French Poets, Philandering Kings and little sweetness from Jurançon #Winophiles

Vineyard, Jurancon, France

This month the French Winophiles are heading to the Sud Ouest of France.  That south west corner that seems rather quiet. You don’t hear much about it. Within it you will find French Basque Country and Jurançon.    On the coast is the Pays Basque with it’s wine region of Irouleguy.  When you continue east you arrive at the Jurançon, which is our destination today. 

Map of the South West of France
South West of France

Jurançon

If you watched the Tour de France you might have seen the time trials in this region on July 19th in Pau which is just 15 miles east of this region.  (If you want to see a bit of the scenery… here you go…

Tour de France Time Trial in Pau in the Jurançon

Vineyards here sit in the foothills of the Pyrenees.  The area is hilly with steep rolling hills, lush with trees and amazing views against a backdrop of the Pyrenees. There is a beautiful piece on Pau and this region on Wine Chic Travel.

Vineyard, Jurancon, France
Vineyard, Jurancon, France

The landscape is dotted with small vineyards and farms. If you put all the acreage under vine together, it would add up to about 5 square miles.

Petit Manseng – historically a great seducer

The area is best known for their sweet wines.  These wines were a favorite of the French poet Colette.  (If you do not know her…she wrote the novella “Gigi” which was turned into a movie with Maurice Chevalier singng the iconic song “Thank heaven for little girls”. I remember watching this movie when I was a little girl myself, I find myself not remembering it clearly. Perhaps it is time to find and watch it again.)

Colette called the Jurançon wines of Petit Manseng “seduction du vert galant”.  She was quoted saying

“I was a girl when I met this prince; aroused, imperious, treacherous as all great seducers are”. 

Colette

Her comments inspired winemakers to advertising “Manseng means Jurançon means sex”. 

Colette also said “Time spent with a cat is never wasted”. How can you not love this wise woman.

Evidently, this wine is also given credit for giving King Henry the IV of France, the strength to keep up his philandering! Born in Pau, Good King Henry  “…also became notorious for his sexual exploits, taking on many lovers and earning the nickname “Le Vert Gallant” (The Gay Old Spark).” biography.com

Grapes of the Jurancon
Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng grapes are grown for Jurancon wine in Southwest France.

While Petit Manseng is well known and loved here, Gros Manseng is actually more widely grown. You will also find Camaralet de Lasseube. According to Madeline over at WineFolly Camaralet de Lasseube is very rare and Jancis Robinson in Wine Grapes called it endangered. This grape only produces female flowers. It also is prone to oxidation and has really low yields.

Petit Manseng

Indigenous to this region Petit Manseng is similar to Gros Manseng, but it has smaller berries and produces significantly different wine. Petit Manseng is aromatic with peach and citrus rounded out by tropical fruits like mango and pineapple.

This grape concentrates sugar in the berries during ripening and still maintains high acidity.  The sweet wines made here rival Sauternes, but can be found at a much more reasonable price.

Domaine Cauhapé

Henry Ramonteu, the owner and producer at Domaine Cauhapé is known to wait until January to harvest the last of his grapes for his sweet wines.

Many consider this to be the finest estate in Jurançon. The estate is 45 hectares on clay and siliceous soil. They grow Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, Camaralet, Lauzet and Courbu.

2015 Symphonie de Novembre Jurançon

Domaine Cauhapé Symphonie de Novembre
Domaine Cauhapé Symphonie de Novembre from the Jurançon

This is one of the first picks for this Domaine’s sweet wines, picked in November. It is 100% Petit Manseng and sits at 13.5% abv. This golden elixir comes from vines that are about 500 m (wait, perspective for those of us in the US…1,640 feet!) on steep vineyards.

Pairing the Jurançon

The classic pairing for this wine is Foie Gras. Baked fruit desserts and Roquefort cheese, as well as poultry dishes are suggested. We settled that we might as well go in for the Foie Gras. I know…I am typically against this. I’m feeling the guilt, but …it was delicious.

Cured & Whey to the Rescue!

Cured & Whey sign
Cured & Whey

I called Cured & Whey and they said they had it foie gras in stock, so we headed across town to see them. Michael the owner came out to talk with us about the foie gras. They have convenient little 2 oz packets of foie, and Michael suggested this was our best bet for two single portions. I asked Diana about a Roquefort, and while she had one, she suggested the Ewe’s Blue.

Ewe's Blue Cheese
Ewe’s Blue Cheese

This award winning cheese is from the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in Old Chatham, New York. It is a rindless cheese made from fresh sheep’s milk that is similar to Roquefort, and delicious!

On the way home, I found a recipe to riff on…here we go.

Pan-seared Fois Gras with apple puree and orange reduction.

Pan seared foie gras
Pan-seared Fois Gras with apple puree and orange reduction

Remember…this is just a riff on a recipe. I started with the puree. It was just butter, thinly slice apple, a little jam (I used mango passion fruit) and a little wine (think dry white, although I actually used the rose in my glass). Toss in a pan until soft then toss in the blender.

Cut a couple of circles of brioche and toast them in the oven.

Carefully score the two pieces of fois gras, add salt and pepper and put them in a pre-warmed pan at medium heat. 2 minutes per side, then on a plate to rest.

Lastly, use a bit of the drippings, add fresh squeezed orange juice and a little bit of wine (I used the Sauternes I had on hand and open), a little orange zest and some finely chopped rosemary. Reduce, stirring with a wooden spoon to incorporate the crunchy bits.

Ewe's Blue, apples, pecans & baby dried pineapple
Ewe’s Blue, apples, pecans & baby dried pineapple

We also put together a board of the Ewe’s Blue, sliced apple, dried baby pineapple and roasted salted pecans.

The Wine – taste the Jurançon

This wine was lush with great acid as well as that sweetness. It was definitely a food wine and is my kind of sweet wine, not cloying. I got tart apple, and pineapple on the nose and palate.

To Match or Contrast

Jurançon and pairings
Jurançon and pairings

With pairings, often we try to either match flavors or contrast them. The foie gras was delicious and both the apple puree and the orange sauce matched the wine perfectly with their acid and flavor profile. The Ewe’s Blue did the opposite, the tang and salt contrasting with the wine. Quite honestly, as delicious as the foie gras was, the pairing with the Ewe’s Blue was our favorite of the two.

Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate

A surprising pairing was with dark chocolate, which Domaine Cauhapé suggested. Michael grabbed a bar and I was really skeptical. This turned out to be a surprisingly delicious pairing.

The wines of Jurançon are certainly worth searching for and exploring. I will look for some of the Jurançon dry white wines to explore in the future. For now…if you are searching for a sweet wine, expand a little further than Sauternes and try the sweet wines of the Jurançon. You won’t be disappointed and your wallet will be happy!

Read on for other great pieces on the French Basque Country and the Sud Ouest by the French #Winophiles!

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A Loire rosé, a Bordeaux from Pommerol and…..cheese #winophiles

The Cheese Counter at Cured & Whey

A while back the French #Winophiles decided that June would be about French wine and cheese.  This is a traditional pairing made in heaven that can go in so many different directions!  You can join us to see the wide range and variety of wines and cheeses explored on Saturday June 15th at 8 am Pacific time on twitter.  Just follow the hashtag #Winophiles to jump in on the conversation!

For this month’s pairing I received two sample wines courtesy of VinConnexion this month.  One was from Chateau de Sales in Pomerol and second from Cave du Vendômois in the Loire Valley. While grateful for the opportunity to taste these wines, rest assured, all opinions are my own.

Le Cocagne Gris 2018

Le Cocagne Rosé of Pineau d'Aunis from Coteaux du Vendômois 2018
Le Cocagne Rosé of Pineau d’Aunis from Coteaux du Vendômois 2018

This rosé of 100% Pineau d’Aunis is from Coteaux du Vendômois.  You don’t see too much Pineau d’Aunis, at least not exported, so I was excited to try this variety. 

This grape is also known as Chenin Noir (makes sense in the Loire, right?).  It is a red grape found primarily in Touraine and Anjou.  Ours came from Touraine, in the Coteaux du Vendômois and is made by the Cave Cooperative du Vendômois.  The soil here is clay and the wine is fermented in stainless steel with a few months on the lees.

Cave Coopérative des Vignerons du Vendômois

An an old Favorite…

This is grape is an old favorite.  How old?  Well Henry Plantagenet (Henry III) really liked it and had it brought to England back in 1249! Sadly, it fell out of favor and is now not widely grown. (get more details on this from https://fringewine.blogspot.com/2012/01/pineau-daunis-coteaux-du-vendomois.html )

Tasting the Le Cocagne Gris

The Le Cocagne Gris 2018 was pale salmon in color and clear. It had raspberry, strawberry and bright light florals on the nose.  I caught a little dried hibiscus, like for tea and bright fresh herbs like fresh thyme, with a bit of white pepper and dried thyme in the background.  The nose opened up to ripe raspberries. On the palate it was tart with light notes of raspberry, with spice and pepper notes in the back. It sits at 14% abv and has a medium finish.

Chateau de Sales 2010 Pomerol

Château de Sales Pomerol 2010
Château de Sales Pomerol 2010

This wine is from Bordeaux from the Right Bank in Pomerol, the smallest of the Bordeaux appellations.  The area is on a plateau with terraces into the valley.  Soil here is layered, compact gravel of sandy-clay atop an oxidized iron base that is unique to Pomerol called “crasse de fer”.

Vignoble de Bordeaux
Vignoble de Bordeaux

Château de Sales has been in the same family since the 15th century.  It is now jointly owned by 14 cousins.  The estate has 47.6 hectares of vineyard.

Savor the Harvest has a beautiful piece on this vineyard that is well worth the read.

Château De Sales Vineyard in Pomerol, Bordeaux France
Château De Sales Vineyard in Pomerol

This wine is 82.5% Merlot, 12.5% Cab Franc and 5% Cab Sav. The wine is fermented in concrete vats, aged in barrel (5% new oak) for 12 months.

Tasting the Château de Sales 2010 Pomerol

The Château de Sales 2010 Pomerol we decanted for 30 minutes while it warmed to just under room temperature. There was a bit of sediment in the bottle (this is a 2010).

The wine was opaque and had only a slight rim. It was a deep ruby color.  On the nose I got red and black currant, eucalyptus, mint, pepper, white pepper, cedar, cigar box and spices.  It had a medium mouthfeel and was lighter on the palate than I expected, in a good way.  The inky dark color had me convince that my palate was about to be overwhelmed it was not. It was a thoughtful wine that allowed me to explore it’s depths without hitting me over the head.

The Cheeses

Many of you have seen a wine aroma wheel and we often use those for our wine tasting notes.  As I was researching the cheese I came across a cheese aroma and flavor wheel from Cheese Science!

I reached out to Château de Sales for suggestions on pairing.  They suggested Comté (as well as steak and chocolate lava cake…and yes, after our cheese pairing we did indulge in those also)

So… Comté, but what else.  I reached out to one of my favorite cheese shops in town for some suggestions. 

Cured & Whey

Diana Brier is the new cheesemonger/cheese consultant at Cured and Whey here in Las Vegas and was kind enough to suggest a Valencay to pair with the rosé, when I asked her online.  I headed down to peruse their cheese counter and walked into find Diane gloved up with hands in 180 degree water just getting ready to pull mozzarella.

I had time, so I enjoyed the show and we chatted.  She had just relocated from Oregon and gave me some tips for wine and cheese for our upcoming trip that would take us to Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley, where she used to make cheese.  Michael, the owner also came out to consult with us and we settled on 4 cheeses.

MountainTop

This is a cheese from FireFly Farms located in Maryland. These guys are big on the ethical treatment of not just goats, but also the farmers.  It’s worth a visit to their site to see the standards they set.

While not a French Cheese this Maryland cheese is made in a French style.  Valencay is a typical goat milk cheese from the Loire Valley, that is set in pyramid shaped molds.

This cheese is “surface-ripened” with blue and white molds.  You get a bit of that blue cheese flavor.  When you cut it is oozes, and almost runs.

Morbier – Montboissie du Haut Livradois

This cheese that Michael suggested, Diane went to the back to get from the chiller.  She brought forth a box, cut it open and gently whispered a hello to the beautiful wheel inside.  (She didn’t think I heard, but I did, and now she is my favorite cheese monger ever).

This is a Morbier-style cheese that comes from the Jura Mountains.  Made of Cow’s milk, it has a vein of vegetable ash down the middle.  This came from a tradition where you separate the milk from the morning and afternoon milking.  So morning milk on the bottom, a layer of vegetable ash, and afternoon milking on top.  This is a washed rind cheese.

Société Roquefort

This cheese has a legend. 

Ages ago, at the base of the Combalou Mountain, an ardent shepherd spotted a beautiful young woman. He ran after her leaving behind his flock and forgetting his meal, composed of bread and ewe’s milk curds, in a cave. As he couldn’t find the beautiful shepherdess after days of searching, the shepherd came back to his flock and the cave where he found his less than appealing meal. The ewe’s milk curd was now marbled with green veins and the bread had molded. Starving, he tasted the cheese: the Penicillium Roqueforti had worked its magic transforming his cheese into Roquefort…So says the legend!

 http://societeroquefort.com/
Societe Roquefort Cheese
Societe Roquefort Cheese

The milk for this cheese comes from a special breed of ewes called “Lacaunes”.  They give just 16 gallons of milk per season making this a rare milk, that goes into a really special and delicious cheese.  Roquefort is made with Penicillium roqueforti which is found in damp caves.  This cheese is aged for at least 90 days in natural limestone caves.

Comté

For our last cheese, we return to the Jura for another cow’s milk cheese. It is one of the first French cheeses to have AOC status (1958).

It has been noted that comté has 83 flavors that can be detected!  You can tell what season the cheese is from by the color; Golden is summer cheese (from the carotin), a lighter white is a winter cheese.  A younger comté will be creamier and softer, as it ages it will firm up and be more crumbly.   It also gains crystals as it ages.  It will smell different depending on the cow’s diet or the cave it was aged in!  To really smell it, squish it between your fingers to test the texture and warm it releasing the scent.

The Tasting and Pairing

With the Rosé

We paired the Le Cocagne Gris 2018 with the MountainTop and I pulled out the cheese aroma/flavor wheel.  I got blue molds, with some spice, it was milky and musty with bitter and pepper notes.  As I continued and paired it with the wine more floral notes were evident.

I found I really enjoyed this with just a dab of apricot preserve.  That with a sip of the wine, brought the whole bite together.

We moved on to the Morbier, which had a lovely smooth texture.  The cheese had a bitter note, but was soft and creamy, with those bits of ash and vegetal notes from the vein in the center.

On pairing, the rosé cut the bitter notes in the cheese. Again, this was great with the apricot preserves, the bitter notes in the cheeses were rounded even further.  This preserve also had sage in it and a bite with the preserve brought out flavors in the cheese that I had not noticed before.

With the Pomerol

Chàteau de Sales Pomerol 2010 with Cheese
Chàteau de Sales Pomerol 2010 with Morbier, Comté and Roquefort

We paired this with the Roquefort superior, which was salty with lovely florals from the mold.  It was smooth, creamy and wet enough to be spreadable.  We added a bit of cherry preserves and it was amazing!  This cheese is so good I could eat it with a spoon.

We then tried the comté.  The cheese was firm, but still creamy, this was a younger comet and more yellow in color, so probably a summer comet and it had no noticeable crystals.  It smelled of butter salt and flowers on the nose and was perfect with the wine.

There are so many cheeses and so many wines to try. While there are basic rules for pairings, I encourage you to just try things! You might check out the pieces below for more ideas for pairings!

The #Winophiles

Are you drooling yet? So much wine and cheese…so little time!

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