The great and gifted author and actress Sidione-Gabrielle Colette had a complicated love life that included men and women both older and younger than her. Happily, she ignored her critics and was justly given a state funeral when she died in 1954. One enduring love of her adult life was the wine of Jurançon which she called 'a great seducer', which from her was quite a compliment. Perhaps what she meant, was that it is a wine that grows on you without you realising it; anyway, she was a marvellous ambassador for an underrated wine.
Pascal Labasse of Domaine Bellegarde was a former Jurançon cave-co-opérateur who bravely decided to 'go it alone' in 1986 and turn the family's smallholding into an independent winery. Hard work and irrepressible enthusiasm paid off and today Pascal and his son Maxime preside over 14 hectares of vines, which are farmed organically outside Monien in the foothills of the Pyrenees (between Lourdes and Biarritz). Their Jurançon Sec is called 'Énergique' and contains pure Gros Manseng grown on free-draining clay-limestone soils. The ripe grapes are hand-harvested in September and the wine is vinified with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled vats over winter before being bottled in the spring. The finished wine has alluring citrus scents and a tangy orchard fruit palate offset by fresh acidity and a bone-dry conclusion. It makes an uplifting apéritif and pairs well with fruits de mer. P. and M. also make some superb, late-harvested Jurançon Moelleux, named 'Historique', from a judicious blend of 80% Petit Manseng and 20% Gros Manseng that is matured for 3 months in barrel and 6 months in vat prior to bottling. With a lovely amber robe, candied fruit aromas and a wealth of apple, honey and citrus zest flavours, it drinks well from release and improves further if cellared for 3 to 5 years. Traditionally served as a pre-prandial pick-me-up, it also makes a fantastic accompaniment to fruit-based desserts. The flagship listing here is the celebrated 'Cuvée Thibault' (named after Maxime's brother) which is made from Petit Manseng that is picked in November and raised in oak barrels prior to blending and bottling. With a deep golden colour, a diverse dried and exotic fruit bouquet and concentrated core of apricot, peach, and grapefruit offset by a persistent sweet finish, it drinks well from release and can be cellared for (at least) a decade.