The wines from southwestern France’s Jurançon region so thoroughly win me over that just about every time I drink one, I need to check my sanity. It’s not the wines themselves that derange me – though they are disorienting, savage, demanding – but the disparity between their captivating complexity and their stature in common wine discourse.

I drink Jurançon, I go batty, I look around for someone to share the magic with, and all I find is silence. Even the Internet, which I hear is pretty good at dredging up random comments and info bits on subjects outside the mainstream, goes mostly mute on the region. The few worthwhile mentions seem to have been crafted years ago.

In this era of extreme sommelier check-me-out-ism, where every other 24-year-old restaurant bar manager is waiting to pounce on your drink order with a plea to try the 100 percent-skin-contact Château CrazyPants from Unknown Former Communist Nation-State No. 2D5 instead, where is the love for the powerful, body-boggling white wines of Jurançon?

They hide in plain sight. Wizened authority, trend-chasing acolyte, normal person who seeks interesting dry white wines, encyclopedic super-geek, please: Can we celebrate this thrilling outlier, or at least discuss what it offers?

Not interested? Fine. More for me. More wine, at lower prices, and perhaps a purer, more rewarding sort of exploration as well, unaltered by groupthink.

A bit of context, first, which I’ve gleaned from a few scraps of paper and digitalia, and then off I go.

The southwest of France bears down on Spain from Bordeaux, sharing the Pyrénées mountains and Basque region with its southern neighbor, though also stretching eastward to Provence. Jurançon is in the southern portion of this region, its vineyards in the foothills of the mountains. It is one of 10 appellations in the area, most of which – such as Gaillac, Marcillac, Madiran and Cahors – are known for their rustic, deep-throated reds. Vineyards there date back to the first-century Romans, though Jurançon is a relatively newly designated area. Still, its unique terrain is one of the reasons it was recognized as viticulturally significant in 1936, making it one of the first regions in France to receive AOC status.

Jurançon and its neighbor, the more thoroughly Basque appellation of Irouléguy, produce wines in the hills. Many of the small vineyards are terraced steeply, their limestone soils suffused with pebbles descended from the Pyrénées. These soils are partially responsible for the potent mineral nature of the wines. That mineral character is evident even in the sweet wines known as Jurançon doux, though it is more obvious in the dry wines of Jurançon with the suffix “sec.”

Jurançon doux, produced mostly from petit manseng grapes, are actually the better known and better regarded of the region’s wines. And while Jurançon sec, from predominantly gros manseng grapes, is my subject today, the secret conversations these two styles hold with each other are responsible for their varied respective splendors.

The great sweet white wines of the world – Sauternes, Tokaji, riesling beerenauslesen, vin santo, Jurançon doux, botrytized chenin blanc and some others – are plainly memorable. Their sugar content opens up possibilities for flavor layering and resounding pleasures that are unavailable to dry wines. For a dry wine to achieve the body and length of a sweet wine, sweetness needs to have entered the picture at some point.

Sweetness is, after all, the birthright of grape juice. A wine, no matter how dry, that somehow recalls this sweetness, accepts sweetness as its history even while dispensing with it upon completion, will always be superior to a wine that forgets. This is why Jurançon sec speaks so persistently to me.

Massive, powerful, almost fiercely tenacious, Jurançon sec wines linger in the nose, on the tongue, in your head far longer than we have come to expect of any dry, unoaked whites. The only competitors are dry Austrian or German rieslings, Savennieres and Chablis with significant age, but for those you will pay significantly more.

Do not drink Jurançon sec when you want to relax in front of the TV at the end of a hard day. Do not drink it with your book group. Do not drink it with ceviche. These are white wines for winter, for hearty dishes and beating hearts, and they demand attention.

However! They are delicious. Like a person, a wine can be demanding but not austere, strong but not fearsome, vehement but not angry. Most Jurançon secs I have drunk have needed 20 to 30 minutes open before they’re ready, but thereafter are so juicy, succulent and flat-out lip-smacking that it’s less that you can’t escape and more that you’d never want to.

They are a veritable master class in the components of taste. This, you know immediately, is acidity: a slightly citric crunch that is never sour or “acidic.” This, in a softer key, is floral: acacia, meadows, loveliness. This, then, is minerality: that salty, stony structure and statuesque magnificence. This, excitedly, is spice: a cayenne tingle without heat or too-much-ness. This, finally, is fruit: round and ripe, though too profound to be the mere replication of any particular fruit.

The wines open and transform dramatically over the course of an evening, continuously playing those basic components off each other in various keys. Leave a little in the bottle for the next night, too. I keep hoping I’ll come across Jurançon sec in a magnum, so that I can follow its trajectory over even more days. The oldest sec I’ve drunk has been five years old, its fruit flavors gone gloriously dried and a toasted nut aspect coming on. I’m not sure these wines, fermented and aged in stainless steel, could successfully last too far beyond that. But that’s just fine.

Of course, there are other Jurançon sec champions out there, but the battle feels like a loser. In Maine, several wine distributors used to carry one apiece, but too many years of not being able to sell them led to poignant close-out deals. I’ve grabbed more than one bottle that originally sold for $23 or $27, at one-third those prices.

Happy ending, though: I know of two that are available here now. The Clos Lapeyre 2012, at $18, offers a lively but approachable introduction. The (relatively) well-known Clos Uroulat “Cuvée Marie” 2011, $26, is more bracing and boisterous, especially just after it’s opened.

Both benefit greatly from patience, and a decanter. Open the bottle at lunchtime, decant and set it aside. Start cooking something garlicky and green, letting beans grow fat in the stockpot over several hours, maybe surrounded by some form of pig fat. At supper time, begin the adventure. If you can keep your wits about you more securely than I can, we’ll both be better off.

Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. He can be contacted at:

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