Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Ballet d’Octobre 2005
While I spend most of my waking hours thinking about the wines of the Loire Valley and Bordeaux (on occasion they pop up in my dreams as well) many other regions pique my interest. For some reason I find myself drawn to the unfashionable and the obscure; the former accounts for my ongoing interest in the wines of Jerez, the Douro Valley and the island of Madeira. The latter explains why I have a small stock of wines in the cellar from what might be called ‘curio’ appellations such as Bandol, Madiran and Irouléguy. And, of course, among others, Jurançon.
You might think I was drawn to the Jurançon appellation by the late Didier Dagueneau’s presence in the appellation. After initial experiments with making sweet wines in Pouilly-Fumé (there is some history of this in both Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, but always on a very small scale, and of course there is no appellation for the resulting wines) Didier looked further afield, landing in Jurançon in 2002. The truth is, however, very different; in fact I discovered Jurançon through the wines of Domaine Cauhapé, long before I had a strong knowledge of Didier Dagueneau. I met Henri Ramonteu at a tasting back in the 1990s, so long ago I forget exactly where. I have no problem remembering the taste of his wines though; they were wonderful, and I was immediately a fan.
The domaine turns out an exemplary range of dry and sweet wines, the latter divided up by harvest period. Some clearly declare the time of picking and thus their position in the portfolio, including the relatively early-picked Ballet d’Octobre and the later-picked Symphonie de Novembre. Others are less obvious, specifically Noblesse du Temps and the remarkable Quintessence cuvée, for example. These both originate from an even later-picking, in December. I’ve never tasted the Folie de Janvier cuvée, although there are no prizes for guesses in which month this cuvée is picked.
The 2005 Jurançon Ballet d’Octobre from Domaine Cauhapé is thus not quite entry-level, but as noted above it is one of the earlier picked cuvées, and its good character gives some indication of the overall high level of quality on offer at this domaine. It is 100% Petit Manseng, the fruit destemmed and given a little skin contact before pressing and the selection of the juices for fermentation. The élevage was just eight months. Henri Ramonteau’s claims for it are rather modest, suggesting it be drunk within five years, which explains why it was – unbeknown to me before I removed the capsule – closed with a soft synthetic cork. This raised immediate concern; the only other cuvée closed with a synthetic I have personally cellared was from Domaine des Aubuisières, and those wines began to show signs of oxidation at about eight years. To my surprise and delight (and slight incredulity too), however, this wine remains fresh and unaffected. In the glass it displays an intense, pure and concentrated orange-gold hue. The nose is just beautiful nose, full of creamed tropical fruits, apricots, grilled pear and mango purée, suggesting sweetness with an elegantly smoky and mineral overlay. The palate is no less defined, brilliantly fresh, with tense apricot and mango fruit, the texture broad and packed out with a chalky and substantial textural substance. It has piles of pithy grip and texture, narrowing down into a long, fresh, gripped, tense and acid-framed length. All in all this is quite delicious, and remarkable considering it has seen out fifteen years beneath that synthetic closure. 95/100 (14/9/20)