It all started with the Vineyards

Vineyards: Jurancon & Béarn


The vineyards amount to 1200 hectares of vines spread out over 25 communes between the Gave de Pau and Oloron. Our 220 cooperators work 750 ha of vineyards where they grow Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng grape varietals, the two  grapes of our iconic name.

The subsoil consists of puddingstone (conglomerate of pebbles bonded by a calcareous sediment forming boulders) which promotes drainage and is favourable to the cultivation of grapes. The vineyard terrain is typical to Pyrenean piedmont: the vines are planted in the direction of the slope and face south, to be sheltered from the westerly winds. Where the slope is too steep, the vines have been planted on flats carved out of the mountainside allowing access to exceptional soils. This technique is called Terracing. The vine is pruned following the Guyot style, single or double. The trunk, or stock of each vine supports two branches, each bearing vegetation. As these are high-trained vines, the vegetation is directed upward so that the foliage may reach a height of 2.3 metres.


The zone pertaining to the Béarn appellation covers 35 municipalities, and its surface area is about 200 ha. Our 130 cooperatives work mainly three grape varieties: Tannat, Cabernet Franc (locally called Bouchy) and Cabernet Sauvignon.

There are 2 types of soils:
-The Lowland vineyards span the old river bed of the Gave de Pau, and are planted in rocky, filtering soils.
-Vineyards on gently sloping hills that protect the vine against the wind and offer good southern and southeastern exposure.

The vines are pruned single Guyot (Tannat) and double Guyot (Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon), and are high-trained. 


Varietals and Terroirs

Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng varietals make up 99% of the vines in the Jurancon area. These are local grape varieties specific to the area and well adapted to the climatic conditions; the fruit grows very high above the ground to avoid spring frosts and the grapes are very resistant. Gros Manseng grapes are the basis for the dry Jurancon and young moelleux Jurancon wines. The Petit Manseng varietal has smaller grapes with thicker skin, which makes it well adapted to raisining (passerillage), and produces the renowned sweet wines perfect for storage. Other varietals are also grown, including Petit Courbu, Gros Courbu, Courbu, Lauzet and Camaralet. Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat are the three varietals of the Béarn appellation Reds and Rosés. The topography of the Jurancon appellation area is jagged and uneven, the soils containing Jurancon puddingstone composed of limestone pebbles.

These tertiary period lands are covered with:

  • sandy clay complex (early Quaternary period)
  • clayey sandstone coating (Pliocene epoch)

The vineyard consists of small parcels dispersed among the many palm trees and banana trees, and nestled in sunny valleys that rise in fulminant verdure from the terraces of the Chateau de Pau to the grandiose Pyrenees. The best soils are often found on very steep slopes, and so planting in terraces is an age-old solution to the difficulties this presents. These terraces can sometimes call to mind the amphitheatres of ancient times!

The sandy-clay soil is rich in pebbles carried by streams and Pyrenean glaciers. The vineyard is divided along a line that cuts east to west:

  •  the Southern subsoil comes from marine sedimentation deposited before and during the formation of the Pyrenees.
  •  the Northern part of the land: Jurancon puddingstone with silica rich gravel, deposited during the formation of the Pyrenees


The AOC Jurançon Harvest

The grapes are hand-picked only, from mid-September to mid-December. Selection of grape bunches is done successively to allow raisining on the vine.

Successives selections 

There are three selections. The first selection takes place from mid-September and will be used in the development of Jurancon dry wines and Jurancon sweet and light (bright, fruity) wines. 2nd and 3rd selections give birth to a richer sweet Jurancon, and the late harvest wines (vendange tardives, ice wines). As the season progresses, the grapes ripen, enjoying the sunshine and the contrast between the cool night temperatures and high temperatures of the day.

Raisining and the Foehn effect

Characteristic to the AOC Jurancon wines is the effect due to a southern wind called the Foehn, which helps to dehydrate the grapes on the vine and concentrate the flavors. Sunlight also has the same effect: the volume of juice will decrease but the sugars become concentrated. This method is called Passerillage sur Pied in French, and Raisining on the Vine in English. It provides exceptional sweet wines.

Late Harvest Wines

The AOC Jurancon obtained the rating Late Harvest on May 10 1996. These harvests begin around November 10 and end in mid-December. The winemaker will have already selected its harvest 2 or 3 times to obtain a yield of 12 hectolitres per hectare (there are between 8 and 10 bunches per vine). The grapes must have a minimum of 272 grams of sugar per litre (equivalent to 16 percent alcohol).

The Harvest in AOC Béarn

The harvests in Béarn are also done entirely by hand. Successive selections are made of bunches in order to produce Rosés and Reds.