Producers

A stop along the Jura Wine Route

Detailed and colourful wine maps have long been a source of fascination and interest to me. Some designate geographic boundaries of appellations; others indicate the best vineyards or producers; a few will show features such as altitude; and there are also ambitious maps that attempt to combine the above.

In my Jura Wine book, I am proud to have maps by the talented wine educator, blogger and map-maker Quentin Sadler. The main Jura map provides an indication, rather than an exact rendition, of vineyard areas and appellation boundaries, in relation to local towns, rivers and – importantly – altitude. The book also includes a series of larger scale maps showing the location of vignerons profiled.

In the middle of lockdown, while browsing the Purple Pages members forum of Jancis Robinson’s website, I discovered the most original map of Jura I’ve seen in some time, designed primarily, I think, to make you smile. It was created by Brazilian Pedro Kok, an architectural photographer, who happens also to be passionate about wine.

On Pedro’s Instagram accounts in Portuguese and English he enjoys sharing illustrations of bad jokes about grape varieties. However, in lockdown, he decided also to make a series of maps and diagrams of vineyard areas he loved, each one in an entirely different style.

Below – for the sheer pleasure of it – I am sharing the map scrolls that show the Jura wine route between Lyon and Besançon, including producers’ locations, taken from my book. Pedro told me he had some prints made, which he offered to friends in return for bottles of Jura to keep him topped up during lockdown – a lovely swap.

Jura wine map

La route des vins du Jura sur le chemin entre Besançon et Lyon by Pedro Kok. 40x30cm inkjet on paper. 2020. Based on iconography by John Ogilby (published: London, 1675), arranged by K.M. Alexander.

My thanks to Pedro for allowing me to reproduce the map above – you can also access a larger resolution version on this link.

The Saint-Laurent quarter
Like many villages in the Jura, Montigny-sur-Arsures, the self-styled capital of the Trousseau grape, has several different quarters, and one is named Saint-Laurent. It is here that you will find Château de Chavanes (for some years run as an occasional bed and breakfast, and whose vineyards were taken over by Domaine du Pélican), Domaine Fumey-Chatelain, and at the top of the road, retired vigneron Jacques Puffeney. All are linked in some respects and I spent a very pleasant afternoon on my trip to Jura a few weeks ago reacquainting myself with the quarter, which is in effect a single street.

In my last post I mentioned a quick visit to Domaine du Pélican and since then I had the pleasure of interviewing the owners François Duvivier and Guillaume d’Angerville, as well as tasting six of their wines for the 67 Pall Mall series of masterclasses. If you missed it, you can now watch the video of the entire masterclass.

Having used the cellar of Château de Chavanes since taking over in 2012, Domaine du Pélican is building its own winery on the main vineyard site, complete with a ‘cave à Vin Jaune’ which should be finished next year. Meanwhile, the Fumey-Chatelain family, which has had close links with Château de Chavanes for generations and had taken over the original stables to use as its winery and tasting room, will now expand into the cellar that Pélican has been using.

Domaine Fumey-Chatelain has been run by Raphaël Fumey (a cousin both of Stéphane Tissot and of Frédéric Lornet) and his wife Adeline Chatelain, since 1991. The pair built up a steady local reputation for their wines, gradually increasing their vineyard area to 17ha, with more area to be taken over soon.

Their son, Marin Fumey has officially partnered with his parents on the estate since rushing back after harvest in Australia (and previously South Africa) in April in the middle of lockdown. However, he has been the main winemaker for a few years, while Raphaël runs the vineyards and Adeline the sales side. As he had for several years previously, Marin had been doing the Southern Hemisphere harvest – over the years, he has worked among others with Spinifex in Barossa, Barn Cottage in Central Otago and Peter-Allan Finlayson’s Crystallum in South Africa.

Not only has Marin now extensive winery experience and travelled widely, he also speaks excellent English, a rarity in the Jura. He has ambitious plans to move the family estate towards export sales and is hoping to fully convert the domaine to organics and biodynamics in 2022, if all goes well.

Fumey-Chatelain for blog

Adeline Chatelain and her son Marin Fumey outside the tasting room in Saint-Laurent © Wink Lorch

Tasting through the Fumey-Chatelain range for the first time in some years was a pleasure, especially the Trousseaus, which include a more expensive, richer cuvée from a vineyard planted with Trousseau à la Dame. The wine is amusingly labelled ‘Le Bastard’ in reference to the Portuguese name for Trousseau – Bastardo .

A couple of top-end Fumey-Chatelain whites were exciting too, the Chardonnay Le Zouave 2015 from a selection of their best vineyards, and the aromatic Savagnin Rose 2018. This Savagnin variation is the same as Klevener de Heiligenstein in Alsace, and I have also tasted an exciting one made by Jeff Vejr of Golden Cluster in Oregon. This may be the same as what is known as Savagnin Muscaté down in southern Jura as produced by Domaine des Marnes Blanches.

Marin made just one barrel from their two rows of Savagnin Rose vines. I bought two bottles and could not resist opening one with friends a few days later, a really intense, exotic wine, well balanced but zinging with acidity. I hope to resist the second bottle for a while as it will certainly age well. This is an estate to watch.

A tale from Jacques Puffeney
Before I left Saint-Laurent, I went to see Jacques, who I had last seen some years ago. Although his final vintage for most of his wines was 2014, he had kept back some of his best and oldest Trousseau vines and I was delighted to try with him the gorgeous 2017. This was his very last vintage before passing on these vines to Domaine du Pélican, who had already taken on the rest of his vineyards.

As we chatted I also tasted three Vins Jaune vintages: his 2013, just bottled in June, although originally planned for April bottling, a Jaune with the acid kick to allow it to age particularly well; the 2012, very good too, a vintage that offered quantity and quality; and a treat – the fabulous 2005 vintage, possibly the best this century.

140904.428 Jacques Puffeney, Ken Lamb Tour, Jura

With Jacques Puffeney on a visit a few years ago. © Brett Jones

I asked Jacques to tell me about his earliest encounter with his New York-based US importer Neal Rosenthal. Although Jacques’ wines were not the only ones to be in the US in the late 1990s, his wines, especially the reds, really did much to spark the interest in Jura wines in the US.

Jacques told me how Neal had arrived one morning in the middle of harvest in 1996 and how he told him that he was too busy looking after the press to give Neal a tasting. Eventually Neal persuaded Jacques to receive him for a quick tasting at the end of the day; in the meantime, apparently Neal made a quick trip to Alsace and back (about a 5-hour round trip with a tasting in the middle, presumably). Jacques didn’t think much would come of Neal’s visit, but a few weeks later received an order from Neal to ship 2,000 bottles to the US! This was some order – later he regularly shipped 10,000 bottles per year.

And, for the record, Jacques and Neal share the same birthday and birth year, something they only discovered a few years into their working relationship – they’ve been friends ever since and celebrated their 70th together at Maison Jeunet in Arbois. These men are two wine legends.

More posts are to come about both big and small producers that I’ve revisited or tasted with recently, and in the meantime, I hope you are able to enjoy some Jura wines wherever you are. And tell your friends, the best place to purchase my book is still direct from my Wine Travel Media site for worldwide delivery, available in print or Epub digital form.

Categories: Jura culture, Producers | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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.

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

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

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.

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