The modernity of Jurançon wine
At Domaine Cauhapé, the winegrower, Henri Ramonteu, sees to it that new letters of nobility are written for the Jurançon appellation thanks to dry whites with a well-defined personality, always accompanied by sweet wines elaborated in this true garden of Béarn.
The estate’s history revolves around the life of its owner, Henri Ramonteu. For 39 years, he has been a winegrower in the heart of the Jurançon appellation, as a purely self-taught man, letting himself be guided by his native Béarn land, his intuition, and his love of aromas. His attachment to nature gives his wines of the South-West that little extra soul. Son of a farmer, he remains attached to those values of courage and respect for the land that farmers cultivate.
In 1975, he began to take an interest in vines and indigenous grape varieties. He corked his first bottles in the 1980s, learning the trade on the job, by reading a few books such as those of the oenologist Denis Dubourdieu. From a few plots of land on the farm, Domaine Cauhapé grew over the years, following the inspiration and growing passion of the man. "I planted every year a half hectare or a hectare, and today I have 54," he says. Only in white grape varieties. A constant development to match his personality of perfectionist and avant-gardist. Before the fashion of dry white wine, when the reputation of the AOC was based on sweet wines, Henri Ramonteu had already sensed this other local potential.
THE QUEST FOR AROMAS
What interests Henri: "Going for the fine part of the aromas, and making a wine different from the others. I like to express the full potential of the fruit harvested," he shares. Manual harvesting takes place from September 10 to a few days before Christmas. This amplitude allows for the creation of ten very distinct white wine cuvées, both in the blending of native grape varieties, and in the dry or sweet profiles. If the letters of nobility of Jurançon were drawn on the sweet segment, new customer preferences drive the dry wines as the leading force for Domaine Cauhapé. "15 to 30 years ago, we used to make two thirds of sweet wines, nowadays it's two thirds of dry wines", assures the winemaker. The Petit Manseng, a grape variety that has made the good days of the AOC, is used to make dry white wine, "it is our future, our destiny. Sweet wine has become a niche", he says.
Thanks to its microclimate, the land of Jurançon and that of the Cauhapé estate allow for the full aromatic potential of the grape varieties that flourish here to be expressed, whether they are petit or gros manseng, camaralet, lauzet or courbu (also used in the production of txacoli, the white wine of the Basque country). These five grape varieties come together in one of the emblematic wines of the estate: the Geyser vintage.
On three hectares, the winemaker performs late harvests, with two or three frosts followed by sunny days on the grapes, to create the cuvée Quintessence du Petit Manseng "a prestigious wine, sweet, with candied and dried fruits that explode in the mouth; it is a shooting star. For each of his whites, the winemaker ensures a common signature: the character that rises on "the complex and subtle freshness" for a modern vision of Jurançon.
The Domaine Cauhapé's in numbers:
Production : 250,000 bottles/year
Farming : 47ha of white wines
Employees : 17
References : 10 vintages of dry and sweet white wines
Exportation : 27% of the production