Posts Tagged With: Arbois

Weather hazards for Jura vignerons and a photographer

Around two months ago, specialist wine photographer Mick Rock of Cephas Picture Library, who I asked to shoot pictures for my Jura Wine book if the Kickstarter project succeeded, agreed to put aside a mutually-convenient two week period to spend with me in the Jura. The end of May and early June seemed an ideal time, with long days, the vines in full leaf, a time when vignerons mainly stay put in the region and a good chance of fine weather. We weren’t to know then that winter was still going to be hanging on so long.

Côtes du Jura

Preparing to shoot the Côtes du Jura vineyards above Le Vernois ©Wink Lorch

In early April, I learned that after a very hard winter, the vines were around three weeks behind the recent average development for that time of year, but producers were upbeat. Being late at that time of year is not a problem, in fact it can be beneficial as there is less risk of spring frost being a problem. A partial catch-up usually happens. Yet rain continued to drench the region through April and May, and the only blessing was that low temperatures persisted, meaning that mildew could not take hold properly.

Tour du Curon vineyard

Vines still small in Stéphane Tissot’s Tour de Curon vineyard above Arbois. ©Wink Lorch

When Mick and his wife Annie, together with my partner Brett and I arrived in Arbois on the last Sunday in May just one full day of sun was forecast for the first week of our visit. Throughout that first week I juggled with my appointments, so that we could be outside shooting landscape pictures (Mick’s absolute speciality) whenever the sun was out, especially if it was early morning or late afternoon. One thing you have to remember when travelling with a photographer – the light is almost never perfect, it could always be that much better…

l'Etoile vineyards

Mick Rock gets the angle for a special geological feature above l’Etoile ©Wink Lorch

Our second week was better, but short. We had thought the weather would turn to sunshine last Sunday, but in vain we waited in our gîte for the sun to come out. Eventually it appeared suddenly in early evening, and Mick and I rushed into his truck to tour the Château-Chalon vineyards and shoot what we could in gorgeous light for three hours before a late supper. Monday was a challenge though, starting out perfectly, the wind picked up and blew in high cloud, making the blue sky turn grey.

Preparing for sunset in the vineyards of Château-Chalon ©Wink Lorch

Preparing for sunset in the vineyards of Château-Chalon ©Wink Lorch

The next two and half days were fabulous and we rushed to get the maximum done, revelling in the beautiful Jura landscape. Meantime for our vignerons, prospects were finally looking up too. There had been a sense of desperation about them during our first week. The vines with just a few leaves (challenging for pictures sometimes), were not growing at all, and harbouring mildew spores too. The ground was still sodden and it was hard to even drive a tractor into the vineyards. Every time an improvement in the weather was forecast, it didn’t materialize.

Cellar photos were important too - here shooting the voile in Vin Jaune 2006 at Domaine la Pinte ©Wink Lorch

Shooting the voile in Vin Jaune at Domaine la Pinte ©Wink Lorch

Finally, the first week of June was perfect, at last putting a smile on the vignerons’ faces, and they were patient with our visits to photograph them, as long as we were brief… They needed to be in the vineyards – spraying, working the soil, bud-rubbing, even planting – all activities that should have been done long ago. The next hurdle will be the flowering period.



Château Chalon 1983

Château-Chalon 1983 Domaine Macle

Some Savagnin and Poulsard vines have already suffered from the cold, with the potential bunches falling off even pre-flowering – a very premature green harvest as one vigneron put it. After a small, but high quality vintage in 2012, reasonable quantities are vital for 2013. For that to happen it is essential that the flowering takes place in dry, fine weather. Several optimistic growers talked about 1983, from which vintage Laurent Macle kindly gave me the chance to try the superb Château Chalon from the domaine. In that year it rained non-stop until the end of June, and then it was fine till harvest, and all turned out well.


Jean-Berthet-Bondet poses in his Château-Chalon cellar ©Wink Lorch

Somehow our photo shoot went really well: the final tally included more than 25 portraits of vignerons, vineyard landscape shots, soil profiles, cellar pictures of all kinds, cheese ageing, food shops in Arbois, Château-Chalon photos, and at just 24 hours notice, a horse… Watch below for a taste of our magical experience of seeing the wonderful Comtoise mare Kigali working closely with owner Benoît Royer of Domaine de la Cibellyne in Mesnay near Arbois ploughing a densely planted old, steep vineyard of Poulsard.

Thank you Kigali, Benoît and all those who helped us in the Jura these past two weeks. And we will be keeping our fingers crossed for better weather during the next few months.

Categories: Images of Jura, News | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Snow in Arbois

Last weekend’s Percée du Vin Jaune took place in Voiteur in mixed weather, but with 35-40,000 people attending, everyone was pleased the festival went off well in the usual great atmosphere. The only down side was that the star bottle of the auction, the 1864 Château-Chalon did not receive its reserve price of 10,000€.

Percée du Vin Jaune decorationFor me this delightful event was in particular an opportunity to taste a range of wines put on for the press group, most notably Vins Jaunes from 2004, 2005 and the most recently launched vintage 2006. In brief the 2005s really shone with their fabulous acidity to balance wonderful intensity and flavours, sthe fact that they have now had up to a year in bottle. However, I’m learning that the differences in vintage characteristics in Vins Jaune are not nearly as marked as for the other wines of the region. Despite a difficult vintage overall, the 2006 Vins Jaunes that have been released (many don’t release the latest vintage till much later in the year) are showing well, with plenty of typicity.

Snowfall photo opportunity!
So, I’ve stayed on for a week to visit various producers of all types and sizes some who I’ve visited before but not for a while, and others new to me. I’m also meeting key people in the region to discuss various aspects of the Jura wine region and its history, all of which I need for the Jura book-to-come, the first ever in English. Work has started in earnest.

Chapel at Arbois

Arbois and the Hermitage Chapel ©Wink Lorch

Meantime, snow has descended on and off during the week, with an unexpectedly large fall in the wine region last night. Contrary to popular belief, the altitude of the vineyards in the Jura is not much higher than those in Burgundy or Alsace, rarely above 350 meters so having around 8cm of snow in the vineyards is unusual. In Arbois I had a break between visits at a time when the snow had slowed down and the cloud lifted, though the sun didn’t really make an appearance, so I headed in my 4WD car up to a remote viewpoint called the Belvédère de la Chapelle de l’Hermitage.

Arbois in snow

The town of Arbois from the Hermitage Chapel belvedere ©Wink Lorch

After lunch I had an appointment with a relatively new and promising producer, André-Jean Morin, who previously delivered his grapes to the Fruitière Vinicole d’Arbois, the local cooperative. His Domaine de la Touraize wines are worth looking out for – I shall write more later.

Old Jura vine

Possibly the oldest vine in Arbois – Chardonnay planted in 1914 ©Wink Lorch

But, before we tasted and settled down to getting to know each other, I asked him to show me his vineyards, especially if they had a good view. “The best view in Arbois,” AJ (pronounced Ah-Gee) boasted taking me to some vineyards just above the cemetery. He also pointed out what he believes to be the oldest vines in Arbois – Chardonnay from 1914. These do not belong to him but he does have Chardonnay vines planted in the next plot from the 1950s – his father and grand-father were vignerons.

Arbois vines in the snow

Arbois viewed from above Domaine de la Touraize vineyards ©Wink Lorch

As I need to prepare for another day of visits, I will leave you with this image snapped in the middle of the town of Arbois.

Arbois Place Centrale

The lion fountain in Place de la Liberté, Arbois ©Wink Lorch

Categories: Images of Jura | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Celebrating Louis Pasteur in Arbois

Louis Pasteur statue in ArboisThe famous scientist Louis Pasteur was born in the Jura town of Dole, and grew up in Arbois, something acknowledged in both towns through the naming of their public buildings and streets. As an educated French man it was inevitable that he would love wine, and indeed much of his research revolved around wine, leading him to comment that “wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.”

This year the illustrious French Academy of Sciences is marking 150 years since Louis Pasteur was elected to the academy just ahead of his 40th birthday on 8th December 1862. The election acknowledged his remarkable work that began in the field of crystallography, and continued with his studies of microbiology, and was much inspired by his research into wine and vinegar.Louis Pasteur house and museum Arbois

In September, the academy launched the Fondation Maison de Pasteur whose aims include encouraging childrens’ education in the sciences, and campaigning for Pasteur’s body of research to be classified by UNESCO. This weekend (14th and 15th December) in Arbois, together with the Maison de Pasteur in Arbois, the academy launches a project to create a scientific heritage interpretation centre, named Terre de Louis Pasteur. In part to encourage donations and legacies, the Arbois event Louis Pasteur dans sa Vigne includes a series of lectures by members of the academy, visits to Pasteur’s original vineyard and cellar, and a tasting of the wine made in the tiny vineyard.

Pasteur is known by most for his pioneering work on vaccines and his explanations surrounding germs, leading of course to the stabilization process that became known in his honour as pasteurization. The contribution he made to health today is huge, and much of it was influenced by his work in and around Arbois, in particular studying the local vines and wines between 1860 and 1864, which led to his published work, Etudes sur le Vin. It was through this work that Pasteur was able to prove that microbes were naturally occurring in the atmosphere.

Pasteur’s Vineyard – Clos de Rosières
The family of Louis Pasteur owned vines and made wine non-commercially for their own use as did all families in the region at this time. In 1878 Pasteur bought his own vineyard on a site named Rosières on the edge of Arbois, near Montigny-les-Arsures and built a laboratory there too. In 1892 three years before his death he was able to extend the vineyard to nearly half a hectare (just over an acre) and around this time it would have been re-planted with phylloxera-tolerant grafted vines.

By 1942 the vineyard was all but abandoned, and with permission of Pasteur’s descendants and local official bodies, the prominent wine producer Henri Maire took over the running of the vineyard and re-planted it. Since 1992 it has been owned, along with the house of Pasteur and his laboratory, by the Academy of Sciences, but the Henri Maire company continues to manage the vineyard and make the wine. It has all five of the Jura grape varieties co-planted there and around 2,000 bottles of a blended wine are made. If anyone reading this is able to attend the weekend’s events and taste this wine, please do add a comment to this post with your impressions on the wine!

“A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world.” is another quote attributed to Pasteur.

Notwithstanding this, in case anyone was wondering what happened to my project of writing a book on the wine region, then let me assure you that the plans are laid and I shall be focusing on writing and checking details on the ground for the first half of next year. With the help of some experienced photographers, editors and designers I plan to see this book through in 2013 with the aim of launching it in early 2014. The book will include profiles of  Louis Pasteur and Henri Maire (who died in 2003), both hugely important in the history of Jura wines. Early next year, watch out for a Kickstarter project to raise some funds, this can also be considered as a campaign to encourage advanced purchase of the book and to give me the incentive to finish it on time.

Below is a video of the harvest at Clos de Rosières in 2009, with some science students from the local Collège de Pasteur who have reproduced some of Pasteur’s experiments on the vines. Featured with the students are Marie-Christine Tarby, daughter of Henri Maire, and Roger Gibey, retired scientist and local historian who has written about Pasteur’s work on the local wines, and who also features in my story of the 1774 Arbois wine.

Categories: Jura culture, News | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

New summer wine festival for the Jura

Jura wine festivalIf you are in France, or perhaps on your way there this week, you might like to take a detour to the Jura wine region this weekend. A new festival, named Jura Grains de Folie, takes place from Friday 8th – Sunday 10th June with numerous activities around the theme of wine, aimed at offering events for all the family.

This is a rare chance to find many Jura wine cellar doors wide open for visitors without appointment, usually with added attractions like a jazz band, an art exhibition or meals available. Local restaurants join in the fun, offering special menus, often with a free glass of Jura wine. Horse and carriage rides, bouncy castles, archery and more are available to keep the family entertained. A pass costing €12 for 1 day, €20 for 2 days or €25 for all three days gives free entry to most of the events.

Friday’s focus is in the south of the region, near Lons-le-Saunier, including the pretty wine village of l’Etoile, home to the top producers of Château de Montbourgeau and Philippe Vandelle. At the village of Orbagna in the south you will find a group of producers including the excellent organic growers Champs Divin and Domaine Buronfosse offering tastings and a country lunch.

Jura vineyards

Vineyards below Château-Chalon ©Wink Lorch

On Saturday it’s the turn of the middle section of the region including events at Arlay and at the beautiful hilltop village of Château-Chalon. In Arlay, it’s worth visiting Caves Jean Bourdy, where their fascinating museum will be open to all, as well as their conservatory of old vines and in Château-Chalon a whole raft of craft activities will be happening alongside wine tasting of course. In the town of Poligny, heartland of Comté cheese, there will be cooking and cheese-making demonstrations.

Centre of Arbois

The centre of Arbois, dolled up for a festival ©Wink Lorch

Sunday, Arbois and its surrounding villages in the north of the region get their turn. Activities include music at Domaine de la Pinte, a guided tour around the cellars of Arbois by Cave de la Reine Jeanne, a geological tour of Montigny-les-Arsures, a picnic at Domaine Dugois, and crêpes available in the streets of Pupillin where six wine cellars are open for tasting including the excellent Domaine de la Renardière and Domaine de la Borde.

It seems there is crossover on most days too, with the whole region offering activities all weekend. The programme is in French only, but you can download it here. I’m not able to go, so if you get a chance to attend, please do report back to me in the comments or directly. It sounds like a whole lot of fun.

For many more ideas of which producers to visit, and where to stay, eat and shop in the Jura, do take a look at Wine Travel Guides.

Categories: Events and Tastings | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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