In a tiny stone cellar in the mountain town of Monein, Claude Loustalot continues the tradition first started by his charming uncle, founder Georges Bru-Baché. Although the Bru-Baché-Loustalot clan has been making wine in the Pyrénées since the 1960s, it was not until 1973 that they first began to bottle under their own label. Like many smaller wine regions that were decimated by phylloxera from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth, Jurançon was one of the first to receive A.O.C. status, but has been very slow to recover its production. Since taking over the family domaine in 1994, Claude Loustalot has been bringing pride back to the Jurançon appellation and has taken steps to restore these specialized wines to their former glory.
Claude farms ten hectares of terraced vineyards along steep slopes surrounded by breathtaking views of the snow-capped mountains that crown the Basque country. The majority of his holdings are planted to the indigenous varietals, Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng, the former producing a dry, crisp white genetically linked to the Albariño of Spain, and the latter producing an exquisite sweet wine. Claude has implemented biodynamic viticultural practices in the vineyards since 2006 (receiving certification in 2009), which has helped him achieve both purity of expression in his grapes as well as a completely interdependent ecosystem virtually right out of his front door, where sheep graze between vineyard rows. In his garage, he can often be seen blending herbal teas (or tisanes) like Domaine Arretxea, creating his own natural remedies for the vines.
Claude bottles six spectacular cuvées. In his bottlings of Gros Manseng, Claude plays with both tank and wood-aging. Laden with citrus notes and stony minerals (from the schist and limestone soils), these cuvées have terrific complexity for wines so refreshing and easy-to-enjoy. His Petit Manseng bottlings are simply divine. Through the process of passerillage, the grapes achieve an intense raisin-like ripeness by extended hang time on the vines. Their thick skins retain the sugars while preventing rot. They are harvested successively in November and December, concentrated and ready to press. Claude has carried the torch with such success that even the impartial reference manual, The Oxford Companion to Wine, continues to recognize the domaine’s Jurançons as among the best in the appellation.