Sud Ouest, France
The foothills of the French Pyrenees is one of the more remote and unusual wine regions to be found in the current age. They are sparsely populated and wild, and the warm sun is tempered by Atlantic winds. Vineyards are interspersed with dense forest and fields with grain or livestock. But this isolation is also what distinguishes the wines. The two best known appellations are Irouleguy and Jurancon and they are home to varieties seldom seen elsewhere. Jurancon comprises roughly 1000 hectares that are tended by just 65 domaines. But among that rather limited count are an inordinate number of gems – this is a region rich with exciting wines and Domaine du Bellegarde is in the vanguard.
Gratien Labasse established his family in the area just over 100 years ago with the purchase of the Domaine and his son Andre worked to develop the vineyards in the 1960s. However, he continued to sell his fruit to the local cooperative. But Andre’s son Pascal studied viticulture and winemaking in Bordeaux and when he took over in 1985 he built a new winery and set about making the first vintages of Bellegarde.
Today Pascal farms 12 hectares of vines, planted entirely to the indigenous white varieties of the region: Petit Manseng (9 ha), Gros Manseng (2 ha) and Camaralet (1 ha). The soils are a rich mix of clay and loam, with some parcels scattered with the same round galets that one finds in Chateauneuf du Pape. The estate has been farmed organically for the better part of the last decade and now is in the final year of the certification process. Since 2019 Pascal has been joined at the domaine by his son Maxime, who heads up operations in the vines and in the cellar.
Jurancon varieties are often reminiscent of Chenin Blanc or Riesling, producing intense tropical fruit and wild savory notes. The Labasses are producing wines absolutely typical of the region, whites that combine great power and richness with remarkable acidity levels. First comes Energique – 100% Gros Manseng fermented in stainless steel. It is a crisp, juicy and satisfying wine that demonstrates what this region is about. Next comes Pierre Blanche, a blend of Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng fermented and aged in demi-muids. Picked in October, this has more weight and savory spice alongside the fruit but still crackles with energy. Last but certainly not least is the Jurancon Moelleux, Cuvee Thibault. The sweet wines of the region put Jurancon on the map and you can see why. Vinified in old barrels from 100% Petit Manseng, this combines lush fruit with an almost smoky quality.
Sadly quantities are limited but we are still thrilled to welcome the Labasse family into the T. Edward world!
- Producer: Domaine Bellegard
- Country: France
- Region: Sud Ouest