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Arbois Bids Adieu to Two Exemplary Vignerons

The month of May saw the sad death of two Jura vignerons, who were hugely important figures both locally and internationally. Pascal Clairet, who ran Domaine de la Tournelle with his wife Evelyne, ended his life aged just 58 on 5th May. Lucien Aviet (known as Bacchus) of Caveau de Bacchus died on 28th May, aged almost 84.

Arbois vineyards
View over Les Corvées vineyard above Arbois © Mick Rock, Cephas

Firstly, I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathies to their families and friends. I know that all who have enjoyed their wines over the years, or indeed met these two extraordinary characters on visits to the Jura wine region, will be touched by these losses, as is everyone in the region, or connected with the Jura wine world, to whom they gave so much of their time.

I am personally grateful to both Pascal and Bacchus not only for the wines they crafted – Pascal together with Evelyne, and Bacchus with his son Vincent – but also for what they taught me about the terroirs, grapes and winemaking in the Jura. Both men showed single-minded purpose in the way they chose to bring the Jura terroir to life in their wines.

Although both made highly characterful Chardonnays that reflected their terroir well (interestingly neither vigneron ever made a Pinot Noir as far as I am aware), it was their handling of the three indigenous Jura grape varieties, Savagnin, Poulsard and Trousseau that to me provided the star wines in their ranges.

Their profiles in my book, Jura Wine, were written more than seven years ago but still reflect well these fine Jura estates, which had both very much made their mark on the region by that time. The main photos that feature in this post, kindly provided by Mick Rock of Cephas, chief photographer for the book, were taken exactly eight years ago in the early summer of 2013, one that was slow to kick in, not so dissimilar to 2021.

Lucien Aviet: 1937-2021

Lucien Aviet aka Bacchus
© Mick Rock/Cephas

Born into a farming family, Lucien Aviet made wine full-time from 1960 having returned from fighting for France in the Algerian War. He was one of the first vignerons to bottle his own wine from the vineyards he built up in and around his village of Montigny-les-Arsures.

Of a similar age, Lucien knew Pierre Overnoy well and although many of their vineyard and winemaking methods were different, like Pierre he remained adamant that indigenous yeasts were essential to making good wine. The two of them were the vignerons represented at the famous tasting of the 1774 Arbois ‘vin jaune’ in 1994. Lucien said the experience of tasting a 200-year old wine gave him goose-bumps.

He was an emotional, dedicated man, who for this English woman, took time to get to know. But I felt I knew him enough to write this in my book:

“Much respected locally, Bacchus seems like one of those dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists who believes there’s only one way to do things, yet he presents his opinions almost as a challenge, always accompanied by a mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes. And there is nothing Lucien enjoys more than pouring his wines and sharing laughter and banter around the stove in their old cellars, full of foudres adorned with cartoons and bons mots.” The official notice of his death posted by his family asked that according to his wishes, everyone should raise a glass to celebrate his life.

He was and remains a hard act for his son Vincent to follow, but the latter’s wines are going from strength to strength in quality, still aged in their beautifully maintained Alsace foudres among other oak barrels. Whereas there are wonderful traditional Savagnins and Vins Jaunes, and some fascinating Chardonnays (Cuvée des Docteurs after the medical students who helped Lucien with his first harvest), it is their Trousseau cuvées, named by Lucien Cuvée des Géologues in homage to the geologists who helped him select the best terroirs, that have been among the most wonderful expressions of this grape variety. The great character of Bacchus will always be remembered in the name of their winery, Caveau de Bacchus.

Pascal Clairet: 1962-2021

Pascal was from Montmalin, a vineyard village close to Arbois, but his family were not vignerons; wine became Pascal’s chosen career beginning as a wine technician. He founded Domaine de la Tournelle in 1991, and was running it full-time from 1995, taking on the cellars in Arbois, to be joined a couple of years later by Evelyne.

Hand de-stemming Trousseau under the tutelage of Pascal Clairet © Brett Jones

My earliest memories of meeting Pascal was as part of the press group for the Percée du Vin Jaune almost 20 years ago. He had worked for several years earlier as a technologist for the CIVJ. Along with his friend Jean-Michel Petit, the two were considered then as representatives of the younger generation. Pascal was often there to greet and sweet talk the media over dinners, his support for the Jura allied with his openness and frankness did the job perfectly.

When I started to visit the region regularly, Domaine de la Tournelle soon featured on my priority list for visits, and in those early days it was usually Pascal who hosted me, rather than Evelyne as she would be busy with the children. That said, I must stress that they were the earliest true working partnership of man and woman in the Jura wine world that I came across. It is to Pascal’s great credit that he always appeared to treat Evelyne as his equal in their business, especially in winemaking – she was also qualified as an oenologist. Pascal was the one in charge of the vineyards.

Pascal was discreet about the estate’s conversion to organics, then biodynamics and taking the natural route – he was never one to proselytise, more one to question everything. In his early days he had tasted much at the side of Pierre Overnoy, and had evidently learned from him about handling the difficult Poulsard grape. When, after the blisteringly hot and early 2003 vintage, he made his first no-sulphur-added, carbonic maceration cuvée of Poulsard, rebaptised Uva Arbosiana to reflect the old name of the grape, I was surprised and won over by the wine, eager to learn why and how he had done it. The wine remains a favourite (or possibly the favourite) Poulsard of mine, and I adored a bottle of 2018 shared over a meal in Arbois last summer.

Also influenced by Pierre, Domaine de la Tournelle was one of the earliest to make a Savagnin Ouillé from 1994, named Fleur de Savagnin. Its pristine quality shines brightly providing essence of Savagnin, yet the other Savagnins from the domaine including the Vin Jaune are exemplary too. Trousseau from the fabulous Les Corvées vineyard and beautiful terroir Chardonnays show the huge attention to detail, making a natural wine range that reaches the heights of quality you might find in the best made according to any winemaking regime.

Pascal was a proud man, sometimes troubled yes, and he was another vigneron who loved to share the joy of wine with others. This was utterly in evidence on the October day in 2012 when my late partner Brett and I spent the day with the Clairets for harvest, another time when I learned so much, as well as having enormous fun.

Pascal was one of the early creators of the Le Nez dans le Vert group of organic vignerons and had recently taken on the task of being co-president. In normal times the group organises a large tasting in the Jura once a year for public and professionals, and another in Paris for pros only, but also acts as a support group internally. Many of the younger and more recently established vignerons looked up to him as a mentor, so they will feel his loss particularly badly.

I have little direct contact in the region right now, and it is very early days for Evelyne, but she has indicated to me that, while obviously devastated, she will carry on with all that the pair built up together. I wish her all the courage in the world for the task and sincerely hope that I and others will one day be able to toast the memory of Pascal on the beautiful terrace of their little summer Bistrot de la Tournelle, another fine joint creation of this special couple.

Pascal and Evelyne Clairet in the garden of Domaine de la Tournelle, by the Cuisance River in Arbois © Mick Rock, Cephas

A Region that Must Rise to the Challenge

As if these losses were not enough, after a warm month of March this year, April once again delivered debilitating frosts in the vineyards of the Jura as they did elsewhere, causing potential crop losses of up to 50% in some vineyards around Arbois. The losses are still being fully assessed but follow on from bad frosts and low crops for other reasons too in both 2019 and 2017.

Coupled with the complications of Covid halting the important local restaurant trade for so long, not to mention on-site tastings for a period too, the region is struggling to keep a brave face, despite its undoubted continued and growing success on export markets.

I wish all the Jura vignerons the strength to keep on going through all these challenges. We believe in you, your individualistic wines and your fabulous region and thank you for your work and dedication.

Postscript: This is a post about recent events in Arbois, especially. For personal reasons I haven’t been able to write much recently, but it would be remiss of me not to mark also the death of the legendary Château-Chalon vigneron Jean Macle in December 2020, aged 87. He was another man from whom I learned so much. His work is being admirably continued by his son Laurent.

On the wall in the cellar of Caveau de Bacchus © Brett Jones
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Pelican Progress: Jura Wine news though the screen and from the ground

The Jura wine world has certainly not stood still in any way since I last wrote on this blog. New vignerons have emerged, almost all of them choosing to work organically; wineries have changed hands; newer producers have evolved and there have been mixed vintage fortunes, as so often.

Forgive me that this blog site is so out-of-date and hard to read on portable devices. I will consider how to change this with minimal time and impact, or transfer everything to my main Wine Travel Media site. If anyone wishes to help me on this, contact me privately. Meantime, please read on…

At the end of March I was due to attend Le Nez dans le Vert, Jura’s massive organic wine tasting show, to catch up, but that was cancelled. My absence here, many of you will already be aware, has all to do with dealing with personal loss (my partner Brett Jones sadly died in April 2018) and hard work towards personal achievement, with the writing and publication last July of my second book, Wines of the French Alps.

Books and headphones 2 Kevin Ecock (2)

A chance to learn about the Jura wine region, not just from my book, but through interviews and webinars I’ve done recently. © Kevin Ecock

The publication of my new book and the glowing reviews also gave a welcome boost to sales of the Jura Wine book meaning I needed to do a fourth printing. Just before the covid-19 crisis struck, I received delivery, allowing me to continuing fulfilling orders from my website for despatch around the world.

I have done some other work during lockdown too (while based fortunately at my French mountain base), in particular making the ePub versions (for iPad, iPhone and many other readers) of both books available to buy from my own website. Now you can buy digital versions direct, with a special discounted price for buying both together, and this helps me, as it does if you purchase the print books direct from me.

Webinars and Interviews

Many of you may be aware that the prestigious London wine club 67 Pall Mall, with wine director Ronan Sayburn MS, has been conducting an incredible series of online masterclasses all of which have been recorded. Wine samples have been available to go along with these webinars for delivery in the UK and Europe. I was proud to be asked to conduct a few.

The recording of the #67fromhome masterclass I did in April provides a good overview of the Jura Wine region for those in need of revision – don’t worry if you don’t have the six wines to hand, it stands alone as an educational webinar with or without the wines.

I was also interviewed by Kevin Ecock of Wine Ireland for his podcast and reveal how I came to first explore the Jura and eventually write the book. And, I enjoyed an hour-long Instagram video chat with US wine blogger Keith Edwards along the same theme.

My excitement is mounting for my next masterclass for 67 Pall Mall, which will be in interview form with the Burgundian owners of the biodynamic estate Domaine du Pélican, founded in 2012. You have just a few more days to buy the wine samples and taste along, but in any case do watch along live so that you can ask questions next Friday 3 July,the session will also be available as a video recording later.

The Pelican Story

The pelican is the symbol of the goregous little Jura town of Arbois. Below is the first paragraph of my Domaine du Pélican profile in my book, published in 2014. The estate was founded by Guillaume, Marquis d’Angerville of the biodynamically-run Volnay estate, together with his long-term estate manager, François Duvivier

With the creation in 2012 of the most significant new estate in Arbois for some years, it seems apt that its name and label feature a pelican. It is said that a pelican was brought to Arbois by Maximilian of Hapsburg in the 15th century as it was a favourite creature of his wife, Marie de Bourgogne. Unfortunately the bird died, but as a recognized Christian symbol of the time the town of Arbois took it on as its town crest. The image shows the pelican nourishing its young from its heart. It seems amazing that no wine estate had ever used the pelican name and that it has taken an outsider – it was the domaine’s co-owner François Duvivier’s idea – to rectify this.

Domaine du Pélican began with the 2012 vintage from just 5ha of biodynamic vineyards, which they had taken over from Château de Chavanes in Montigny-les-Arsures. The domaine also acquired another amazing site in Arbois, Grand Curoulet, which had been farmed (or rather hardly farmed at all) by natural wine producer Jean-Marc Brignot and before that by Robert Aviet, a well-known Arbois vigneron who had retired before I started visiting the area. Unfortunately, it all had to be replanted. Later, in December 2014, Pélican took over most of Jacques Puffeney’s vineyards on his retirement. In the masterclass we will talk more about these vineyard sites and working biodynamically in the Jura.

Vintage 2018 was an amazingly good one for Domaine du Pélican and the rest of the region. There was huge relief that there was a good quantity of healthy grapes across all the varieties – in fact they were worried the yields were almost too high. But results are superb, and Pélican decided to take the opportunity to extend its small range to single include parcel/terroir wines and this has added a new dimension to the range.

If you are subscriber to Jancis Robinson’s website (and if not, you can take out an inexpensive trial subscription), you will find detailed tasting notes from Julia Harding  MW of the whole of Pélican’s 2018 range when the wines were released in London (sadly I was not at the tasting). It is at the bottom of a report on Jura, Savoie and Bugey wines presented in London in March by the importer Vine Trail (more in a future post).

Dom du Pelican cellars 2020

The existing cellars of Domaine du Pélican are becoming a little cramped. A new one is on the way. ©Wink Lorch

On a very brief visit to Pélican during my first wine sortie out of lockdown a couple of weeks ago, I met with François Duvivier, and was able to tour the building site of the domaine’s new winery being constructed on the site of the Le Clos vineyard parcel. It will be ready to receive the 2020 wines in barrel, but not vinify them. For now, they still use the Château de Chavanes original winery, where I had a quick taste of the 2019 wines from barrels. The quality looks excellent, but sadly Pélican, as others in the Jura, suffered greatly from a combination of some frost damage and in particular summer drought conditions, which reduced quantity dramatically.

Restaurant changes and more

While I was in Arbois, I had the chance to go to two restaurants – the first restaurant visits since lockdown (please don’t get too jealous). François Duvivier kindly took me to the vignerons’ favourite lunch place – Bistrot des Claquets and it was a Wednesday. The bistrot only ever has one fixed choice meal, changing each day, and in a new initiative it is fully vegetarian on Wednesdays – the lunch was as filling and tasty as ever. The restaurant and bar, which was up for sale, has an assured future now as it has just been taken over by Rachel Gariglio, who is a familiar face, as she has been working there for eight years. Afficionados will be pleased to hear that apart from vegetarian Wednesdays, little is likely to change, and Rachel is a big fan of the local organic and natural wines.

UVA 2018 Ploussard

I’ve known this sulphur-free Ploussard from Domane de la Tournelle since the 2003 vintage. It hits the spot.

In the evening, with a friend, we went just across the road to Le Bistronome, which was taken over in March 2019, by Lisa and Jérôme, formerly in the kitchen of the famous two-star Michelin restaurant in Arbois, Maison Jeunet. I had heard several good reports and was excited to try it, especially as I know the restaurant building, which is always enjoyable to eat in, overlooking the cute Cuisance river.

This was the first week that the Bistronome had re-opened since France allowed restaurants to open again, and there was strict adherence to the rules of wearing masks on entering, with sanitizer available and a choice of receiving the proper menus or using a QR code to access them on the website. We had the incredibly reasonably-priced and quite delicious and well-presented three-course menu of the day – the à la carte menu looked enticing too.

As for Le Bistronome’s wine list, it offers a mouth-watering, wide selection of all Jura wine styles. What to choose was such a dilemma as we needed a wine to go with everything and I was spoilt for choice. I plumped for the Ploussard I’ve loved for so many years, but hadn’t tried for ages: l’uva from Domaine de la Tournelle 2018, vinified just 100 meters away from the restaurant, hit the spot so perfectly, I was falling back in love with the Jura all over again.

Please do join the Domaine du Pélican masterclass next week. And look out for at least one more blog post here in the next couple of weeks featuring an amazing and original map. I will also share news on two newer Jura organic vignerons, Bruno Bienaimé and (the longer-established) Philippe Châtillon, not featured in my book, plus a revisit to a couple of important domaines, in the Arbois area, with recent changes in management.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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

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

Good and Bad Jura News plus Wines of the French Alps

First the bad news. I am writing this with a heavy heart, feeling desperately sorry for vignerons all over the Jura wine region, many of whom have been hit with severe frost damage over the past two nights and there is another freezing night to come. My Facebook stream abounds with photos and comments from vignerons who have lost some or all of their potential 2017 crop.

Frost in Jura - April 2017 - Jerôme Genée (2)

Leaves and baby grapes attacked by frost in the Jura, April 2017. Photos above and below by Jérôme Genée.

Many people in the region suggest that this is likely to be the worst spring frost since 1991 – conservative estimates are of 45% damage, but it could be worse. What makes this a particular catastrophe is that stocks in the vignerons’ cellars are very low following a string of small vintages since 2011. And, in general, especially for Jura wineries who export, especially those who are organic, sales are booming.Frost in Jura - April 2017 - Jerôme Genée (1)

Everyone feared this sort of cold snap following several weeks of extremely warm weather, which gave early bud-break and a big growth spurt too. Until the frost, the vine development was about three weeks earlier than average. The problem is not exclusive to the Jura, but widespread in France and other northerly wine countries. It can only be hoped that nature allows what remains to mature without further catastrophe.

Excellent and varied tasting events
And now to the good news. The 7th edition of Jura’s organic wine fair Le Nez dans le Vert in late March was very well attended once again. At the official opening, joint presidents Stéphane Tissot and Jean-Etienne Pignier said that increasing numbers of Jura estates were converting to organics and that nearly 20% of the vineyard area is now organic or in conversion. Stéphane noted that it takes double the labour force to farm one hectare of organic vineyard compared to conventional and thus organic estates were providing work opportunities. Etienne commented that the Le Nez dans le Vert group of vignerons is very dynamic and helps young organic vignerons get established.

Anne Ganevat pours at Le Nez dans le Vert 2017

Anne Ganevat pours samples to eager and early-arriving trade participants at Le Nez dans le Vert. Photo by Brett Jones

As ever, it was hard to get close to some of the star vignerons for tasting, but by going very early on the morning of the trade day, I managed to taste with Anne and Jean-François Ganevat for the first time in a while. The four whites from the 2014 vintage were pristine, with the magnum of Cuvée Marguerite, the Melon à Queue Rouge showing gorgeous richness combined with vibrancy.  I loved the Plein Sud Trousseau 2015 too, although the Pinot Cuvée Julien was too volatile for my taste. With Emmanuel Houillon, I tasted his lovely lemony, 2010 Savagnin (topped-up), which is still in foudres – he plans to bottle some of this later in the year.

With Edouard Hirsinger at LNDV 2017

It might have been hard to get near the star vignerons, but I was happy just saying hello to one of France’s most famous chocolatiers – Edouard Hirsinger from Arbois. Photo by Brett Jones.

Among many other stand-out whites were two Chardonnay 2015s, one from Domaine Berthet-Bondet, made from the vineyards in Passenans that they took over from Domaine Grand, and the other, Les Soupois from Domaine Buronfosse, showing that even in that warm year, if the vines are worked well and the grapes picked at the right point that tangy Jura acidity can still be present. Two Savagnin ouillés from Pascal and Evelyne Clairet shone –  the Fleur de Savagnin 2014 was really stony and their new release 2008 Réserve, topped up in barrel for three years and then aged in bottle, was intense and fabulous. I found a bargain Savagnin Ouillé 2012 from Gérard and Christine Villet, perfectly smokey, aged in old foudres for two years, ideal to enjoy over the next few years.

Of the reds I tasted, I fell for several blends (not all AOC) including 2016s (mainly still in tank or barrel) from Domaine Labet the predominantly-Gamay Métis; Alice Bouvot’s Zerlina, which is a Pinot/Trousseau blend; and the Vieux Cépages from Raphaël Monnier (Ratapoil), all almost ready to bottle. A finished 2015 of Domaine Pignier’s Cuvée Léandre was tasting as lovely as ever and I made the discovery of Domaine Buronfosse SE KWA SA (explanation said out loud the name is ‘c’est quoi ça’ means ‘what IS that?’) a 2015 blend of classic and old Jura varieties, which I decided to grab for drinking over the next couple of years, if it lasts that long in my cellar. Finally, the only Crémant I tasted – the bone dry Brut Nature from Champ Divin, was well … divine … and we should have bought some of that too.

Jura Seminar NYC 2017

The Jura Wines seminars I delivered in Chicago and New York were full with a waiting list. Photo by Brett Jones.

Over in Chicago and New York, the atmosphere at the official CIVJ Jura trade tastings was totally different, but every bit as enthusiastic. The room was full of sommeliers and enthusiastic educators in particular, as well as retailers, and it was great to see the Jura vignerons practice their English in relaxed mode away from home. I had only a little opportunity to taste as I was delivering seminars first, then selling books, but I managed to go through almost all the Chardonnays in the room in Chicago, then chose to focus on Trousseau in New York.

The US trade mission producers were  mainly (but far from exclusively) the region’s larger ones and it was great to see a really excellent average quality shining through. One new star on the export mission for the first time, was the biodynamic Domaine Ratte – and as I had limited tasting experience with them, I tasted their 2015 range, which showed very well. The evening consumer events were fairly riotous as space was tight, but showed the ongoing enthusiasm for Jura wines in the US. Jura wines are definitely not just a fashion, they have now been around, doing well and growing in the US for almost ten years…

Pouring Savoie at Chambers Street Wines while selling Jura Wine book - April 2017

Customers at Chambers Street Wines in NYC are still fascinated by Jura and indeed buying the Jura Wine book, but also interested in the next project …

Support the Kickstarter for Jura Wine‘s Companion Volume – Wines of the French Alps
In case you’ve missed the news elsewhere, at last I am working hard on a promised second book: Wines of the French Alps – Savoie, Bugey and beyond. Wines of the French Alps CoverThe book will be in the same style as the Jura Wine book but delving, at last, into the wines of Savoie and Bugey, and covering a few smaller Alpine areas further south.

In New York, I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the book, as well as providing the motivation of hundreds of people waiting for it! The campaign is doing well and is nearly 75% funded, but I hope to exceed the target – book costs are always greater than they seem. I would appreciate your support for the campaign, whether by pledging for the book or another reward or sharing the Kickstarter link among your networks. The end date is May 8th, so please act soon.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/winklorch/wines-of-the-french-alps-savoie-bugey-and-beyond

Thank you and forgive the radio silence while I write this book!

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