We discovered Domaine de Montesquiou on our 2006 trip to south-west France, on the fringes of the Pyrenées, just south of Pau. This is a small, family-run estate, with just 6.5 hectares under vine, and has been handed down from father to son since the 18th century. The current winemakers are brothers Sébastien and Fabrice Bordenave-Montesquieu (Fabrice is pictured left). And if my experience of recent vintages is anything to go by, the future of the estate is in very safe hands - for the wines are fantastic!
Although not (as far as I am aware) certified as such, Sébastien and Fabrice employ many of the principles of biodynamic viticulture. Detailed attention is paid to the working of the ground and the influence of the moon. To fight against pests and diseases, they only use products containing copper, sulphur and clay, together with homeopathic quantities of "herb tea" preparations popular amongst biodynamicists. Insecticides and herbicides are a definite no-no.
Canopy management is also crucial. The vines are trained high (to approximately 2.4m), with the aim of maximising the leaf area, whilst also ensuring good circulation of air and minimising the opportunity for pests and diseases to take hold. The result is healthy grapes with both high sugar content and maximum phenolic ripeness - i.e. perfect balance. All work in the vineyard, including of course the grape harvest, is entirely manual. It goes without saying that the wine-making process itself is as non-interventionist as possible - healthy grapes make healthy wine! I should also mention the labels. Quite apart from being things of real beauty, the subject matter depicting a ladybird on a vine tendril and two silhouetted figures enjoying a glass of wine next to a barrel (also cunningly evoking a crescent moon) make a strong statement about biodynamic principles and respect for the land. Everything about this estate is central to our philosophy of offering top-quality wines from small independent growers, whose passion for the vine is translated into wines of impeccable quality and breeding.
The grape varieties planted at Domaine de Montesquiou are Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng and Courbu - all indigenous to this corner of south-west France. The dry wines (Jurançon Sec) are based primarily on Gros Manseng and are fresh and zingy, with lemon, lime and apple flavours and great mineral depth. The sweet wines (simply Jurançon) are full of luscious sweet fruit, balanced by the remarkable acidity offered by the Manseng varieties. Indeed, the Grappe d'Or (comprising 100% Petit Manseng) is quite simply stunning - see below for my tasting note. Jurançon may just be France's best-kept wine secret - and this particular estate may just be our greatest discovery yet. Give them a try - I promise you will not be disappointed!