Posted by: tomciocco | September 16, 2010


Just a couple of clicks beyond the border with Iparralde (the 3 French Basque provinces), and just a few more than that from the Bay of Biscay, is Jurancon, tucked into the warm, green Atlantic Pyrenees. This tiny region produces only white wines from primarily Gros Manseng, Petite Manseng, and Courbu and two VERY rare , local blending varieties Lauzet and Camaralet de Lasseube.

The often very vertiginous vineyards in Jurancon allow vine roots to drain quickly in this sometimes damp and foggy region, but this slight surplus of water ultimately provides the perfect conditons for the formation of “noble rot” (Botrytis cinerea), and Manseng boys, particularly Mr. Gros, like to host the fungus. Noble rot essentially punctures hundreds of tiny holes in the grapes’ skins, allowing them to dessicate somewhat, concentrating their sugars, and lending a unique flavor to the must (juice). 

All that said about sweet Jurancon (about 25% of the region’s total production is sweet) this wine is dry…but…it’s made from 95% of the thicker-skinned, pulpier Gros Manseng and just 5% Petite Manseng, so despite its fully dry stance, it has a touch of the intensity and persistence of a sweet wine. 

Chateau Jolys Jurancon Sec 2007

Fairly deep, burnished coppery golden color. Piercing nose of apricot and grapefruit nectar, toasted almonds, herbs, and roasted corn. In the mouth the wine is well-structured with a round, chewy core and flavors of  crystallized ginger, apple and lemon curd. The wine finishes long with delicate tea notes and pale Scotch whiskey flavors. Pretty exotic stuff.



  1. Tom,

    It’s amazing how much you and I are on the same wavelength. I just discovered this exact wine in August, and I bought all that Astor Wines in NYC had left. Unfortunately, there were only about 5 bottles. It was superb with pan-roasted striped bass fillets with lemon thyme and butter.

    With your guidance already, I intend to learn the Manseng brothers a lot better. Thanks!


    • Yeah, that dish is right in this wine’s wheelhouse – it really digs the more substantial white fish like bass as well as fish like halibut, monkfish, etc…

      Glad to hear that you’re getting on so well with the Mansengs.


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