The Vignerons Indépendants group includes 24 producers from the Jura and half of these were presenting wines at their big tasting in Lille last November. This was a chance for me to catch up with producers that I haven’t visited or tasted with for a while.
This independent winegrowers’ group in France comprises producers who grow and harvest their own grapes, and who make, bottle and sell their own wine, so no négociants or cooperatives. Apart from this, the criteria for joining the group is that these growers should respect local traditions, the terroir and the environment but there are no particular standards for how to do this. Most importantly to me, these indie growers agree to welcome visitors and should enjoy presenting their wines for tasting both at their cellars and at the regular fairs held around the big cities of France.
It’s not easy tasting when you are jostled for space and time is short, but it was nevertheless a useful opportunity to gain an overall impression of the seven producers I managed to see. Here’s a run-down of the four Arbois producers.
Estates in and around Arbois
At the stand of Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot I was welcomed by Valérie, daughter of Jean-Louis (brother of André and Jacques – yes there are three Tissot domaines in Arbois!). Today she runs the 15-hectare estate just outside Arbois with her brother Jean-Christophe. The wines were solid rather than exciting, though I particularly enjoyed their delightful Trousseau 2009 and an earthy Crémant showed promise too.
Domaine Ligier is an Arbois estate I discovered at the very first Vignerons Indépendant fair that I attended when trying to discover new Jura estates way back in 2002. Run by brothers Hervé and Stéphane, I had the chance to chat with Stéphane who is usually in the vineyards. He explained that they now have 9.5 hectares of vines though quite a high proportion of young vines due to their sensible policy of leaving a 2-3 year gap between grubbing up old vines and re-planting. These days he manages the vineyards using lutte raisonnée (where herbicides, fungicides and pesticides are kept to a minimum) with herbicide only used under-vine and he plans to buy a machine to avoid this in future. I’ve always enjoyed Ligier’s wines and I wasn’t disappointed this time, with a good standard across the whole range. My highlights here were their Chardonnays, especially the oak fermented Vieilles Vignes 2011 from vines of an average 70 years old and deliciously good value Crémants, both white and rosé.
The largest family-run estate in the Jura Domaine Rolet has around 65 hectares in Arbois and in Côtes du Jura (and even in Etoile), and is currently – rather quietly – up for sale (anyone?) because the brothers Guy, Bernard and Pierre with their sister Eliane, who have run the estate for many years, have no successors interested in taking it on. I know their wines well and had time only to taste the reds and their Crémants with as ever the latter being the stars from this estate. The basic Rolet Brut with 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot and Poulsard has four years of ageing before disgorging (vintage is not labelled but this was the 2007) and it tasted very elegant; the top of the range classy Coeur de Chardonnay (€12 direct) was creamy and very long.
Pierre Rolet was instrumental in getting the appellation Crémant du Jura approved back in the 1990s and I intend to interview him to find out more. We also had a chat about the ongoing issue of the clavelin-size bottle not being approved in the USA. He showed me a 37.5cl half bottle of Vin Jaune made in the clavelin shape, pictured left - a size not approved of within appellation rules but allowed to be sold in the US – Stéphane Tissot is another producer I know that uses this size for exports.
Based in the village of Pupillin the 25-hectare Domaine Désiré Petit has seen some changes since I last tasted with them, notably with brother and sister Damien and Anne-Laure taking on the day-to-day management from their uncle Gérard who has been at the helm for some time. Damien has already introduced 600-litre demi-muids barrels into the oak programme. Vinified in these demi-muids, his Savagnin Ouillé named L’Essen’ciel 2011 had a lovely nose and showed promise, though other wines that I tasted lacked balance. I did enjoy the 2011 Pinot Noir aged in 4-year-old fûts (standard 228-litre barrels). Unfortunately I ran out of time and never returned to taste their Vin de Paille, a style at which they always excel. This is still an estate to watch, I think and I will make an effort to taste again with them soon.
Other members of the Jura Vignerons Indépendants group in the Arbois appellation include the estates Jacques Tissot, Stéphane (A&M) Tissot, La Pinte, Martin-Faudot, Cybelline and Daniel Dugois. I will post some notes on the wines tasted from winegrowers in the Côtes du Jura next week.