Posts Tagged With: Arbois restaurants

Jeunet Retires: Arbois Gastronomic Traditions Live On

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

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

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

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

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

Jean-Paul Jeunet and Wink Lorch

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

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

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

The Jeunets – chefs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jean-Paul Jeunet Arbois

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Look Back at the Jura Wine World in 2015

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

Jura wine tasting dinner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pupillin harvest

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

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

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

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

Hirsinger chocolates

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

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

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

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

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

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