Domaine de la Cybelline (Benoît Royer)

Even though very recent, in some ways the intensive year of research visits and writing that I undertook to prepare the Jura Wine book seem long ago and the region far away as I write from Auckland where I’m based for a few months.

However, there are several distinct highlights that don’t leave me – watching vigneron Benoît Royer and his beautiful mare Kigali working hard ploughing his old Poulsard vineyard in Mesnay is one of them. Benoît’s kindness in allowing us to come along and photograph the two of them at very short notice during our photo shoot for the book was typical of the man.

This latest extract from the book features Benoît’s Domaine de la Cybelline, a tiny organic estate whose wines seem to crop up in the most unexpected places, including on the spectacular wine list of one of the world’s most famous restaurants, Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. Producers like Benoît are part of what makes the Jura a big deal as I explained in a recent piece for the on-line magazine Wine Searcher, for whom I am temporarily working as Acting Editor.

Horse plowing Jura vineyard

Kigali with her owner Benoît Royer in his steep, old Poulsard vineyard in Mesnay   © Mick Rock/Cephas

‘Allez ma belle, marche, marche . . .’ (‘Come on, walk on, my lovely . . .’). The words that Benoît Royer says to encourage his Comtois mare Kigali while ploughing the vineyards seem to echo from another age, when horses were routinely used to work the vineyards. Today Benoît and Kigali work his tiny, steep, densely planted old Poulsard vineyard in Mesnay as well as a couple of other vineyards, usually close-planted, including Claude Buchot’s in Maynal. This is just one of several jobs that Benoît does, along with teaching biology and viticulture on the organic wine production course at the Lons college and running his very small wine estate.

Benoît originally wanted to be a veterinary surgeon, but ended up studying oenology at Dijon. From Arbois, his parents were not involved in wine, although his uncles had vineyards. After work experience in Burgundy Benoît worked for five years at Domaine de la Pinte before setting up on his own. He took on old vineyards in Mesnay and Molamboz in AOC Arbois and a younger one in Buvilly, classified AOC Côtes du Jura, starting conversion to organics right away, and later took on a parcel in Poligny to plant.

Cibellyne Jura vigneron

Domaine de la Cibellyne in Mesnay © Brett Jones

Over the few years he has made wine in the small cellar under his house yields have fluctuated wildly, often being too low to be economic, partly because some vineyards, mostly those with younger vines, previously chemically managed, did not convert easily to organics. Benoît has now relinquished the Buvilly vineyards so that he can manage the estate better on his own.

Most of his wines are blends and in recent years there have been various cuvées from different blends and plots. He is a skilful and thoughtful winemaker and results are deliciously simple and elegant in style. Reds are usually made using punch-downs in stainless steel, some small oak ageing, and judicious amounts of SO2.

The whites start off in tank and then move into oak, mostly topped up, though he has dabbled with sous voile when he has enough volume and in 2005 he made a Vin Jaune. He makes both white Macvin and red Macvin (the latter not every year) and stresses the importance of ageing longer than the minimum time in oak as well as using juice from good ripe fruit.

With his wines on some of the best restaurant wine lists in Scandinavia, Benoît’s estate epitomizes the ‘small is beautiful’ approach, and now, with an even smaller domaine, life should get easier for him.

Domaine de la Cibellyne
1 Rue Bernarde, 39600 Mesnay
Tel: 03 84 66 29 71
Email: ben.royer@wanadoo.fr
Contact: Benoît Royer
Established: 2004
Vineyards: 2ha (1.2ha white, 0.8ha red)
Certification: Ecocert
Visits: No tasting room, but visits welcomed by appointment

I shall be visiting the Jura again in early September, leading a trip for generous Kickstarter supporters, so will try to report from there on harvest prospects. Immediately after I will be attending the Louis Roederer Wine Writing Awards award ceremony in London before returning to Auckland for a further six months.

Categories: Jura Wine book excerpts | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Jura Wine Book Shortlisted for Prestigious Award

Roederer Wine Writers Awards ShortlistI am proud to announce that my book ‘Jura Wine’ has been shortlisted for the prestigious award of Louis Roederer International Wine Book of the Year in the 10th International Wine Writers’ Awards 2014.

The International Wine Book of the Year 2014 is sponsored by Domaines Faiveley.

Judges for all the categories in competition were Jamie Goode, Robert Joseph, Gabriella Opaz and Margaret Rand, chaired by Charles Metcalfe.

It is a real honour to be included on this list with the other four books which are as follows:

The Champagne Guide 2014-2015
by Tyson Stelzer

Christie’s World Encyclopedia of Champagne and sparkling wine
by Tom Stevenson & Essi Avellan MW

The New California Wine
by Jon Bonné

The World Atlas of Wine 7th Edition
by Hugh Johnson & Jancis Robinson OBE MW

The winner will be announced at a special event for all the Louis Roederer Wine Writers’ Awards in London on Tuesday 9 September 2014.

Read the article on Wine-Searcher for more details on the awards.

If you haven’t yet purchased the book, check out the reviews and the book stockists soon as stocks are going down … There will be an e-book in the next month or so, so look out for that, however it won’t look half as good as the printed book and will not be heavily discounted either.

Thanks are due once again to all who encouraged me to write the book, supported its publication, purchased it in advance or bought it more recently, as well as everyone who helped me so much in its production. Thanks too to all the Jura vignerons and their wines, without whom there would, of course, be no book.

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Domaine Chevassu-Fassenet

The number of vigneronnes or women winegrowers in the Jura is small, but they are all strong characters who have built up great respect for their wines. Managing her 4.5ha of vineyards from vine to sales as many do here, the last thing Marie-Pierre Chevassu-Fassenet, a mother of three girls, has time for is to build a website, hence you may not have come across her or her estate’s wines. But both are well worth getting to know.

In this next excerpt from the Jura Wine book (check out the latest reviews!) read about Marie-Pierre, who is based in the most traditional part of the Jura wine region, the appellation of Château-Chalon. Her Château-Chalon (or technically that made by her father, but bottled by her) is offered by the glass in Raymond Blanc’s prestigious Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons restaurant near Oxford.

A typical stone marker showing the vineyards of Domaine Chevassu-Fassenet in the AOC vineyards of Château-Chalon ©Mick Rock/Cephas

A typical stone marker showing the vineyards of Domaine Chevassu-Fassenet in Menétru-le-Vignoble, part of the AOC Château-Chalon © Mick Rock/Cephas

Les Granges-Bernard is a wonderful old Jurassien farm surrounded by pastures on the plateau behind Menétru, and it is here that Marie-Pierre Chevassu-Fassenet was brought up with her three sisters. Her mother Marie came from a family of vignerons and her father Denis farmed mainly cows. He took on some vineyards in the 1980s and, as all his daughters enjoyed helping, he expanded the business and started making and selling wine. Marie-Pierre chose a career in wine and after wine studies in Beaune and an oenology degree at Dijon she worked in New Zealand, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Champagne before returning to work in the Jura for several years as cellar manager at La Maison du Vigneron [the largest négociant in the Jura]. She took over the wine estate in 2008, whilst one of her sisters runs the farm.

Marie-Pierre Chevassu-Fassenet

Marie-Pierre outside the farmhouse Les Granges Bernard © Brett Jones

Marie-Pierre’s husband, Cédric Fassenet, is a theatre director in Lons, but helps with tastings, and Marie-Pierre continues to receive help from her parents. However, she is very keen to keep the estate small, in particular so that she can take care of the vineyards personally, and everything is worked in a sustainable way. Marie-Pierre manually hoes 3ha of the vineyards but explains that, due to erosion of the steep slopes, there are some parcels in Château-Chalon where it is simply impossible to work without herbicide. She uses systemic treatments early and late in the season but is a keen member of the local group working in lutte raisonnée towards Terra Vitis certification. The atmospheric cellars at the farm are full of old wood from large foudres down to fûts and feuillettes.

The biggest change that Marie-Pierre has made since taking over has been with the two reds, which she makes in a resolutely modern Jura way, with careful sorting at harvest during the manual destemming and filling the tanks with carbon dioxide to avoid using SO2 at harvest. There is no oak ageing. The resulting Pinot Noir (I have not tasted the Poulsard) is deliciously full of fruit, with a touch of CO2 gas that disappears with some aeration. Whites are no less carefully thought out, but this time resolutely traditional, never topping up, yet for the excellent Chardonnay, aged in foudres or demi-muids, there is only a hint of the oxidative character: the process simply brings out the minerality of the marl soil.

The Savagnins, which come from En Beaumont, are aged in three locations: a small amount in a loft, another small part in a semi-underground cellar, and three-quarters underground, meaning, as is classic for Château-Chalon, less temperature variation during ageing, aiming at finesse and elegance. The Château-Chalons since 1999 have been blended and bottled by Marie-Pierre, but of course were vinified by her father Denis until 2008. There is, however, a Savagnin 2008 already released and I sense from this there will be changes, with Marie-Pierre bringing out even more elegance and finesse in these wines, which need plenty of time open to show their best. A delicious Vin de Paille made from Chardonnay, Savagnin and Poulsard and a Chardonnay Macvin are very good too. This is a fine estate in excellent hands.

The UK importer for Domaine Chevassu is Les Caves de Pyrène and the wine is exported in small quantities to other countries too.

clavelin Château-Chalon

A clavelin of Château-Chalon from Domaine Chevassu © Mick Rock/Cephas

Domaine Chevassu-Fassenet
Les Granges Bernard, 39210 Menétru-le-Vignoble
Tel: 03 84 48 17 50
Email: mpchevassu@yahoo.fr
Contact: Marie-Pierre Chevassu-Fassenet
Established: 1980
Vineyards: 4.5ha (80% Chardonnay and Savagnin, 20% Poulsard and Pinot Noir)
Visits: No tasting room, but visits welcomed by appointment

 

Categories: Jura Wine book excerpts, Producers | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot

As I write, last minute preparations are taking place for the second annual official Wines of Jura trade tasting in London, which takes place tomorrow. Twenty producers will be present each showing six wines on their tables. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon I host a masterclass giving an introduction to the wines of the region. And, at 1pm we will be celebrating the Jura wine book with a taste of four rather special Crémants du Jura.

The great thing about this Jura trade and press tasting is that even though several producers have agents already, it is the producers themselves who come over to present their wines for tasting. The profile that follows is of one of these producers who has not yet found an agent and is my second excerpt from the book. Based in Montigny, this is the least well-known Tissot domaine, run today by Jean-Christophe and his sister Valérie Tissot, whose parents Jean-Louis and Françoise founded the domaine. The two women of the estate – Françoise and her daughter Valérie, who speaks English, will be at the tasting. Valérie is also president of next year’s Percée du Vin Jaune, which takes place in the village of Montigny on Saturday 31 January and Sunday 1 February.

Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot -
Montigny-les-Arsures, Arbois

Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot

Valérie and Jean-Christophe outside the house in Les Arsures ©Mick Rock/Cephas

Sister and brother, bubbly Valérie and shy Jean-Christophe Tissot run this estate, but their retired parents Françoise and Jean-Louis lend them a willing hand, Françoise helping out with tastings and Jean-Louis in the vineyard – for them, retirement is theoretical. Françoise Masson from the hamlet of Vauxelles, between Arbois and Montigny, married Jean-Louis Tissot from Montigny (2km away) in 1965; she had two grandparents closely connected with the wine business. On her father’s side, Albert Masson ran a service making sparkling wines for vignerons, important even back in the early 20th century. On her mother’s side, Albert Piroutet was one of the founders of the Arbois Fruitière and among those who worked hard for Arbois to obtain the AOC in 1936. Françoise’s father also joined the cooperative and she inherited his vines to pool with the 1.6ha that Jean-Louis inherited from his father Maurice Tissot. In the early years Jean-Louis was part of the Fruitière too, but after planting 8ha of vines in 1990 they decided to start producing their own wines.

Valérie studied wine production at Mâcon-Davayé and Jean-Christophe at Beaune. Today Valérie runs the commercial side of the business and Jean-Christophe makes the wine and is in charge of the vineyards together with their father Jean-Louis. They own various parcels around Montigny, including a few hectares in Les Bruyères with its heavy marl ideal for Poulsard and Savagnin. The vines are grassed down every other row, using herbicide only under the vine rows, and managed on lutte raisonnée lines with one full-time employee and three seasonal workers. Harvest is partly by hand and partly by machine and a small quantity of grapes is sold to the Cellier de Tiercelines négociant. Originally the wine was made and matured in Vauxelles, but in the early 2000s they bought a large house in Les Arsures, where Jean-Louis and Françoise moved together with Jean-Christophe. They installed a winery in the outbuildings with a ventilated loft area to dry Vin de Paille grapes and to age barrels for Vin Jaune, although most of the wine ageing remains in Vauxelles.

Vin Jaune ageing

Valérie & Jean-Christophe Tissot with the barrels of Vin Jaune they age in a loft area. ©Mick Rock/Cephas

Winemaking is simple and traditional. Reds are vinified in cement tank and, in the case of Trousseau and the Rouge Tradition (one-third each of Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir), aged in foudres. These reds in good years can be juicy and sappy, traditionally structured with those earthy tannins that are unexpected after the very pale colour of the wines. The Trousseau ages particularly well. There are two Chardonnays. The main cuvée is aged in tank and foudres, providing an excellent example of simple Arbois appley, mineral Chardonnay, needing a little time to emerge, and the Cuvée Jean-Christophe is partly aged in oak barrels; this is less successful. All Savagnin is aged for potential Vin Jaune and some withdrawn for a Reserve blend of 40% together with the classic Chardonnay, and some for a Savagnin. These are both decent examples, but the Vin Jaune shines as a very oxidative, nutty Arbois style with a touch of elegance.

This branch of the Tissot family may be less visible than the others, but the domaine is well worth seeking out for good-value, true-to-type wines produced by a family of real ambassadors for Arbois and its wines. So far they have not exported, selling directly to consumers and through wholesalers in France.

Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot
Vauxelles, 39600 Montigny-les-Arsures
Tel: 03 84 66 13 08
Email: valerie.tissot@wanadoo.fr
Web: domaine-jeanlouis-tissot.com
Contact: Valérie Tissot
Established: 1976 (vineyards 1965)
Vineyards: 17ha (6ha Chardonnay, 4ha Savagnin, 4.5ha Poulsard, 2ha Trousseau, 0.5ha Pinot Noir)

Categories: Events and Tastings, Jura Wine book excerpts, Producers | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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