Author Archives: Wink Lorch

About Wink Lorch

I've been a wine writer, editor and educator for many years. I live partly in London and partly in the French Alps in Haute Savoie. I love all good, drinkable wine especially those produced in sight of big mountains. In the past few years I've become a specialist on the wines of Jura and Savoie and have written on these areas for many publications. In 2014 I self-published my first book, Jura Wine, which subsequently won the André Simon Best Drinks Book award. In 2017 I will publish a second book - Wines of the French Alps - Savoie, Bugey and beyond.

Jura tastings, events and a tour in 2017

Domaine Pêcheur Jura

Christian Pêcheur’s wines are newly available in the USA through Neal Rosenthal. ©Brett Jones

In 2016 the Jura went from strength to strength in terms of its wine distribution worldwide as well as its offering to tourists. Due to the latter, I get the impression that certain vignerons are inundated with requests for visits and hard-pressed to keep up with the demand on their time to host visitors. Group visits planned in advance make it easier for vignerons, and this year in October I will be leading an exciting tour, see below for details along with information about other tastings, seminars and a webinar.

Another challenging vintage
The 2016 vintage appears to have been a roller-coaster one, ending up with mixed results across the region, but considerably better than feared at the height of summer. The good news was that unlike several other French regions, Jura was almost miraculously spared from spring frost damage and there was only very localised hail damage. The bad news was the incredibly wet early summer that sent the levels of powdery mildew soaring, being too wet in some weeks for growers to even get into the vineyards to spray. Some crop was lost, especially Chardonnay; the gloriously sunny and hot July/August stopped the spread of disease but the next worry was extreme heat and drought that left growers greatly concerned as the vines shut down for a while, preventing grapes from ripening. It really was a nail-biting year, but as so often September saved the harvest bringing some essential rain near the start of the month and then fine, warm weather.

St-Lothain Jura vineyards

The end of an exhausting vintage year – 2016 in the vineyards of St-Lothain, Côtes du Jura. ©Brett Jones

Harvest started towards the end of September for most vignerons and was extended over several weeks. In the end, the sturdy and late-ripening Savagnin did well, but reports about the other varieties are varied. Interestingly, one might expect the organic growers to have suffered most, but in 2016 it seems that wasn’t the case at all. Hard work for those using some biodynamic methods paid off, giving the vines more strength to resist the drought, even if some volume was lost to mildew. Reports from some organic growers are that they actually sprayed fewer times than their conventional colleagues. I have not yet had a chance to taste the results, but first reports are that quality overall is good. Since 2011 there seems not to have been a ‘normal’ vintage in terms of quantity and quality, even if 2015 was unquestionably of very good quality.

Wine Scholar Guild embraces Jura education
Last year I conducted a one-hour webinar, called ‘Jura Ins & Outs’ for the burgeoning Wine Scholar Guild (formerly The French Wine Society). Usually only available for members of the Wine Scholar Guild, they have now made it free to view on YouTube.

This is in advance of two other events for them this year. Firstly, I shall be hosting a second webinar all about the producers and important people of Jura past and present on Wednesday 1st March – Jura Who’s Who … if you are a member of the Wine Scholar Guild, then do please join me online live and then you can ask questions.

And, the very exciting news is that I will be leading an exclusive 4-day Jura Wine study tour for the Wine Scholar Guild (but open also to non-members) in October. We will stay at the prestigious Hotel Château de Germigny, including two meals at its excellent 1-star Michelin restaurant. The details of the itinerary are on the link, but I should warn you that these are provisional – I hope to include as many fascinating producers possible in the time, but the choice will be restricted to those who can host a group of 15 people, so the very small, time-pressed vignerons are not included. Do spread the word among Jura wine lover friends – I know there are many who have been waiting for an opportunity to join a guided tour and this will be a very special one. My partner, Brett Jones, aka The Wine Maestro, will be accompanying me and the group as tour leader. Together we will ensure everyone gets the most out of the intensive visits, the tour around the region and the meals – and he is sure to take some great pictures too.

lndlv-2017Le Nez dans le Vert – Jura’s organic showpiece
The annual tasting show for over 40 of Jura’s organically-certified vignerons is back this year at Domaine de la Pinte, just outside Arbois. If you are connected to the trade or press, you can attend on the somewhat quieter Monday morning, followed by a wonderful lunch with all the vignerons. Otherwise, for consumers it’s still well worth attending on the Sunday, when the tasting is open all day.

Do read my post about the 2016 edition of the Nez dans le Vert tasting. I will not know until closer to the date if I can attend, but let me know privately if you are coming – I will bring some books to sell and to sign of course!

Frankly Wines hosts Wink Lorch and Jura wines

On a previous visit to NYC, where Frankly Wines kindly dubbed me the ‘Queen of the Jura’. ©Brett Jones

See you in New York and Chicago!
I’m very excited to be joining a group of 18 Jura producers for the region’s annual export trade tastings in the USA, this year to be held in Chicago on Monday 3rd April and in New York on Wednesday 5th April. Each morning I shall be presenting a comprehensive seminar and tasting; the tastings then stay open in the afternoon for trade and press, and re-open in the evening for consumers. I shall be around all day and evening and my books will be available to buy (bring cash please!) and sign. Of course, if you want me to sign your previously-purchased book, do bring it along to the event. The venues will be announced soon. For futher details, please contact Allison Slute at allison.slute@marqenergie.com.

Apart from the events above, Jura is taking somewhat a back seat for me in 2017 as I am working on my new book, Wines of the French Alps, focussing on Savoie, Bugey and other nearby French Alpine regions. If you follow this blog, please forgive a one-off email and a big social media drive next month about a Kickstarter campaign to support the publication of the new book.

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A Spring in the Jura’s step

A decade ago, when I wrote each year for the late-lamented annual guide, Wine Report, I was hard-pressed to find news in the Jura. Back then there was nothing much to report unless it was a little local argument between a producer and the wine authorities on labelling. Today I am hard-pressed to keep up with changes and developments, as well as forthcoming tasting events (see below).

Jura vignerons

All the vignerons at Le Nez dans le Vert, captured by Jerome Genée

Most, but not all, of the changes concern producers retiring and handing over the baton to the next generation, or new producers coming in, the latter particularly in the vibrant organic sector. Having attended Le Nez dans le Vert tasting in Paris in November, I came back for their annual tasting in the Jura in March, where there were even more discoveries to be made. Stéphane Tissot and Jean-Etienne Pignier have taken over managing Le Nez dans le Vert, the informal group of Jura organic growers, from Bruno Ciofi (it takes two to replace this ball of energy). They introduced the show by saying the Jura was the most organic region in France with around 17% of vineyards certified, producing 1 – 1.2 million bottles.

Arbois Domaine RatteI made a point of tasting with the newcomers to the group. Guillaume Gilet started his tiny 1.5-hectare Arbois estate Les Donneurs de Temps in 2012 following wine studies and a decade working around France for different organic producers. He has taken on various organic parcels and applied for official organic conversion status in 2014. His winemaking is super-natural and what I tasted gave hit and miss results – as they say in French, à voir (we will see). Also from Arbois is Michel-Henri Ratte, who farms 9 hectares and was previously part of the Arbois fruitière (wine co-operative). His estate is certified biodynamic and a taste of the 2015, the first vintage that he has made himself with wines bottled especially early for the show, were very promising, especially the reds. I look forward to finding out much more about this estate with a visit soon. Eric Thill, a grower with vineyards in Gevingey in the Sud Revermont, who appeared in my book, has also joined the group. His particular style, influenced by his Alsace origins, won’t suit everyone, but his wines are very clean – his wines are fully certified organic from the 2015 vintage.

Among other producers, I was not surprised to find several more experimental macerated white wines (orange-style) including a Savagnin 2015 from Domaine de la Pinte with very good potential, and from 2014 Savagnins from both Domaine des Bodines (Alexis Porteret) and Domaine Hughes-Béguet.

Domaine Buronfosse Jura

Jean-Pascal and a photo of his wife Peggy Buronfosse. © Brett Jones

But, the most enjoyable part of the tasting was discovering the quality of many of the 2015 reds, some bottled, others still in tank or barrel. The Poulsards in particular are tasting delicious – highlights were from Hughes-Béguet, La Pinte, Les Dolomies (Céline Gormally with her cuvée ‘A la Tienne Robert!’ serenely serving wines with her young baby – no. 3 – in a sling), Ratapoil (Raphaël Monnier) and Bodines. A barrel sample of Stéphane Tissot’s cuvée DD 2015 with one third each of Pinot, Poulsard and Trousseau, macerated for three months partly in concrete eggs and partly in wooden foudres, was delicious with great potential after what for me was an unsuccessful 2014. His Trousseau ‘15, aged in amphora, was also delicious – both are due to be bottled soon. Finally, 2014 white wines from the classic Sud Revermont domaines of Labet, Buronfosse, Miroirs (Kenjiro Kagami) and Champ Divin were tasting, well, quite divine. This really is a land of pristine, characterful and simply top-class Chardonnays.

Jerome Genée's Instants de VignesA table of books on sale was brightened by my book’s yellow cover and I was one of two authors present for signing, the other being the very modest photographer Jerome Genée. His beautiful book on biodynamic wine producers in the Jura, Instants de Vigne, was published at the end of last year. You can buy it direct from Jerome Genée’s website. In French, the text explains biodynamic practices as well as being lushly illustrated with photographs – it features Stéphane Tissot and Domaines Pignier, De la Pinte and Bourdy.

UK Jura events and tastings
At Tobacco Dock in London, The Real Wine Fair takes place on Sunday 17th (consumers/trade) and Monday 18th (trade/press only) April and this year there will be three Jura vignerons present – Julien Mareschal of Domaine de la Borde, François Rousset-Martin and … wait for it … Jean-François Ganevat on a rare visit to England. On Monday at 3.30pm I will be running a seminar, hopefully with Julien joining me, called ‘The Jura is In’ discussing what makes Jura currently the darling of sommeliers and indie wine shops.

Domaine de la Pinte will be at the other big natural wine event in London, The Raw Fair, that takes place on May 15th and 16th at the Old Truman Brewery in Spitalfields, London. On the subject of La Pinte, the big news is that this domaine’s director, Bruno Ciofi will be leaving later this year after several months of handover to his successor Samuel Berger, who worked at a biodynamic estate in the Languedoc. For the 2016 vintage Bruno is heading to the Loire to be with his girlfriend, Virginie Joly – he won’t be working at her family’s Coulée de Serrant estate, but will be joining Marc Angeli as partner in La Ferme de la Sansonnière in Anjou.

Tasting line-up for Paviors' Jura wine dinner ©Paviors

Tasting line-up for Paviors’ Jura wine dinner © Paviors

I conducted a Jura tasting and dinner for the Pavior’s wine circle in London recently, which was a huge success with a maximum capacity group of 40 present to learn about the region, many for the first time. At the dinner I was able to wear my new award with pride – a medallion showing that I have become an ‘Ambassadeur des Vins Jaune’, only the second foreigner to be so awarded. The ceremony took place at a dinner before the Percée du Vin Jaune festival in February. For anyone who is a member of the prestigious new wine club in London, 67 Pall Mall, I shall be hosting a tastingAmbassadeur des Vins Jaune - Wink Lorch dinner there on 5th May… oh, and I may wear my medallion – after all there should be at least two Vins Jaunes and I did have to promise, ‘through my words, writings and deeds to be a worthy
ambassador of Vins Jaunes’.

The annual Jura wine trade tasting that usually takes place in May has this year been pushed back to early November, when an event will take place together with the Comté cheese promotional organisation. Details will be announced soon.

Stephane Tissot Ten BellsUS events and tastings
The annual Jura wine producers US road show takes place next week. Yet again I was not invited to accompany them to present the seminars, to the disappointment of many vignerons, but it is out of their hands apparently – the tastings are organised by a Canadian PR company, who like to employ one of their own, who has visited the Jura once, I believe… The dates/locations are Monday 18th April in San Francisco, Tuesday 19th in Los Angeles (a first – and note that I have a new book stockists in the city – Lou Wine Shop) and on Thursday 21st in New York. There will be an excellent turnout of 20 producers, some there for the first time. Look out for tiny organic producer Domaine Wicky (represented by the delightful Christelle Wicky), also a chance to meet one of the new management of Domaine Grand, Nathalie, wife of  Emmanuel Grand, and the up-and-coming André-Jean Morin of Domaine de la Touraize. To attend email Emilie Athot-Robitaille.

Some of the established estates with importers will be hosting separate tastings. One fine-looking example is at The Ten Bells in Downtown New York on Wednesday 20th April with Stéphane Tissot.

Arbois restaurant changes
As already announced, Maison Jeunet has re-opened after the departure of Jean-Paul Jeunet, with chef Steven Naessens in charge – he has taken over the hotel-restaurant with his wife, and they have taken on Stéphane Planche as wine buying director. Meanwhile, Thierry Moyne has also hung up his chef’s apron and sold La Balance to his ‘second’, Maxime Montibert, who before joining Thierry had worked at Jean-Paul Jeunet.

Wine glasses Aux Docks, JuraMeantime, in the centre of the little town, after a superb restoration of one of the old buildings on the square, a new restaurant has opened – Brasserie Aux Docks. It is a brasserie in the sense that they also have a bar and serve both breakfast and platters of meat, cheese or oysters (in season) out of lunchtime-hours, however for lunch and dinner the style is more bistrot, with a choice of four or five dishes for each course. On my two visits I’ve found the cooking to be excellent and the décor is refreshing. I need to express an interest. I have created their Jura wine list for what they call the ‘grande carte’ – there is a smaller wine list for those in a hurry, which I’ve not been entirely responsible for. The main wine list includes around 100 Jura wines from 40 producers including some real gems –  you can scroll down the list of wines on their website. The selection reflects my book, including both organic and non-organic producers, however there is even a short selection of natural wines, and I persuaded some vignerons to release a few bottles from the great 2005 vintage – if you are visiting Arbois, tell the staff you know me!

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Jeunet Retires: Arbois Gastronomic Traditions Live On

Once it was certain that his Arbois restaurant had retained its two Michelin stars, held for 20 years, Jean-Paul Jeunet confirmed his retirement. He has formally handed over the business to his second-in-command Steven Naessens, who has worked with him for eight years.

According to local reports, the Hotel Restaurant Jean-Paul Jeunet will be re-named Maison Jeunet. Jean-Paul Jeunet, 61, plans to travel the world, but in order to ensure continuity, he will initially continue to work with Steven Naessens, who he regards as his ‘spiritual son’.

The restaurant is about to re-open after the winter break and there are some changes forecast including a rumoured return of sommelier Stéphane Planche to look after the wine list… expect even more natural wines.

This is just one of several changes happening in the Arbois restaurant scene. Among them, it is thought that La Balance, another excellent restaurant, will change hands this year and the new Brasserie Aux Docks is starting to make waves.

Like his father André before him, Jean-Paul Jeunet could not have been a better ambassador to the Jura wine region, which is why I chose to include the pair in second chapter of the history section of my Jura Wine book, named “The People Who Made a Difference”.

Jean-Paul Jeunet and Wink Lorch

With Jean-Paul Jeunet after an excellent dinner. ©Brett Jones

This chapter gave me perhaps the most pleasure to research and write. Interviewing Jean-Paul Jeunet over coffee and delicious pastries was truly fascinating. I have also had the pleasure of eating at the restaurant several times, always enjoying inventive cuisine, attentive service and, of course, fine Jura wines.

You can read more about the Jeunets including about Jean-Paul Jeunet’s wine philosophy in the following book excerpt.

The Jeunets – chefs

André Jeunet: 1924–2001 and Jean-Paul Jeunet: b. 1954

Imagine the scenario. You are a young and ambitious French chef with your own restaurant, already boasting a Michelin star, building yourself a fine reputation. Having twice failed to win the top chefs’ competition, you decide instead to enter the top sommeliers’ competition in the country. You’re a chef and you win . . . This is what happened in 1966 to André Jeunet, father of Jean-Paul Jeunet (at the time of writing the only two-star Michelin chef in the Jura and Franche-Comté).

In a familiar story for most French-born chefs, André Jeunet, who came from Arbois, was inspired by his mother, who taught him about the flavours of local food and drink. Like most Jura country folk, they had some vines, made wine and used the travelling still to make home-grown fruit spirits and liqueurs – and all turned up in the cooking pot. After catering studies and work in restaurants and teaching, André married Raymonde Bonjour, the daughter of a hotelier in Port Lesnay (once the Hotel Bonjour, today the delightful Hotel d’Edgar). In 1951 the couple took on the task of renovating the Hotel de Paris in Arbois, then on the main road between Paris and Geneva, with the aim of turning it into a busy Routier restaurant.

At that time Arbois already had two Michelin-rated restaurants (La Balance and the Hôtel des Messageries) and the story goes that the local Michelin inspector, who had heard about the Hotel de Paris, encouraged them to take down their Routier sign so that they could be eligible for a star the next year. Losing the Routier customers was a risk, but they took it and won a star in 1959.

In the meantime André Jeunet supplemented his income by teaching at the girls’ catering college in nearby Poligny. Along with cookery courses he included wine-tasting courses, and would take the young ladies off to visit vineyards around the country. He was hooked on wine and learning fast. After losing France’s top chef’s competition in 1962 and 1964 to no less than the great chefs Paul Bocuse and Jean Troisgros, he gave up, but then tried for the Meilleur Sommelier de France instead. He won the award in 1966 and with that in hand he was able to indulge his passion as well as pay particular attention to the wines of his own region. It is said that whenever he travelled out of the region to another restaurant, he always took a clavelin of Vin Jaune with him to help it become known among his colleagues.

This era coincided exactly with the time that a few small vignerons in the Jura were turning away from polyculture to set up wine estates, inspired partly by the fact that Henri Maire was succeeding in making Jura wines known around the world. According to Jean-Paul, his father André had respect for Henri Maire, whose estate wines in particular were very good at the time, but he wanted to help and encourage these younger vignerons. He would taste wines with Jacques Puffeney, Lucien Aviet (Caveau Bacchus) or Roger Lornet (father of Frédéric) and suggest ways that they could make their wines better, and of course he sold their wines in his restaurant.

This being the era of fast improvements in cellar technologies, André encouraged the vignerons to be cautious with these new technologies, to value their land and to remain artisanal. He was an admirer of the philosophy of the Beaujolais wine merchant and natural wine advocate Jules Chauvet, who was a great influence on Pierre Overnoy.

Nadine and Jean-Paul Jeunet © Hotel Restaurant Jean-Paul Jeunet

Nadine and Jean-Paul Jeunet © Hotel Restaurant Jean-Paul Jeunet

Jean-Paul Jeunet spent a lot of time as a child with his grandmother – his parents being busy establishing their hotel and restaurant – and credits her with being as big an influence on his understanding of flavours as she had been for his father. He followed his father into the business after studying in Nice and worked in the kitchens of several grand restaurants. When his father became unwell in 1986, Jean-Paul and his wife Nadine took over the business. He had previously tried to work in the kitchen beside his father, but there was friction. When Jean-Paul received his second Michelin star in 1996, he finally believed he had done something good for himself, and eventually changed the name from Hotel de Paris to Hotel Restaurant Jean-Paul Jeunet.

Naturally his father had taught him about the local wines, but Jean-Paul credits Stéphane Planche, who worked as the restaurant’s head sommelier from 1998 to 2009, with helping him create a strategy for the restaurant’s wine purchases and stocks, so that between 25% and 35% of all purchases are put aside to age. Stéphane says that the restaurant was already really driven by its excellent wine selection before his arrival, and both André (with whom he was able to spend time) and Jean-Paul taught him much about the Jura and its vignerons. Stéphane and Jean-Paul share an appreciation of wines that are simple and represent the land and their vignerons; they remain good friends and Jean-Paul helped Stéphane set up his Arbois wine shop and bar, Les Jardins de St-Vincent.

Jean-Paul believes that Jura wines have made great progress in the past 20 years or so, and he is a supporter of vignerons working with organic and biodynamic methods in particular. He believes in minimal intervention and seems to love the new fruity styles of reds that give pleasure without tannin and encourage one to drink a second glass. However, he fears that the real extremists may lose the Jura some clientele, and doesn’t enjoy some of the really ‘crazy’ wines. Restraint in purchases should be assured by the sommelier since 2010, Alain Guillou, who was awarded Sommelier of the Year by the publisher Gault et Millau in 2013. Currently their list has 640 wines, including over 350 from the Jura.

On matching Jura wines with food, Jean-Paul starts with the comment that God must have been from the Jura to create such a divine marriage as Comté cheese with Vin Jaune. He also believes that the matches of basic local products like Morteau sausage with Poulsard or pike with Savagnin are essential, but he goes further: ‘Give me a wine and I will give you a dish to match,’ he says, and rates lobster with Savagnin a splendid marriage, though he refuses to be drawn into discussions about whether to choose ouillé or an oxidative version, believing each wine should be treated on its own merits without going too far into how it was made. For Jean-Paul the terroir (in which he includes the grape varieties) counts for 51% of the character of a wine, and the know-how and work of the vigneron for 49%. What’s more, if you do not understand the fundamentals of that terroir, you can’t begin to make a good wine, he claims.

Jean-Paul Jeunet Arbois

The entrance to the Arbois hotel restaurant, opposite the town hall ©Wikimedia

Today the restaurant’s cuisine is influenced by the greenness of the Jura and its soil, using many root vegetables – simple wines of the earth go well with these dishes, Jean-Paul says. According to Jean-Paul, both he and his father transmitted into their cuisine their own history and traditions, and these match the originality and history of the grape varieties and terroirs of Jura wines. Both men of strong personality, Jean-Paul believes that their individual and highly flavoured cuisine can bring out the best in Jura wines because their flavours are so powerful.

Jean-Paul Jeunet is regularly seen at wine events, and sometimes agrees to be one of the chefs for grand PR occasions as well as contributing recipes to the CIVJ’s publications. He continues to be a great supporter of local vignerons, both established and new, and to be excited by their wines. Very approachable, he puts a smile on younger growers’ faces when he – always in conjunction with his sommelier – agrees to list one of their wines, often discovered by himself at a tasting.

Jean-Paul Jeunet and his team outside the restaurant watching the procession of the Biou. ©Brett Jones

Jean-Paul Jeunet and his team outside the restaurant watching the symbolic Biou procession. ©Brett Jones

The Jeunet dynasty has been important for Jura wines, providing a focal point for lovers of gastronomy. And for those who have loved the wines from a distance and visit Arbois for the first time, the Restaurant Jean-Paul Jeunet has become a place of pilgrimage. Fortunately the prices, relative to its status, have been held in check both for the food and the wines, as befits this region.

The above was an excerpt from Wink Lorch’s award-winning Jura Wine Book, available in print from Wine Travel Media and available as an eBook on iBooks and on Kindle.

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A Look Back at the Jura Wine World in 2015

A year ago I was far away, working for Wine-Searcher in New Zealand, but keeping an eye on what was going on in the Jura wine region and on how its wines were continuing to make waves around the world. I had the chance to present my book at dinners and tastings in New Zealand, Australia and in the US – it was great fun to meet Jura wine lovers everywhere.

Jura wine tasting dinner

An amazing line-up for an extraordinary tasting dinner in Sydney with Greg Murphy and Shannon Noble © Brett Jones

I returned to Europe in May and since then have made a few brief trips in the Jura, attended tastings in Paris and London and, once harvest was underway, discovered generally an upbeat mood in the region. And, I’ve been selling my book well in the local Jura bookshops. What follows in an update on what’s going on in the region. And, if you don’t have my book yet, or want to give a copy as a gift, please scroll to the bottom of this post for a very special offer!

What was most notable during the year was how much press the little Jura wine region received, especially given its tiny size. Could this be a fashion, many asked? Was it all my doing, because of the book, queried some? My answer to these questions could be no and no, but more accurately it should be ‘partly’. Exports have leapt from 7% to 10% and that’s with a series of small vintages too, and the buzz has grown and grown. For more on this see my thoughts over on Wine Travel Media.

Changes: the old guard moves on and newcomers keep coming
As widely reported, last December Jacques Puffeney let the cat out of the bag (early apparently according to his importer Neal Rosenthal) that he was selling most of his vineyards to Domaine du Pélican, the Jura estate owned mainly by Guillaume, Marquis d’Angerville. Since then I’ve visited with both Jacques and with François Duvivier of Pélican to taste the 2014s and discuss the changes. The fact is that Jacques had no successors and needed to sell. Negotiations to sell to his US importer and vigneron Michel Gahier just didn’t work and the offer from d’Angerville (with whom I know he had been talking since long before Pélican took on its first vineyards in 2012) was simply better. As Jacques used his personal name on his labels and not that of a domaine, the name on the label evidently stops with his last vintage – the 2014. Some of his 2014 wines have been recently released, others will take longer, notably the Vin Jaune for release no earlier than 2021, but it is resolutely Jacques who will shepherd them to bottle as d’Angerville did not buy his stocks.

François Duvivier in the Pélican barrel cellar © Mick Rock/Cephas

François Duvivier in the Pélican barrel cellar © Mick Rock/Cephas

Domaine du Pélican, who are vinifying wines from Jacques’ vineyards for the first time this year, are likely to keep them separately to begin with – in future they may release individual cuvées. Two things are rarely talked about concerning Pélican – firstly is their complete devotion to getting the best out of their biodynamically run vineyards (those from Jacques are now in conversion) and secondly is that they have many links with local Jura vignerons. Two examples: new plantings are from massal selections from Domaines Pignier and La Pinte; and their manager Rémi Treuvey, is himself a Jurassien from a long line of vignerons. It’s true their first vintages taste perhaps too polished for the Jura, but I say give them time and the vineyards will speak out eventually.

In other moves, Domaine Grand, once believed to be up for sale, has stayed in family hands. Brothers Sébastien and Emmanuel have gone their separate ways, so half the vineyards were sold, but Emmanuel has retained the premises and the business, joining with his partner Nathalie and there seems to be a real enthusiasm there. I have yet to visit. Among those who bought vineyards from Grand are Les Dolomies and Domaine Berthet-Bondet (now with daughter Hélène very much part of the team having completed wine production studies at Montmorot). Rumour has it that Domaine Rolet in Arbois will also stay in family hands, this is yet to be 100% confirmed, but could be good news. The other big, but not entirely unexpected news at the end of 2014 is that the giant Burgundy-based négociant Maison Boisset has taken the majority shares of Henri Maire. It remains to be seen what they will do to improve the wines and re-vamp their terrible shop in Arbois.Nez dans le Vert

In Paris at Le Nez dans le Vert organic tasting in November, along with established participants there were two relative newcomers whose wines I had not tasted. Valentin Morel has now taken over the running of Domaine Morel in Poligny from his father Jean-Luc Morel. He is not only converting the vineyards to organic cultivation, but is also making the wines in an entirely natural way, with no or very low sulphur – he showed a 2014 Trousseau that was juicy, but a touch hard, but a 2015 barrel sample of Chardonnay showed excellent purity. Philippe Châtillon, who years ago ran Domaine de la Pinte, has established his own tiny domaine in Passenans and Arbois, converting the vineyards immediately to organics. In 2014 he also worked without any SO2 as an experiment. I was impressed with his range, especially a deliciously drinkable Pinot Noir named La Grande Chaude. The wines from several other relatively recently-established vignerons go from strength to strength – these include, on the really natural side, Catherine Hannoun of Domaine de La Loue, with an interesting (pale) orange wine named Cuvée Raphaëlle, and Jean-Baptiste Ménigoz of Les Bottes Rouge. Other organic producers, whose ranges are tasting great, include Géraud and Pauline Fromont of Domaine des Marnes Blanches and Patrice Hughes-Béguet.

The 2015 Vintage
Some background first. The last ‘normal’ vintage was in 2011, so growers were keeping everything crossed for 2015, most particularly for decent quantity, though of course everyone cares about quality too. Combining vintages 2012 and 2013 for some organic producers produced the sum of a normal vintage and red wines were in particularly short supply. In 2013, many producers lost much of their Savagnin to a type of pre-flowering coulure that meant future bunches just dropped off the vines due to the very cold early summer. In 2014, the scourge of the Japanese vinegar fly drosophila suzukii wrecked the Poulsard vintage so badly that compromises had to be made – selection wasn’t enough, they had to pick early, ripe or not, or lose the crop and few risked no sulphur additions. The sunny autumn saved the harvest of other grapes thank goodness, but overall no-one had a big crop.

Pupillin harvest

The 2014 harvest was saved by a warm autumn, but it was too late for most of Pupillin’s Ploussard, ravaged by an insect. © Mick Rock/Cephas

In 2015 spring passed with almost no outbreaks of frost or disastrous hail. Flowering was almost perfect (again there were some problems with Savagnin) and once summer came it was dry and hot – very, very close to being too dry and too hot. There was a palpable sense of panic in July as the vines simply stopped functioning, shades of 2003 except that this time there had at least been some winter and spring rainfall. Then, unlike in Burgundy, there was some welcome rainfall in August and the vignerons could breathe again. Hot weather returned, which meant a rush to harvest grapes for Crémant at the end of August and the first days of September. Many admitted it was a little late to catch the decent acidity levels usually required for good Crémant – maybe this means we might have some dryer cuvées from 2015 base – we’ll see. Odd things happened. Trousseau, which is usually the last red to be picked, was showing a potential of 13-14% alcohol at the start of September, before the Poulsard was ripe.

At the end of the day, everyone was smiling at the great quality of all the grapes picked in 2015, with a few concerns about low acidities and some concern about quantity. Oddly the vignerons worried about quantity were those who farm conventionally, or in lutte raisonnée or so-called sustainable agriculture, rather than those working organically. The latter seemed happy, not citing big quantities but – for a change – normal quantities. My theory is that either those working with biodynamic preparations are feeding their vines the forces that can resist drought better, or those who have partly grassed-down vineyards often between every other row, simply suffered from too much competition for the water. These days, most organic growers work with a bare earth principal, ploughing up the weeds and working the soil when needed and this meant no competition for water.

Visiting the Region in 2016 – Dates and Changes
The annual Jura wine festival, the Percée du Vin Jaune will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016 and will be held on February 6th-7th February in Lons-le-Saunier. Attracting 40,000 visitors, many believe this may be the last time the festival will be held in the same format – despite the fees paid by attendees, costs are very high and many wonder whether it is time to change the format.

Hirsinger chocolates

Arbois remains a gourmet paradise with the Hirsinger chocolate shop in the centre. © Mick Rock/Cephas

The year 2016 is likely to see many changes in the restaurant scene in Arbois. It is believed that Thierry Moyne has sold La Balance; Jean-Paul Jeunet is likely to be retiring, apart from for special events, and handing over to his ‘second’ who he has been working with for many years; Bistrot les Claquets is rumoured to be up for sale. In the meantime, a new restaurant has just opened – Brasserie Aux Docks is on the main square, a few paces from Hirsinger chocolate shop and the many wine shops of Arbois. It will have a short menu, using local/seasonal ingredients – the chef was the ‘second’ at Château de Germigny until this summer. The wine list, to be launched in January (a shorter version is in place right now) will have over 100 Jura wines from over 40 producers, selected by me (there’s the disclaimer), plus a choice of wines from other regions, of course.

I have only recently had a chance to see an enjoyable new addition to the Jura bibliography that came out a year ago – Jura sources & ressources (landscapes & portraits). The photographs and themes are by Serge Reverchon and the text – effectively extended captions – is very competently translated by Caroline Hughes-Béguet, wife of Patrice, the vigneron. For those holidaying in the Jura this book provides plenty of extra ideas of where to visit when you want a break from wine! It’s only available direct from Serge Reverchon or in the local Jura bookshops. And speaking of books …

Jura Wine BookHoliday Offer for Jura Wine Book
If you would like a signed (or unsigned) copy of the second impression of my award-winning book Jura Wine for yourself or as a gift, then order from Wine Travel Media and use the code NY1625 for 25% discount, valid up to 5th January. Mailing costs are extra and cannot be discounted. If you want the book signed, then please state this in the comments, dedications are not always possible.

The book is available on Amazon but will cost you more! For the electronic versions, click here to order on Kindle or click here for iBooks.

Categories: News, Producers | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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