The number of vigneronnes or women winegrowers in the Jura is small, but they are all strong characters who have built up great respect for their wines. Managing her 4.5ha of vineyards from vine to sales as many do here, the last thing Marie-Pierre Chevassu-Fassenet, a mother of three girls, has time for is to build a website, hence you may not have come across her or her estate’s wines. But both are well worth getting to know.
In this next excerpt from the Jura Wine book (check out the latest reviews!) read about Marie-Pierre, who is based in the most traditional part of the Jura wine region, the appellation of Château-Chalon. Her Château-Chalon (or technically that made by her father, but bottled by her) is offered by the glass in Raymond Blanc’s prestigious Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons restaurant near Oxford.
Les Granges-Bernard is a wonderful old Jurassien farm surrounded by pastures on the plateau behind Menétru, and it is here that Marie-Pierre Chevassu-Fassenet was brought up with her three sisters. Her mother Marie came from a family of vignerons and her father Denis farmed mainly cows. He took on some vineyards in the 1980s and, as all his daughters enjoyed helping, he expanded the business and started making and selling wine. Marie-Pierre chose a career in wine and after wine studies in Beaune and an oenology degree at Dijon she worked in New Zealand, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Champagne before returning to work in the Jura for several years as cellar manager at La Maison du Vigneron [the largest négociant in the Jura]. She took over the wine estate in 2008, whilst one of her sisters runs the farm.
Marie-Pierre’s husband, Cédric Fassenet, is a theatre director in Lons, but helps with tastings, and Marie-Pierre continues to receive help from her parents. However, she is very keen to keep the estate small, in particular so that she can take care of the vineyards personally, and everything is worked in a sustainable way. Marie-Pierre manually hoes 3ha of the vineyards but explains that, due to erosion of the steep slopes, there are some parcels in Château-Chalon where it is simply impossible to work without herbicide. She uses systemic treatments early and late in the season but is a keen member of the local group working in lutte raisonnée towards Terra Vitis certification. The atmospheric cellars at the farm are full of old wood from large foudres down to fûts and feuillettes.
The biggest change that Marie-Pierre has made since taking over has been with the two reds, which she makes in a resolutely modern Jura way, with careful sorting at harvest during the manual destemming and filling the tanks with carbon dioxide to avoid using SO2 at harvest. There is no oak ageing. The resulting Pinot Noir (I have not tasted the Poulsard) is deliciously full of fruit, with a touch of CO2 gas that disappears with some aeration. Whites are no less carefully thought out, but this time resolutely traditional, never topping up, yet for the excellent Chardonnay, aged in foudres or demi-muids, there is only a hint of the oxidative character: the process simply brings out the minerality of the marl soil.
The Savagnins, which come from En Beaumont, are aged in three locations: a small amount in a loft, another small part in a semi-underground cellar, and three-quarters underground, meaning, as is classic for Château-Chalon, less temperature variation during ageing, aiming at finesse and elegance. The Château-Chalons since 1999 have been blended and bottled by Marie-Pierre, but of course were vinified by her father Denis until 2008. There is, however, a Savagnin 2008 already released and I sense from this there will be changes, with Marie-Pierre bringing out even more elegance and finesse in these wines, which need plenty of time open to show their best. A delicious Vin de Paille made from Chardonnay, Savagnin and Poulsard and a Chardonnay Macvin are very good too. This is a fine estate in excellent hands.
The UK importer for Domaine Chevassu is Les Caves de Pyrène and the wine is exported in small quantities to other countries too.
Les Granges Bernard, 39210 Menétru-le-Vignoble
Tel: 03 84 48 17 50
Contact: Marie-Pierre Chevassu-Fassenet
Vineyards: 4.5ha (80% Chardonnay and Savagnin, 20% Poulsard and Pinot Noir)
Visits: No tasting room, but visits welcomed by appointment