Monthly Archives: November 2012

Sorting the lady’s Trousseau

The grape name Trousseau usually brings a smile to the face of older people who actually remember the meaning of a lady’s trousseau – a ‘bottom drawer’ or ‘hope chest’ – now disappearing from common use in English. The red grape Trousseau found in Jura may have derived its name from the old French word troussé or trussed, meaning tied up like a chicken, which relates to the shape of the bunch, but as usual these meanings are lost in history.

Trousseau grapes

Old vine Trousseau à la Dame

Trousseau is one of the three main permitted red grapes in the Jura, and although increasing slowly, there are only about 150 hectares planted or less than 8% of the total Jura vineyard. The largest plantings are in the north of the region in the Arbois appellation, especially around Montigny-les-Arsures, though certain vineyard areas in the southern Côtes du Jura have been identified as suitable for plantings too. According to local geologist Michel Campy, Trousseau is a sensitive variety, needing good exposure and preferring clay-gravel soils with fragments of limestone and silica.

The new Wine Grapes book confirms Trousseau comes originally from the Jura region and has a biological parent-child relationship with the white Savagnin variety. It is the same as the Bastardo grape of Portugal (and also grown to a lesser extent in Spain) but no-one knows how it arrived in Iberia – there are over 1,200ha grown in Portugal.

Arbois Les Corvées vineyardTrousseau, the harvest
During a sunny afternoon spent  harvesting in the south-facing vineyard of Les Corvées above Arbois with Pascal Clairet of Domaine de la Tournelle, I learned that Trousseau à la Dame (lady’s Trousseau?) refers to an old selection of particularly loose bunches of Trousseau. We were picking earlier than Pascal might have liked as after the difficult 2012 summer weather, quantity was down (Trousseau is prone to coulure or bad flower set), and he wanted to save what he could before the onset of yet another bout of rain.

Actually, the bunches were in excellent condition and Pascal confirmed a potential of about 12% alcohol, though later this was to be tested by his wife Evelyne who was back at the vinification cellar in the village of St-Cyr-Montmalin a few kilometres way. The pickers brought the grapes down the steep vineyard slope, whose clay soils had already dried out from the previous day’s rain. They dragged the rectangular tubs on convenient metal contraptions and then the tubs were tipped onto a large square tray for manual de-stemming.

Manual de-stemming

Manual de-stemming the Trousseau ©Brett Jones

Also providing a final sorting opportunity, rejecting any rotten berries or leaves inadvertently picked, this wooden manual de-stemming tray was surprisingly efficient. The tray has regular holes drilled in it and sits on top of a large plastic tub that can take 300-400kg of grapes. Standing up on the tractor trailer, I was taught to rub my hands over the bunches, keeping them curved so as not to crush the grapes. It’s a much gentler process than the mechanical de-stemmers that producers have used for several decades, preserving the integrity of the grape. The glistening berries fall into the tub and the stems can be thrown overboard. The result is a tub full of berries that look almost like olives.

Trousseau grape berries

The berries after de-stemming; an occasional Chardonnay vine is mixed up in the vineyard, hence the white berries

Trousseau, the wine
The big tubs of Trousseau grapes were taken back to the winery and bucket by bucket thrown into the top of a fibre-glass tank. There are few fancy machines at Domaine de la Tournelle – my overriding impression was of an immaculately clean winery. It always takes a lot of water to make good wine, and most especially for anyone who – as this winery – uses minimal or no chemical intervention. No SO2 is used here whenever possible and only natural yeasts. The Trousseau will have a few light punch downs (usually with feet!) and then regular pumpovers before being pressed.

Pascal Clairet of Domaine de la Tournelle

Pascal Clairet ©Brett Jones

In looking forward to tasting Trousseau Les Corvées 2012, I have recently drunk the 2010 vintage, slightly cloudy, full of pure juicy red-black fruit with a light structure. I don’t think it’s for long ageing, but may well be proved wrong as so often with Jura reds.

Other good producers of Arbois Trousseau include Stéphane Tissot (Domaine A & M Tissot), Jacques Puffeney, Daniel Dugois (who has several cuvées including one specifically from Trousseau à la Dame, named Damelière), Fréderic Lornet (with the cuvée Trousseau Les Dames that I had previously thought to be a vineyard location), Michel Gahier and Lucien Aviet (Caveau de Bacchus). In Côtes du Jura, Domaine Ganevat, Benoit Badoz and Domaine Pignier can be recommended.

California Postscript
There is one other wine in the world that I know of labelled Trousseau and made in a Jura style and that is Arnot-Roberts Trousseau from California. Arnot-Roberts is a small winery based in Healdsburg, Sonoma County that buys in grapes and has a passion for French-style, restrained wines. They purchase their Trousseau grapes from a grower in Lake County who planted it as Bastardo for a port blend. I tried both 2010 and 2011 back in February this year (both not yet bottled) and was impressed by the delicacy, rusticity and overall Jura-style, despite the extra fruit intensity derived from California sunshine. It’s worth noting that Trousseau Gris is a colour variant that is not grown as far as I know in the Jura, but exists in California, sometimes called ‘Gray Riesling’.

The following video was shot by Cathy Ho, and shows Pierre Overnoy demonstrating and explaining (in French) the manual de-stemming method I tried to describe above, but with the Poulsard/Ploussard variety grown in Pupillin a few kilometres away.

Categories: Jura wine education | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Betting on China and bidding for Château-Chalon

Today, a delegation of producers from the Jura are starting a week-long trip in China, starting at the Vin China exhibition in Beijing and continuing on to Ningbo near Shanghai, a free trade zone where they can present tastings of the wines they are taking with them. Meantime, equally surreal to some, a bottle of 1864 Château-Chalon has been announced as the star bottle for next year’s auction of old bottles at the Percée du Vin Jaune.

Jura export potential
The trip for the 23 intrepid producers who have gone to China has been financially supported by various regional bodies, who also support the campaign to promote the wines to the North American markets through trade tastings in various US and Canadian cities, and press visits to visit the Jura region. The work is paying off, and from a low base, exports are starting to increase.

There is definitely a niche for Jura wines to fit into most markets. In China, they are expecting their Vin Jaune, Vin de Paille and Macvin to go down well, along with white wines; reds are less popular. With Jura reds growing in demand both in the USA and at home in France, it’s probably a good thing that the Chinese prefer whites. As I concluded in my article on Jura exports in Meiningers Wine Business International, although the best producers have wines on allocation, there is plenty of wine available from others, and they will do well, providing they keep up their quality level.

Moveable festival at the foot of Château-Chalon
The Percée du Vin Jaune festival that takes place over the first week of February, is held in a different town or village each year. With 30-50,000 people expected over the weekend (numbers depend largely on weather) the logistics are demanding for every host town, but they always seem to manage to put together an amazing occasion.

Over the weekend of 2nd-3rd February 2013 the festival will be in Voiteur, the town at the foot of the Château-Chalon vineyards (with the village of Château-Chalon up above). There are several good chambres d’hôtes (B&Bs) in the area, but they will fill up fast, so if you plan to attend, book soon and remember to pack warm clothes.

The festival is held mainly outside, which was hard this February in Ruffey-sur-Seille near Arlay, when the temperature was down to a record -17°C. On both days of the festival, entertainers cruise the streets and wines are available to taste from about 75 producers who set up stall in cellars and rooms around the village. On Sunday there is a procession (video from last year above). Apart from tasting and keeping moving, one trick to keep warm on the Saturday afternoon is to duck into the designated building for the auction of old bottles.

The story of the old 1864 Château-Chalon
According to the press release, the 1864 on offer at the auction next year is from the collection a private individual and is a 65cl bottle in a clavelin-type bottle typical of La Vieille Loye glass-making factory (as discussed in my article on the 1774 Arbois in World of Fine Wine). The vintage date of 1864 appears actually embossed onto the bottle’s crest on the glass. The owner possessed two bottles, and back in the 1980s he asked local producer, Marius Perron of Voiteur to taste the two bottles and fill one with the other, re-cork and re-seal it.

Château-Chalon 1864 ©Le Progrès

As so often, the only person that has written about tasting a Château-Chalon 1864 is Paris-based fine wine collector François Audouze, who tasted that from Clos des Logaudes (unconfirmed, but this may be the same producer) with an American collector friend back in April 2006 over a special wine dinner. On various forums he admits that everyone at the dinner thought it was wonderful, but as the oldest Château-Chalon in his collection his expectations were so high that he marked it down on the night, and later felt that it was better than he noted. I’m somewhat confused by his notes, but it is known that 1864 was a great vintage, so it may well be that this bottle is an amazing 149-year-old wine, all set for a suitable celebration on its 150th birthday.

Categories: Events and Tastings, News, Print articles | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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