The annual harvest of the Jurançon grapes destined for the Cave des Producteurs de Jurançon gets started this week
The annual harvest of the Jurançon grapes destined for the Cave des Producteurs de Jurançon gets started this week. These grapes are the basis for the celebrated sweet white wine wine of the same name, particularly appreciated in combination with foie gras, cheeses and desserts but also enjoyed in its own right as a light, refreshing aperitif. With forecasts predicting sunny, dry weather ahead, conditions could not be better.
This wine of southwest France is the produce of the sun drenched slopes of Jurançon, lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The area is one of great natural beauty and its abundant rainfall assures its farmlands a sparkling emerald hue that would not look out of place in northern Europe, very different from the parched landscapes of France's Mediterranean coasts. However, it shares with these coasts a favourable southerly location, assuring plenty of humid heat throughout the summer months. This combination of factors operating on Jurançon's "petit manseng" and "gros manseng" grapes enable the creation of the tasty wine for which the region is celebrated.
Jurançon wine first won fame when it was used by Henry II of Navarre to baptise his son, the future Henry IV of France. Thanks to Henry IV's role as the founder of the Bourbon dynasty, Jurançon became the wine of choice for the Royal Household and its popularity spread throughout Europe. However, in the late 19th century, an epidemic known as the "phylloxera" plague ravaged French vineyards, resulting in French wine production falling by about two thirds. Jurançon wines were among the many victims of this disease. In the early 20th century, a number of determined wine growers, along with the Cave des Producteurs de Jurançon, managed to overcome this setback and, through their efforts, raise the wine to the prestigious position it holds today, with a mean annual production of 35 000 hecto-litres (approximately 777 000 gallons).
The different varieties of Jurançon wine are the result of harvesting grapes at different stages in their maturity. The first set of grapes is picked between mid-September and the start of October and are used to create dry white wines. A second harvest of more mature grapes begins soon after. These grapes will be used to make smooth white wines. Finally, late harvest grapes are picked during the second half of November, which are used to make the "Vendanges Tardives" (late harvest) wines. Jurançon is the only wine outside Alsace to have official accreditation for the production of "Vendanges Tardives".
During the harvests, the grapes of the members of the Cave des Producteurs de Jurançon, as well as the proprietary grapes of the Cave itself, are brought to the Cave’s facilities in Gan. Here, they are separated from the vines and put through the wine press. The resulting juice is allowed to sit for a night in a vat to allow any solid residue to settle at the bottom where they it be easily removed. The liquid is then sent to the fermentation vats to allow the sugar to transform into alcohol. After this, the wine is put into stainless steel or oak vats to allow it to mature. This process of ageing can last anything from 3 months for the freshest varieties to 48 months for the most elaborate strains.
What is unique in Jurançon wine, when compared to similar dessert wines, is that the sugar in the wine derives naturally from the fact that the grapes are dried at the foot of the vines and absorb sunlight for as long as possible. Then they are subjected to the "Foehn effect". This is a hot dry wind which dries out the lower Pyrenees and which blows through the vines, provoking the evaporation of the water in the vines.
This year’s weather has had an adverse effect on the production of some varieties of wine in France. The southwest has not been immune to it. As a result, the wine harvest comes later this year than in 2011. However, the output of the Cave des Producteurs de Jurançon is expected to hold up despite these difficulties.
Currently, the wines of the Cave des Producteurs de Jurançon can be found in the shelves of stores throughout Europe – in Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain, but are also available as far afield as Canada and China. In the near future, currently untapped European markets such as the UK and Scandinavia, as well as Asian markets, such as Japan and Hong Kong, will be explored. Further down the line, the US market may offer great potential for this product.
It is possible to visit the Cave des Producteurs de Jurançon - tel (+33) 05 59 21 57 03 - in Gan all year round. Here, the full range of wine from grapes produced uniquely by the members of the Cave des Producteurs de Jurançon is available for tasting and direct sale. There are many vineyards to visit in the surrounding area, which can be explored as part of a holiday in this corner of Southwest France, based in one of the many bed and breakfasts located in the region, often run by wine connoisseurs, who will not hesitate to divulge all their knowledge and experience on this subject to the occupants of their guestrooms. You can view details of accomodation options in the area at http://www.francebedandbreakfasts.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
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