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The Petit Courbu Grape


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About Courb

(Synonyms: Courbis, Corbu Petit, Petit Courbu Blanc, Vieux Pacherenc, Xuri Zerratu)

Background

Map showing the Madiran region of France

Petit Courbu is a white-wine grape originating in the Gascony region of France, more particularly in the Madiran area. Do not confuse this grape with “Courbu Blanc” or “Courbu Rouge”, which are quite unrelated types (though Courbu Blanc wines are said to be rather similar to those from Petit Courbu).

Petit Courbu contributes in some part, usually small, to white blends in several appellations: Jurançon, Béarn, and Irouléguy; but it is most prominent in the wines of the “Pacherenc Du Vic Bilh” appellation. There, it is one of a small set of grape types typically blended in the region to yield wines made in styles mostly ranging from off-dry to outright sweet, but including some dry, table-wine types as well. It is apparently impossible to locate a monovarietal bottling of Courbu (such a bottling might not even be legal under France’s, um distinctive wine laws).

A wine labelled simply “Pacherenc Du Vic Bilh” will always be an off-dry or sweet wine; the table-wine versions are labelled “Pacherenc Du Vic Bilh Sec”, which is a distinct label appellation (AOC, Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée). For the Sec wines, the legal requirements are now (they changed in 2005): Courbu and Petit Manseng together must make up at least 60%, but neither may exceed 80%; certain other grape varieties are allowed up to up to 40%, they being Arrufiac, Gros Manseng, and Sauvignon Blanc, with Sauvignon Blanc being limited to a maximum of 10%. (There will be a quiz tomorrow.)

In the Madiran, a single winemaker, Alain Brumont, has been the driving force in bringing the region’s wines to quality and at least some celebrity; Brumont makes wine under several labels: Chateau Montus (the flagship domaine), Chateau Bouscassé, Torus, and a few others. Most or all of the mainly Courbu bottlings come from one or another of his domaines.

Petit Courbu wines are said to exhibit a citrus-y quality with overtones of honey and some minerality. The nose is said to be quite aromatic. It is a full-bodied wine, but of modest acidity and alcohol levels, well and strongly flavored.

Factoid: Petit Courbu is said by some sources to be the same as the Basque grape Hondarrabi Zurri (aka Ondarrabi Zuri and Xuri Zerratia), one of the grapes used to make the Basque Txakolina wines.

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Some Descriptions of Petit Courbu Wines

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Some Petit Courbus to Try

(About this list.)

We have nothing against blended wines, which are often the best and highest use of certain varietals; but in these lists we are trying to present representative specimens of the grape in question, so our focus is on monovarietal bottlings, or at least those dominated by the grape. With Petit Courbu (and several other of the blend ingredients from Gascony), it is often hard to find monovarietal samples; indeed, it is often hard to even identify the actual makeup of many of the bottlings. In the end, we could not find a monovarietal Courbu; but we came close on the one listed below—and even that one is now very scarce in the U.S. (and if you see a bottle, check the vintage year—the botle should be not over 8 years old, and not over 5 is safer).

Frankly, that is a ridiculous situation, but it is what it is.


Chateau Bouscassé “Les Jardins Philosophiques”
(The maker’s notes refer to “a cuvée made with almost 100% Petit Courbu”; it also includes some Petit Manseng, another Gascony grape scarce in the U.S.  Some vintages are labelled “Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Sec”, others are not; one suspects that the ones not so labelled have a higher Petit Courbu percentage than the 80% French law allows for a Pacherenc.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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For a Splurge

The wine above, which isn’t even fully monovarietal, is what there is.

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This page was last modified on Thursday, 16 January 2020, at 11:17 pm Pacific Time.