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Clos Larrouyat

Pristine Organic Whites from France’s South West

Our long, drawn-out search for a second Jurançon Domaine came to an emphatic end in March 2021 when we came across a young producer celebrating just its 10th anniversary. Clos Larrouyat is a tiny, family-run Domaine with pristine mineral whites that are the first to hold a torch to the quality and style of the wines we have tasted from Benjamin Dagueneau’s Jurançon outpost, Les Jardins de Babylon. The three-hectare Domaine lies in Gan in the commune of La Chapelle de Rousse. Just south of Pau, it’s a beautiful town well-known to lovers of the Tour de France as the staging post to the Pyrenees, with its panorama-dominating skyline.

After graduating from Bordeaux (where he studied under the learned Denis Dubourdieu), in 2011 Maxime Salharang and his wife Lucie began planting their vineyard on a block of land belonging to Maxime’s grandfather. The terroir here is some of Jurançon’s most interesting and sits on a rare band of Triassic limestone that runs through this part of the appellation. Atop the limestone bedrock lies a blanket of poudingue, a mixture of clay with chalk, crushed pebbles and large galets stones—the legacy of the nearby Ossau Valley.

Jurançon’s Petit Manseng forms the lion’s share of the plantings, followed by Gros Manseng and the rare, underused Camaralet; all planted on sheltered, east-facing slopes in the coolest part of the appellation. Paul Strang has written [in South-West France: The Wines and Winemakers] “The wines from this area are said to be more minerally and lively, to have what the French call toupet, real nerve.” This observation is certainly borne out in Salharang’s strikingly bright wines, which seldom ripen to 13° potential.

Sitting on a rare band of Triassic limestone that runs through their part of the appellation, Larrouyat’s terroir here is one of Jurançon’s most interesting. The dry wines are bursting with energy and vim, with crystalline drive and mouth-wateringly salty length.

Certified organic, Maxime and Lucie’s farming borrows elements from biodynamics to achieve harmony in the local ecosystem. Natural grasses left between the rows soak up excess moisture and force the young vines’ roots deep towards the bedrock; a flock of Pyrenean sheep helps with the weeding and promotes soil health.

In the cellar, fermentations are wild, and the wines are raised in old oak barrels (purchased from Smith-Haut Lafitte). In cooler years, Salharang stirs the lees to promote depth and texture. The wines always pass through malo, which is needed to balance the extraordinary acidity gained in this cool terroir. Added sulphur is kept under 40 mg/L and the wines are seldom fined before bottling. This three-hectare Domaine only makes 1,000 cases of wine a year, so our allocations are never going to be large.

Kermit Lynch has stolen our thunder by noting: “the small but historic Jurançon appellation… is perhaps not where one would expect to find racy, mineral-infused white wines that have more in common with Chablis than with other southern whites.” You could also add the very finest Muscadet by way of comparison. The dry wines are bursting with energy and vim, with crystalline drive and compelling rocky characters. Meanwhile, the estate’s moelleux is really anything but—moelleux means ‘marrow’ and refers to the unctuous, fatty texture of Jurançon’s sweet wines—Larrouyat’s Phoenix is a more delicate and uplifting manifestation of this famous wine style.

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Winemakers: Maxime & Lucie Salharang



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