Domaine Ugo (Guirardel)
Françoise Casaubieilh and Pierre Coulomb
Certified organic (Qualisud), practising permaculture, biodynamic
Atlantic climate with mountain influences, foehn winds from the Pyrenees. Siliceous clay, limestone, sedimentary soils with puddingstone. Steep slopes and terraced vineyards with southern exposure. 185-225m altitude.
The pride of Francoise Casaubieilh and Husband Pierre Coloumb, Domaine Guirardel has been in the family since the 16th century. Now in the 15th generation, the duo left careers as highly skilled IT engineers to find purpose in between the vines and to search for more human values, they embarked on a new adventure in the Jurançon. After a stint with Robert Plageoles they began the domaine in the summer of 2007. They broke ground in the commune of Monein in the Jurançon, at the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Front doors of la Moulin du Duhagon
Françoise has just obtained a BPREA viti-oeno in Savoie and oversaw her first harvests there while Pierre went to Montpellier SupAgro to refine his knowledge and gain expertise on yeasts. The expertise of generations before offered the support that was needed at the beginning, but it's no simple task to preserve the fundamentals of what constitutes the spirit of Jurançon; while continuing to challenge & draw on more current advances. There is a pride in perpetuating the bond between winemakers and those who drink the wine.
Pierre and Francoise not only have a respect for the moment but for the future. The current domaine is only a glimpse into the potential of future generations of family and new winemakers in the region. Maybe it's the long lineage, the people or the combination of both but the spirit of embetterment of self, of land and of wine is everywhere. Francoise & Pierre see themselves as having a responsibility in the ¨hand over¨ doing the work now and eventually entrusting to new hands.
I left my first tasting with Pierre & Francoise in awe, super energised and thrilled. It takes a special place and a special people to craft wines with as much originality as the two have done. I couldn't get my head around everything that was discussed in such a short span of time, what we had tasted together and what we saw. Every conversation with them offers a glimpse into their world but remains only a piece of the full picture.
The domaine itself comprises 5ha of vines, with a majority of Petit Manseng (4ha) completed with Gros Manseng. A portion terraced, the vineyards perched on steep slopes overlooking a valley and surrounded by wild forest. The estate itself is isolated, it stands along as its own microclimate and lies on glacier compacted stone which charge the intensity and salinity in finished grapes and wines. They quickly set their own path and adopt organic practices from 2011, they constantly experiment and search for natural balance in the vines. They spray essential oils, the soil is never worked and there is no de-budding or trimming of the vines. In line with their previously life as engineers, they have created the software for efficient diffusion of treatments based on forecast, hydrometry and light. “Wines made & fermented by naturally means you are reliant on healthy yeast activity. With this way of working you cannot change the yeast but you can affect the environment in which it is living. Ask yourself what does it need, typically this is clear by the smell of on-going fermentation. ” Petit Manseng and parent Gros Manseng are one of the most amazing grapes when late harvested and Passerillé by the foehn winds. There is a depth to Manseng in this style, the particularity, the complexity and lifted texture. Francoise & Pierre have the idea of vinifying these bone dry and without any additive. The challenge for them was to find a way to populate the must with yeast with hard-working yeasts and extend the respiration phase to maintain low alcohol. They ferment and age in 400L (mostly) and 700L oak and acacia barrels, the wines are blended and named based on their character and behaviour through élevage, there is no recipe.
Each cuvée is unbelievably versatile with a wide range of cuisines, pairing becomes a joy and you'll quickly discover there's no limit to synergies between wine & food. The result is like nothing I've ever come across. Wines that combine power & finesse and transmit emotion like no other. Opulence & nuance, texture & length; elements juxtaposed but working in harmony.