Where are they?La Chapelle de Rousse in Jurançon which is in Southwest France, right in the middle between the Atlantic Coast, the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean and Armagnac country.
How big is the vineyard?They have 17 hectares of steep slopes facing the Pyrenees at about 250-350m high.
Grape VarietiesPetit Manseng (60%), Gros Manseng and Petit Corbeau.
The Story“Wine is the symbol of the shared pleasure” – Jean-Bernard Larrieu. For three generations, the Larrieu family has been growing vines on an area of their estate traditionally used for mixed farming. Jean-Bernard Larrieu, his father (Marcel), and the rest of the team at Clos Lapeyre tend to the vines on the steep hillsides facing the Pyrenees. Their position gives the vines loads of sunshine but also lots of rain. The climate varies throughout the year from heavy storms in the summer to Indian summers in Autumn and warm winds from Spain. This clash leads to a very tropical climate with a huge diversity of maize crops, vegetables and trees including palm trees, banana trees, lemon trees and fig trees.
When we walked around the vineyard, Jean-Bernard showed us the importance of growing the whole ecosystem not just the grapes: how herbs, fennel and barley grew between the vines to improve insect life and fix nitrates in the soil, how he tilled the soil by hand and how his team daily pick all mildew leaves by hand.
The Petit Courbu vines, of which they have a few thousand, were planted in the 1940's, giving the name "Vitatge Viehl" (meaning "old vines" in Occitan). They terrace the steep slopes which allows safe exploitation, but this 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!
The whole village is part of a cooperative organisation sharing all their farming equipment. This spirit of cooperation and the sharing of knowledge is important for Clos Lapeyre: such small-scale estates would find it difficult to have all their own tools and it increases communication between growers.