here. In 1984, Henri knows his first consecration. The famous gastronomic guide Gault et Millau revealed him to be a master winemaker.
Twelve years later, the prize of the bottle of the year of "la Revue du Vin de France" would go to the Cauhapé estate.


In the past few years, the winegrower has taken several turns. The sweet Jurançon, deploying its roundness in the taste buds of gourmets, is no longer as popular. "The new consumer shuns all sweetness", assures Henri Ramonteu. "I have never made wine according to my tastes, I conceive them according to the consumer’s. As a result, 75% of his grapes will produce dry Jurançon, vintages with poetic names: "Chant des Vignes", "Quatre Temps" or the latest "Belle des Vignes". The winemaker feels,
captures, and applies this evolution of trends. The member of the Académie des Vins de France, an organization whose goal is to defend French wines, says it himself: he has "great ambitions" for his wine. He has even decided to abandon all synthetic chemicals in the treatment of the vines, to engage in this famous "transition". For the moment, the labels do not yet display organic or biodynamic labels: "I don't need extra attention, the truth is in the glass," says Henri Ramonteu. From now on, "the vines are treated with phytotherapy". In fact, "the vines are doing much better", he enthuses. On this day of the harvest, the leaves and grapes are indeed showing bright colors, brightened by a luminous sky.

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