Before even tasting a wine, all of us bring some fixed assumptions of what it will taste like. Generally, we’ve chosen the wine because of these assumptions – for pairing with food or because we feel like a certain wine. So when we opened two bottles of Jurancon Sec (sec – dry) recently, I was shocked at the differences between the two wines. One tasted exactly as I had imagined. The other, was a revelation. Both wines I enjoyed immensely, but what I most loved was the fact that one of them challenged my assumptions and what I thought I knew of dry Jurancon wines.
Tasting the wines
The wines were from two established and highly reputable producers – Domaine de Souch (tiny, 7 hectare estate) and Domaine Cauhape (much larger at 47 hectares).
Domaine de Souch ‘Monplaisir’ Jurancon sec 2018 – Aromatic with similarities to dry Riesling. Citrus, grapefruit and minerals, combine with acidity. Structurally unique, pulsing a fist of flavour and a textural intensity that is totally unexpected. Remarkable wine, that begs for food. Oysters
- Grape Varieties – Petit Manseng 50%, Gros Manseng 40%, Courbu 10%.
- Vinification – Fermented and aged in stainless steel.
- Alcohol – 13%.
Domaine Cauhape ‘Chante de Vignes’ Jurancon sec 2017 – Golden in colour. Very aromatic. Apricot, mango, pawpaw and white flowers. The acidity is folded into the wine so it seems integrated and not something that stands out, defined and separate. Soft gliding palate, a killer under the silk.
- Grape Varieties – 60% Gros Manseng, 40% Camaralet.
- Vinification – Fermented and aged in stainless steel, with 5 months on lees.
- Alcohol – 14%.
We served this with a dish of scallops and prawns with passionfruit butter. Of the two wines the Domaine Cauhape was the better match with the food. The rich, refreshing hedonism of the passionfruit butter worked so well with the pure, soft tropical fruits of the Cauhape.
The wines were so utterly different that a qualitative comparison was pointless. The Cauhape was the crowd-pleaser and more popular with the group due to its fresh tropical flavours and soft palate. The match with the food was better too, enhancing it’s appeal. But the Souch was throbbing with intensity and dryness and, to my mind, uncompromising in what it was trying to achieve. It was a shame we didn’t have oysters to match, as this would have transformed the experience.
My perception of Jurancon was mirrored in the Cauhape; the Souch the surprise package. Ironically, it is the Cauhape that is atypical in terms of grape, with 60% Gros Manseng and 40% Camaralet. As far as I know, Domaine Cauhape is the only producer of Camaralet, a native grape of South West France. The grape picking for this wine was undoubtedly later, with its higher alcohol, darker colour, softer palate and riper flavour profile.The Domaine de Souch varietal mix is more typical – Petit Manseng making up 50%, Gros Manseng 40% and Courbu 10%. The winemaking is similar, but without the lees contact. The properties are 30 kilometress apart, and it is curious to ponder the influence of environmental factors as opposed to varietal differences, harvest dates and winemaking choices.
What I loved most about this tasting experience, beyond the two excellent wines, was that a classic wine can taste and feel totally different from it’s neighbour. That our assumptions and expectations should be held in check before breaching the glass. Domaine de Souch and Domaine Cauhape are peerless producers, wines of place and of the soul. But they are also wines of taste, and are therefore utterly different. Thank goodness.