Travel

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

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

Celebrations, commiserations and rumours before harvest

On the first Sunday of September for as long as anyone in Arbois can remember, the local vignerons put on their Sunday best, and the whole town comes out to witness a glorious procession and church service honouring the harvest to come. The festival, named La Fête du Biou, is the focus for a weekend of events in the town.

Arbois vignerons create the Biou ©Brett Jones

There is something deeply moving and beautiful about the Biou festival, and this year, we were able to witness the biou itself being prepared on the Saturday afternoon. The biou is a gigantic ‘bunch’ of grapes, harking back to the biblical Eshcol carried by the Israelites returning from Canaan, ‘the Promised Land’. It is carefully put together by the local vignerons and their helpers, using perfect bunches of white and black grapes that are almost ready to harvest, and then decorated with flowers.

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From procession to aperitif
The procession of the biou, weighing nearly 90kg (200 pounds) carried by four strong wine producers, is led by two young violinists and accompanied by wine-growers young and old, leaving from La Maison de Vercel (the old wine-growing family famous for its collection of 1774 Arbois wine), passing through the middle of the town, and down to the church of St-Just, past several wine producers shops and the famous Hotel-Restaurant Jean-Paul Jeunet.

Chef Jean-Paul Jeunet and his staff come out with all of Arbois to watch the Biou procession ©Brett Jones

In the church a service takes place, blessing the biou, which ends up being hung above the altar as thanks to God for the harvest to come. The town is looking into the possibility of applying for the Biou festival to be classified by UNESCO.

In Eglise St-Just ©Brett Jones

After the church ceremony, a further, more recently established procession takes place of local Arbois dignitaries, firemen and marching bands culminating in a wreath, also made up of bunches of grapes, being placed on the War Memorial. Once this is through there is a mad dash by all of the town to reach the tables where wines are served as a free aperitif by the Arbois wine producers.

The weekend’s events include a funfair, art shows, guided tours of the town and a wonderful exhibition of wild mushrooms, meticulously presented, labelled and categorised (deadly, poisonous, ordinary or edible) by the local mycological (mushroom) society. More than 100 species are gathered in local woodlands over the previous two days.

Small and challenging harvest in prospect
On our short visit to the Jura we were dodging rain showers, and when we visited Benoit Badoz in Poligny, we were unable to visit his vineyards. Benoit affirmed that, as in Burgundy, it has been a very difficult summer here, with bad weather around flowering time, and repeated attacks of mildew. As everyone it seems, Benoit had to spray his vineyards on more occasions than usual this year. Apart from being down 10% in crop levels, the worry now is that rot might develop before the grapes are ready to harvest.

A brief chat with Stéphane Tissot, whilst he was helping to build the biou, confirmed the story of lower crops (in his case down 25%) but he was typically up-beat about quality prospects. “La vie est belle?” is always Stéphane’s question – life is wonderful, of course, and Stéphane is always the optimist.

Sommelier Christophe Menozzi and Writer Wink Lorch

The writer with sommelier Christophe Menozzi ©Brett Jones

For a more independent viewpoint I turned to Christophe Menozzi, sommelier for the Château de Germigney restaurant, who we met for a civilized coffee on the terrace of the château after he had worked Sunday lunchtime service there. We, incidentally, had eaten a less expensive, tasty meal at the lovely Germigney-owned Bistrot de Port Lesney followed by a walk around the delightful village.

Christophe described harvest prospects as “un catastrophe” and reported that unusually for Jura both downy mildew (peronospera) and powdery mildew (oidium) had been widespread. Jacques Puffeney, always one to compare back to previous vintages, shared with Christophe that the last vintage like this was back in 1958 – not good news. Everyone agreed Poulsard (or Ploussard) is the worst hit variety.

The harvest is due to start in the next few days – here’s hoping for good weather to come, so that later-ripening varieties at least can enjoy some more sunshine. Good luck to everyone.

And finally: Is there love in the vineyards of Pupillin?
We stayed in one of the chambres d’hôtes in the wine village of Pupillin, just next to Arbois, and enjoyed a splendid treat of a meal out at Restaurant Jean-Paul Jeunet. We rarely eat at 2-star Michelins and this meal lived up to everything it should have in terms of food, presentation and service, and without too much pomposity as befits the Jura region. After discussion with sommelier Alain Guillou, we drank the Savagnin 2008 from Arbois grower Domaine de la Tournelle. which matched our dishes perfectly.

The vines of Pupillin love Philippe Bornard  but will he find his true love? ©Philippe Trias, Le Progrès

On our second night, paying 1/7th of the price of dinner at Jeunet, we relished the simple food, plentiful Pupillin wine and company of other guests at the table d’hôte dinner served at Le Pom’ Paille where we were staying. Discussion turned to Pupillin wine producer Philippe Bornard, separated from his wife a few years ago, and who is currently one of the contenders of the reality French TV Show L’Amour est dans le Pré where single farmers looking for a mate try to get matched up. After a couple of appearances, with two ladies in the running for his affections, it appears the little village of Pupillin (population 250) is being besieged by women wanting a glimpse of Philippe’s home turf or even the man himself. Rumour has it that he’s keeping his options open, but enjoying the show…. It’s great publicity for the beautiful Jura landscape.

The Biou procession begins – Stéphane Tissot is one of the porters ©Brett Jones

As ever, forty-eight hours in the Jura was full of interest, meeting lovely people generous with their time, and eating and drinking well of course. But most of all it was the Fête du Biou which was the highlight, even having seen it three times before, the atmosphere and the dedication to keeping up this tradition by the local vignerons never fails to move me.

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

International Jura Wine News for Summer 2012

Having been a little silent recently, I’m finding it hard to believe how much noise has been generated about Jura wines in the English-speaking press in the past couple of months. Twitter is all abuzz about Jura wines in several languages, including English, and I see increasing blog posts mentioning a Jura wine or two. So, here is my news round-up of what’s happening, with an international slant.

Dole is located an easy distance to the north of the wine region ©Wine Travel Guides

Cambridge – Dole Air link
A small airline named Danube Wings has launched various services to the Jura airport of Dole, just north of Arbois and the wine area. Most notably, from this Friday 27 July until 24 August, Danube Wings will operate a flight from Cambridge airport (recently re-opened for international passenger traffic and reached by train from London in an hour) on Fridays and Mondays to and from Dole. What is particularly interesting is that the checked baggage allowance includes 15kg PLUS four bottles of wine. I asked the PR how this worked, and apparently as long as the bottles are packed in a normal wine box from the shop or winery you buy it from, they will be handled carefully at each end.

I wonder if this wine baggage allowance is a first anywhere in the world, and I also wonder whether the system really will work without breakages. Good news for all, if so. The flight timings are ideal either for a long weekend break, or even a long week break instead, when more wineries will be open to welcome you. I just hope it’s successful enough for them to consider running the flights for a longer period during the year. My travel guides give details of other ways to reach the Jura wine region.

Jacques Puffeney, who celebrates his 50th vintage in 2012, one of the very best Jura vignerons ©Wink Lorch

Tasting reports from Schildknecht and Robinson
Writer David Schildknecht, one of Robert Parker’s team of contributors to The Wine Advocate and eRobertParker has written his first extensive report on the wines of the Jura, following visits to 17 estates last November. His report, available only to magazine or website subscribers, is very comprehensive indeed and, unsurprisingly, enthusiastic too, with very positive comments about the future for this region. He rated 244 wines on the usual 100-point scale, with wines rated ‘outstanding’ – above 90 points – reached by one or more wines from almost all the producers visited, including most of the names sold in the USA. The highest marks were mostly awarded to Vins Jaunes and Vins de Pailles, but Jean-François Ganevat scored very highly with his Chardonnays, although tasted pre-bottling. The highest scoring Ganevat wine was his Chardonnay Cuvée Les Grandes Teppes Vieilles Vignes, which is from vines planted in 1919 – it is a cuvée that I’ve tasted over the years, and I’m very glad that Schildknecht found it as gorgeous as I know it to be. Stéphane Tissot’s Clos du Curon Chardonnay also received 94 points.

Jancis Robinson admitted to me that she had last been to the Jura right at the start of her career, a few decades ago, and that was only to visit Henri Maire. So, I was pleased that she planned a return en route to Alsace back in June. Spending only 24 hours there, on my advice she visited Stéphane Tissot and Jacques Puffeney, and you will see the report in her article in the FT and on her site. She wrote extensive tasting notes too, but these are only available to access by Purple Pages members – on these she detailed a full range of wines from Tissot, Puffeney, and Les Chais du Vieux Bourg (at whose Les Jardins sur Glantine B&B in Poligny she stayed), as well as a few wines tasted at the RAW Fair from Domaine Pignier and Domaine La Pinte.

Jura at the Olympics!
The selection of wines for the London Olympics includes a Côtes du Jura Savagnin Les Sarres 2007 from the excellent producer Jean Rijckaert, based in Burgundy but owning vines in Jura. Although I haven’t tasted this vintage, I have tasted previous Savagnins from Rijckaert and it’s important to note that it is a Savagnin ouillé – meaning topped-up non-oxidative Savagnin. It is likely to taste dry, full, with lovely lemony and mineral freshness to balance. How lucky are the corporate visitors who manage to drink this whilst watching a great sporting event.

Fizz and Chips?
And last but not least, the Pierre Michel Crémant du Jura, made by Maison du Vigneron, part of the Grand Chais de France group and the largest producer of Crémant in the Jura, has won – wait for it – The What Food, What Wine Fish and Chips Fizz and Chips trophy …. A Chardonnay sparkling wine made – as all Crémants – in the Traditional method, it is available in the UK at ALDI for just £6.99. Fizzing value, it has to be said.

Categories: News, Producers, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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