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Gros Manseng

Gros Manseng is one of the key white grape varieties from the Jurançon region in south west France. Traditionally associated with sweet wine production, the variety these days is used also to make dry wines, which tend to be highly aromatic with crisp, lemony flavours. Gros Manseng is produced as both a varietal wine and in blends with other local varieties like Petit Manseng and the now-ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc.

The variety is reasonably attractive to winemakers as it performs well in the vineyard, producing thick skinned berries with high levels of both sugar and acidity. These three factors make the grape very well suited to sweet wine production: grapes can remain on the vine for a long time, developing plenty of sweetness while still retaining acidity. The thick skins provide protection from rot.

While late harvest examples of Gros Manseng wines still exist, they are being replaced by dry versions, made from grapes picked before full ripeness has been achieved. These wines are characterised by their vibrant acidity, displaying floral aromas and sometimes a distinct note of spiced apricot. Some care must be taken in the winery as the grape's thick skins can lead to high alcohol levels and tannins.

It is almost impossible to talk about Gros Manseng without talking also about the closely related Petit Manseng, Jurancon's other key grape variety. The two share a nomenclature that is distinguished only by the size of the berries: gros and petit mean large and small respectively. Gros Manseng covers much more vineyard acreage than Petit Manseng, although the latter is considered to be the better of the two. Usually, Petit Manseng is used in the production of sweet wines and Gros Manseng makes up the bulk of the dry wines. There are of course exceptions to this rule, and many wines that are made of a blend of the two.

Gros Manseng is not planted in many places outside of south west France, but it is important there: outside of Jurançon it is permitted in the white wines of Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and Bearn. It is also widely used in Côtes de Gascogne wines.