Jura wine education

Special Offer: Celebrating the 3rd Printing of the Jura Wine Book

To all who love Jura wine, I wish you a Happy New Year. The big news from me is that more stock of the Jura Wine book is now available after I pushed the button for a third printing.

Three thousand copies sold to people based in over 50 countries makes me proud and I’m only sorry that I can’t find the time to create a new edition. Yet, this award-winning book is still 95% up-to-date and there’s no more comprehensive guide to the Jura wine region in existence, even in French.

To celebrate the third printing, from today, 3rd January to 3rd March 2018, I’m offering an unprecedented one-third (33%) discount from the regular price for orders placed directly on my Wine Travel Media site, shipping at the usual rates. At checkout use the code 3RDP33 valid to March 3rd, 2018. If you want to sell the book in your wine or book store, then contact me for an even better price for a minimum of five copies. Single books are sent via airmail worldwide; wholesale orders are despatched using a 2-5 day courier service.

A Special Educational Tour
In mid-October last year under difficult personal circumstances I felt privileged to lead a select group of wine lovers and students on an exceptional, educational Jura wine tour organised with Wine Scholar Guild. Participants travelled from the US, Sweden and Hong Kong for this opportunity and they were not only wonderful, supportive company, but also eager to experience and learn about this fabulous and special region.

2017-10-16 17.57.52

Revelling in the autumn colours in Montigny-les-Arsures with François Duvivier (far left) of Domaine du Pélican ©Wink Lorch

The Jura experienced a very challenging 2017 season, with debilitating spring frosts in many areas and a hot, overly dry summer. Harvest arrived early in fabulous weather, but it delivered an average 50% crop level, with this figure varying from 10% – 90% across the region. The good news is that the grapes were picked in tip-top condition. The excitement was well over by the time of our visit, but I was still hugely grateful to the time-poor vignerons, with so little to sell, for receiving and welcoming our group.

2017-10-16 15.28.16

Each Chardonnay has its own rock, but Stéphane Tissot’s Patchwork mixes them up. ©Wink Lorch

Each visit/day offered a different educational experience. On day one we focussed on biodynamics in the Arbois AOC. At the impressive Domaine de la Pinte, oenologist Emmanuelle fielded questions on all things Jura and biodynamics, typical of a first visit. Lunch was at Brasserie Aux Docks in Arbois with a sublime mushroom risotto and the best pigeon dish I have ever eaten. To wash down our first meal together we continued the theme with a juicy Poulsard/Pinot blend from Domaine de St-Pierre and a spot-on Trousseau from Domaine Ratte. Then, in Montigny-les-Arsures we toured the cellars and tasted terroir Chardonnay with the ebullient Stéphane Tissot; and moved on to sample newly bottled vintages with François Duvivier of Domaine du Pélican.

Day two was the traditional day when we started with a visit to learn about Comté making at the Fruitière in Plasne before heading across the premier plateau to Château-Chalon. There we explored and tasted in the cellars of Domaine Berthet-Bondet and had a quick walk to view the splendid vineyard panoramas from the hilltop village. The ever reliable Petit Victorien in Voiteur was our lunch stop when we drank a superb Domaine Mossu Savagnin with a choice of trout or chicken in Vin Jaune. Comte Alain de Laguiche laid on a special comparative tasting of different vintages of Château d’Arlay’s wines and pointed us to a photo stop in their newly converted organic vintages below the old Arlay fort. As ever, Nicole Dériaux of Domaine de Montbourgeau in l’Etoile could not have been more welcoming, encouraging our amenable bus driver (thanks Stéphane of Arbois Tourisme) to take us to the vineyards, where her son was engaged in the sad task of removing vines, killed by the horrible and ubiquitous esca disease. Her impeccable range of wines was much appreciated.

2017-10-17 17.35.43

The sad job of pulling up dead vines, affected by esca in the vineyards of Domaine de Montbourgeau in L’Etoile. ©Wink Lorch

For day three, we took the hour-long drive from the north to the south of the Jura wine region, starting with a comprehensive visit to Géraud Fromont at the dynamic Domaine des Marnes Blanches in the Sud Revermont. We viewed his vineyards, the purpose-built winery and the tasting room of course, learning plenty on the way. A casual lunch with decent food and pleasant service at the Hotel Golf Val de Sorne proved that there are still both ordinary and downright poor Jura wines to be found if you aren’t careful, but on an educational trip like this, how can you truly appreciate the good without the bad?

2017-10-18 14.40.53

Just add fresh grapes and off goes the fermentation again – at Domaine Pignier. ©Wink Lorch

After lunch we met the ever-bubbly Jean-Etienne at consistently the most underrated Jura family estate, Domaine Pignier. We started the visit with their modern (!)  vinification cellars, dating from the 17th century, discussing their latest experiments with amohorae and concrete eggs as well as a newly revived ancient method to help problems with natural fermentations. If the fermentation gets stuck, just chuck in a bucket of fresh grapes (that are deliberately picked late and still have active yeasts on their skins), see photo, left. We ventured down into their extraordinary 12th century Carthusian cellars before a tasting of part of their pristine range. Our final visit was a zippy tasting with Clémentine Baud, who with her brother, Bastien form the impressive new generation at Domaine Baud Génération 9. This estate has always provided an educational welcome.

2017-10-19 13.25.56

Le Grapiot in Pupillin has an excellent list of the village wines. ©Wink Lorch

We were back in and around Arbois for our final day starting with a tour and tasting at the Arbois Fruitière wine co-operative, one of the region’s largest producers, offering great consistency of quality, especially of Vin Jaune and their huge Vin Jaune cellar is an eye-opener. Then we drove up to the Ploussard capital of the world, the village of Pupillin. First we experienced an ultra-casual, fun tasting with Phillipe Bornard and then it was our last meal, lunch at surely the best value restaurant in the region, Le Grapiot. To match a beautifully created simple meal, a Chardonnay from Domaine de la Renardière and a Ploussard from Maison Overnoy were the treats. Our final visit was to the ever-philosophical Frédéric Lornet, tasting young and old wines of several styles and discussing oak barrels, as he was born into a cooperage (barrel-making) business. There is so much education and fun to be found in the Jura.

Classy Chicken Supper
This account would be incomplete if I did not mention the outstanding professionalism and kindness we received from the Baert family and their staff at our sumptuous hotel, Château de Germigney. We never had enough time to fully enjoy the lovely breakfasts in the orangerie, but made use of their other beautifully-furnished rooms for aperitifs and after-dinner coffee/tea and revelled in two splendid dinners with wines that I chose from their massive wine list, currently managed by sommelier Sébastien Bulle.

Apart from the incredible cheese trolley, the real highlight of the two meals at Germigney was the Volaille de Bresse au Vin Jaune en deux services – a highly original take on chicken in Vin Jaune, with half a chicken (they are small) for each of us, prepared in two different ways. I chose four contrasting Savagnins to run through this meal, starting with the tangy 2015 Foudre à Canon Domaine de la Borde, then the sublime 2008 Domaine de la Tournelle R (an aged topped-up Savagnin), the very traditional 2010 Domaine Salvadori and finally 2009 Jacques Puffeney Vin Jaune. As they say, we were spoilt.

2017-10-17 16.42.53 - enhanced

The Wine Scholar Guild group on the freshly ploughed vineyards of Château d’Arlay ©Wink Lorch

Advertisements
Categories: Jura wine education, News, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Savagnin confirmed as a founder grape variety

With the launch of the Wine Grapes book, Jancis Robinson MW has dubbed Jura’s famous white grape Savagnin a ‘founder grape variety’. It has been known for a long time that Savagnin was part of the Traminer family, but the book will reveal much more including not only an array of synonyms for Savagnin, but also that it is the parent of such diverse and much more fashionable grape varieties as Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Grüner Veltliner.

Jura Savagnin grapes

Savagnin Vert and Jaune, harvested October 6th and destined for Domaine Pignier Vin Jaune ©Wink Lorch

Savagnin’s written history in the Jura goes back to at least the 14th century, and it is also called Naturé especially in 18th century texts. Savagnin exists in various colour mutations, the most common of which today are Savagnin Vert and Savagnin Jaune. At harvest with Domaine Pignier earlier this month, Jean-Etienne Pignier explained to me that he likes to grow both Vert (green) and Jaune (yellow) in the vineyards, as the mix adds complexity to the blend, even for Vin Jaune.

In the Jura, Savagnin tends to be planted on the best grey or blue marl soils, often in steep south-facing expositions. It resists disease reasonably well, though as a late ripener may be prone to grey rot, as well as to the more desirable ‘noble’ rot. Some producers, Pignier included, like to have a level of nobly-rotted berries included in harvest, also adding to the complexity of their Vin Jaune. Yields of Savagnin are relatively low and it gives good sugar levels with high balancing acid levels.

Savagnin grapes

With a leaf for identifcation, Savagnin, ready for the press ©Wink Lorch

There are 300-400 hectares of Savagnin grown in the Jura, and it is the only variety allowed for Vin Jaune (including of course, Château-Chalon), so traditionally all Savagnin would start off in the winery being a potential Vin Jaune, with less successful barrels being drawn off during the six years of ageing for making a traditional Savagnin white or to blend with Chardonnay (often labelled Tradition). Because of starting life as a potential Vin Jaune all these wines would be oxidative, giving rise to the common, and arguably erroneous, descriptor for Savagnin as ‘nutty’ in flavour, a flavour that actually has more to do with the oxidative ageing process in unfilled barrels under a veil of yeast than to the grape itself.

Since the 1990s increasing numbers of Jura growers have been making small quantities of so-called Savagnin Ouillé. The French word ‘ouillé’ means ‘topped-up’ and refers to the making of Savagnin wines in what to most regions would be a ‘normal’ white wine making method. Whether aged in tank or barrel, the white wine is protected from oxygen during the ageing process. I have loved many producers’ Savagnin Ouillé wines since I first tasted them around 10 years ago as they show the true flavours of this fascinating grape – in particular a vivid lemon character, but also floral, and often the mineral character that is so typical of Jura, I find can be really harnessed in Savagnin Ouillé.

Some of the good producers making Savagnin Ouillé are in AOC Arbois: Fréderic Lornet (Naturé), Tournelle, Stéphane Tissot (Traminer), Philippe Bornard, Overnoy/Houillon, Renardière, Jacques Tisot (Naturé), Octavin and Ligier; and in AOC Côtes du Jura: Ganevat, Labet, Rijckaert, Badoz, Pignier and Buronfosse.

Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson MW, Julia Harding MW and José Vouillamoz is available to buy with a limited special offer on Jancis’ site or for a similar price you can purchase via my Amazon UK or Amazon US stores (when I will eventually receive a few pennies). I have just received my own weighty copy , in which I expect to find all sorts of fascinating information on all the Jura grape varieties.

Categories: Jura wine education, News | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: