September 1, 2015
Wine of the Week: Camaralet
For today’s Wine of the Week, we decided to pay tribute to a grape variety on the verge of extinction. Camaralet de Lassaube, or simply Camaralet, can be found only in Southwest France, where less than half an acre of the varietal remain. So why is the grape now nearly extinct? Keep reading to find out!
Camaralet is grown in Southwestern France, in the Bearn Piedmont of the Pyrenees. Historically known for its strong, peppery aromatics, and high level of alcohol, the white grape variety has been declining for the past few years, and is now an “endangered” grape – as referenced by Jancis Robinson in her book Wine Grapes.
The grape’s decline is due to its very own nature: it is a female vine, producing female flowers that only pollinate when planted very closely with other male or hermaphrodite vines. Although Camaralet is a vigorous vine, this characteristic makes it hardly productive, which explains why it produces such incredibly low yields. This peculiarity makes it a challenge in the vineyard, which is why Camaralet was progressively abandoned for “easier” vines.
Today, although it is virtually impossible to enjoy pure Camaralet de Lassaube, the grape is mainly used as a blending agent in regional wines, along with varietals such as Petit and Gros Manseng, Petit Courbu or Lauzet. These wines are known to exhibit a rich wave of pepper, spicy notes of cinnamon and even aromas of fennel.
Only a few winemakers still strive to cultivate Camaralet, in order to preserve the heritage of this fine and complex wine. Domaine Cauhapé is the only winery known to be producing a varietal Camaralet. Their 2013 Jurançon Sec is a great example of a blend involving Camaralet.
Our advice? If you haven’t done so already, get your hand on a varietal Camaralet, before it becomes an ancient extinct grape.