Only five grape varieties can be used in JURANCON. One of the principal factors in the style of our wines is the grape variety "Manseng," the "Petit" and the "Gros", both of which are perfectly adapted to our soils and climate.
Although these two varieties are entirely separate in style, they share a joint history in these Pyrenean foothills: they had already been identified at the end of the 18th Century in the Béarn department.
The Gros Manseng has always been a more prolific and widespread variety, blended with Courbu to make easy-drinking young wines which were drunk all over the region.
The Petit Manseng was reserved for better cuvées designed to age in bottle.
The "Mansengs" are amongst the latest ripening varieties, which bud very early (end of March) and ripen very late (October or November). They have an unusually long ripening period. They grow very tall and require high trellising systems that are strong enough to resist the westerly winds (hence the numerous stakes); despite the cutting back that takes place in summer, the rows still stand like mini-walls of vegetation at between 2.4 and 2.5 meters in height.
The yields are nonetheless very low for the vines on the slopes because of low vine density (about 3.000 vines/ha) and because 1.5kg of Gros Manseng are needed to obtain 1 litre of grape juice and between 2 and 3kg of Petit Manseng to obtain one litre (for normal grapes, this is 1.3kg).
Here are our average yields for previous years :
- 42 hl/ha for the 10ha of vines in 2001
- 33 hl/ha in 2005
- less than 30 in 2007!
At Clos Lapeyre, we currently have about 60% of the vineyard planted with Petit Manseng, the remainder is planted with Gros Manseng: the Petit Courbu vines, of which we have a few thousand, were planted in the "Vitatge Vielh" (meaning "old vines" in Occitan) in the 1940's. Recently we have planted Courbu and Camaralet vines chosen by mass selection.
Between 1972 and 1975, five hectares were planted, of which three were planted on terraces. These terraces were amongst the first planted in Jurancon, along with those of Camin Larredya, and their formation resembles two adjacent amphitheatres: the highest part of the Clos Lapeyre was replanted between 1982 and 1984. The Navaillés and Poudempa vine parcels, planted respectively with Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng, date from 1991 and 1993. The magnificent "amphitheatre of Ducos" was planted between 1994 and 1998, exclusively with Petit Manseng, all terraced.
The terracing, which allows safe exploitation of the very steep slopes, only allows very low planting density, up to 1000 or 1100 vines per hectare, as the edge of the terrace is often 6-8 metres high! Over the years we have come to notice that the extensive bulldozing work necessary to create the terraces and which disrupts the soil horizons makes in-depth root penetration difficult.
Today thanks to developments in vineyard machinery, we are reintroducing vineyards planted down the slope without prior terracing work : a narrow, tracked tractor has enabled us to grow vines like those at Mantoulan, planted at a high density of 6000 vines per hectare.