Posts Tagged With: Château-Chalon

Domaine Chevassu-Fassenet

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.

A typical stone marker showing the vineyards of Domaine Chevassu-Fassenet in the AOC vineyards of Château-Chalon ©Mick Rock/Cephas

A typical stone marker showing the vineyards of Domaine Chevassu-Fassenet in Menétru-le-Vignoble, part of the AOC Château-Chalon © Mick Rock/Cephas

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 Chevassu-Fassenet

Marie-Pierre outside the farmhouse Les Granges Bernard © Brett Jones

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.

clavelin Château-Chalon

A clavelin of Château-Chalon from Domaine Chevassu © Mick Rock/Cephas

Domaine Chevassu-Fassenet
Les Granges Bernard, 39210 Menétru-le-Vignoble
Tel: 03 84 48 17 50
Email: mpchevassu@yahoo.fr
Contact: Marie-Pierre Chevassu-Fassenet
Established: 1980
Vineyards: 4.5ha (80% Chardonnay and Savagnin, 20% Poulsard and Pinot Noir)
Visits: No tasting room, but visits welcomed by appointment

 

Categories: Jura Wine book excerpts, Producers | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

In praise of Château-Chalon

Last month on my very last full research visit in preparation for the book, I spent most of the time around Château-Chalon, visiting producers there and in Ménétru-le-Vignoble, Névy-sur-Seille, Voiteur and Le Vernois. Only 20 minutes south of Arbois, this is in many ways another world, where Savagnin and oxidative wines reign supreme, born of the classic, steep grey marl vineyards below the limestone cliffs of the historic hilltop village of Château-Chalon.

vine conservatory

Vine conservatory below Château-Chalon ©Brett Jones

As well as visiting producers, we were able to sneak in behind the fancy metal doorway to the baby vine conservatory looked after by Gaël Delorme of the Société du Viticulture du Jura. Here, around 50 vine varieties are grown, including not only various versions of Jura’s big five, but all the obscure varieties Gaël has been able to find over the past ten years that were once grown in the region. This include rarities such as Enfariné, Argan, Gueuche Noir and Poulsard Blanc, some of which make their way in tiny quantities into blends made by a few producers. You will have to wait for the book to know more.

We also took a look at the wonderful educational museum of la Maison de la Haute Seille in the middle of the village. If you understand French it’s well worth spending an hour there to look at the interactive displays explaining the geology of the place, as well as history and much more. There is also a beautiful garden with one of the many spectacular Château-Chalon viewpoints over towards the Bresse plain.

sweetbreads

Sweetbreads and girolles in a lemon confit jus

In between both of our birthdays we treated ourselves to a meal at the Restauarant Hostellerie St-Germain d’Arlay that I hadn’t eaten at for some time, and has recently had a makeover, although still with the same owners, the Tupins. It was a really excellent meal, the restaurant is worthy of a Michelin star, but for now doesn’t have one, which is probably good for prices. The dilemma of what to drink was ever-present, but after an aperitif of elegant Crémant from Michel Gahier, we decided on a great value Ganevat Cuvée Oregane 2010 – his Savagnin/Chardonnay blend. I rarely get to drink Ganevat, and on visits to him it’s usually a barrel rather than bottle tasting, so this was the ideal opportunity to relax with a bottle and good food – lovely purity of ripe yellow fruits dominated.

Back in Château-Chalon, when we were there in mid-September the Savagnin grapes were a long way from ready, although the very low crop, caused by problems earlier in the year with cold and rain before and during flowering, means that with the September sunshine they can ripen quicker. Château-Chalon is the only AOC in France to have three quality control examinations – once at the vines before harvest, once as wine in vat and a final one after the requisite years of barrel ageing under the veil, before bottling in its special Château-Chalon-engraved clavelin.

Château-Chalon vineyards

View up to the vineyards and village of Château-Chalon from Névy-sur-Seille ©Brett Jones

The inspection committee toured the vineyards of Château-Chalon, checking the grapes for ripeness and health, yesterday 3rd October and have declared the vintage suitable for making the AOC in 2013 (not as in 2001 last time it was rejected). Picking may begin next Wednesday 9th October, though I expect many will wait longer if the weather permits. With the pressure of writing and the distance from my home, I could not attend the inspection, so instead celebrated with a glass of delicious, delicate and elegant Domaine De Lahaye Château-Chalon 2005 from Guillaume Tissot of Névy sur Seille – open over two weeks and just hitting its best!

Do take a look at the old news reel video of Harvest in Château-Chalon 1968 for a taste of nostalgia and the romance of harvest. And then you might like to view my offering, shot from above the village of Névy-sur-Seille and showing all the vineyards of the four villages eligible for AOC Château-Chalon, which also include Ménétru-le-Vignoble and Domblans.

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

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.

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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

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

Unique London tasting of old vintages from Caves Bourdy

Contrary to what outsiders may think, for most wine writers and sommeliers, it’s a rare thing to be able to taste wines that are older than we are, and it’s always an exciting occasion. So, when Jean-François Bourdy with importer Richard Dudley Craig presented a range of Côtes du Jura and Château-Chalon vintages back to 1937 to taste in a small room of a mews house in Notting Hill, London, there was a hushed silence and sense of incredulity among some.

Bourdy wine cellar in Jura

Old tonneaux in Bourdy’s cellar ©Brett Jones

This tasting last month was a first for the UK, and a first for Europe, beyond France I believe. Caves Jean Bourdy already has quite a reputation in North America since offering a line-up of 40 old vintages to a mix of trade and consumers organised by the importer Garagiste. And, a huge tasting of 120 wines from this producer’s stock of old vintages also was staged in Besançon, France in 2006, organized by sommelier Christophe Menozzi, and attended among other professionals and grands amateurs (amateur wine connoisseurs) by sommelier Olivier Poels for the Revue de Vin de France and by fine wine collector and fan of the Jura, François Audouze.

Caves Jean Bourdy, in the pretty village of Arlay just north of Lons-le-Saunier, is today run by the 14th generation of the Bourdy family, Jean-François, in charge of sales, and his brother Jean-Philippe, in charge of the winemaking and the vineyards. As well as their extraordinary collection of old vintages, built up on a systematic basis since the end of the 19th century, the Bourdys continue to make wine today from 10 hectares including 0.5 hectares in Château-Chalon. In my relatively limited tasting experience of their wines, I have noted a distinct improvement in the past few years, and wonder very much if this has to do with their work in the vineyards which have been managed biodynamically since 2006 (certified 2010).

How to taste a range of Jura wines
The London tasting included a range of Bourdy’s current releases and then a selection of old vintages with four reds, four whites and six Château-Chalons, most of them re-labelled and many re-corked. We started the tasting with an excellent Crémant du Jura (pure Chardonnay) and finished with a Vin de Paille and Macvin. I decided to follow the Jura way of tasting in-between these extremes, which is based on the logic that Jura reds are light with low tannin levels, and therefore it’s logical to start with these, and then follow with non-oxidative whites, finishing with the oxidative whites. Here is an overview of what we tasted.

The Reds – 2007 back to 1953
Caves Bourdy Côtes du Jura reds are always a blend of the three Jura varieties, Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir with roughly equal amounts. The wines are aged for at least three years in old oak tonneaux – mainly 50-60 year old 600-800l demi-muids casks that need to be topped up usually only once during the first year. The current vintage is 2007, a vintage that I tasted first last year soon after bottling and enjoyed its mineral and fruit characteristics then; in the cold light of a London morning, it tasted very dry, but the smokey red fruit nose lifted it and it showed an acidity built to age and work well with charcuterie.

Old vintages of Jura reds

The four old reds were 1997, 1983, 1967 and 1953. I enjoyed the rusticity of the very delicate 1997; the 1983 was too volatile; the 1967 was my definite favourite with a mature red fruit and fungal nose, and still great length and fruit on the palate. Jean-François told me it was a very difficult vintage, and was very hard when young, but it has aged beautifully. The 1953 still showed some red colour behind the browning and had a slightly sweetish character, which I found odd. Tasting a leftover of a second bottle opened for the tasting on the following day over lunch I enjoyed it more, but it is still an oddity. But, how many other light reds can last 60 years and more?

 The Whites – 2007 back to 1937
Bourdy’s Côte du Jura whites are pure Chardonnay, when nothing is noted on the label – somewhat confusing to many and there is no back label (Why? Well, it’s the traditional Jura way, I guess, not something I really endorse). Again these wines are aged in old tonneaux as the red is, for at least three years. This was the first time I had tasted the current 2007 release and I enjoyed it more than the 2006 I had tasted a year ago. It showed good spicy yellow fruit with typical fresh acidity on the palate backed up by spicy apricots and good intensity and length.

Old vintages of Jura whites

The four old whites were 1993, 1973, 1955 and 1937. With the exception of the 1973, which I found strangely out of balance (Jean-François said it was simply in a phase that showed extremely high  acidity and volatile esters on the nose, and that it would come around), I adored the other three whites. The 1993 showed minerality on the nose with still ripe, intense fruit on the palate; the mid-amber 1955 had very good fruit/acid balance; and the orangey-amber 1937 was extraordinary, not nutty as one might expect, but almost jammy and creamy, with fabulous length. I think it may have been even better than the 1947 white I had the chance to share with Christophe Menozzi last year.

Vins Jaune and Château-Chalon: 2004 back to 1937
All Bourdy’s Savagnin grapes whether grown in Arlay or Château-Chalon start off life destined to be a Vin Jaune, but along the way some barrels have to be withdrawn as they won’t last the 6-year course, and these are released early as Côtes du Jura Savagnin (and labelled as such), a wine not, Jean-François said, destined for long ageing in bottle. The current 2007 release was tasting well with distinct lemony acidity and spicy minerals on the nose.  The current release Côtes du Jura Vin Jaune 2004 was a pale golden-yellow with light spiced curried notes on the nose, even some peat character, with an elegant, light and fine balanced palate. The Château-Chalon 2004 was even paler and very different on the nose, much more mineral and tasting tangy as well as stony on the palate. The Bourdys are very keen to make their Vins Jaunes in a light, elegant style without high alcohol levels, and both these wines were marked 13% though the Château-Chalon seemed a touch higher.

Old vintages of Château-Chalon

The opportunity to taste six old vintages of Bourdy’s Château-Chalon was a real treat, and seeing the progression of vintages, fascinating. The wines shown were: 1996 – so developed compared to 2004, the mineral, curry and cream had kicked in on the nose, and the palate was tremendous, still a baby too; 1976 – perhaps at a mid-stage, not young, not mature and still showing very high acidity; 1969 – darkening in colour and showing a fascinating orangey nose together with minerals and gorgeous balance between rounded, creamy fruit and high acidity on the palate; 1954 – seemed younger, lighter and elegant with a lovely fruit character and finish; 1945 – the only one where the balance wasn’t quite right for me; finally 1937 – at 75 years old showing a nose of crystallized fruit and minerals following through on the delicious palate, a complete revelation.

Jean-François Bourdy Jura

Jean-François Bourdy in his old cellar ©Brett Jones

Some repeats at lunch the following day
I was happy to join Richard and Jean-François for lunch at Medlar Restaurant the next day, a very tasty lunch too in relaxed atmosphere with impeccable service. This fairly new restaurant down at the western end of King’s Road has just won a Michelin star. As mentioned above, we re-tasted a bottle of 1953 red, which had been opened the previous afternoon, but better than that was the chance to drink a glass of the Château-Chalon 1969 that had been open 20 hours by this time – it tasted even better than on the previous day.

For reports of earlier tastings mentioned above, see Joshua Greene’s report in Wines & Spirits on the Garagiste tasting, and if you read French, then delve into François Audouze’s tasting notes of the 2006 tasting of 120 Bourdy wines – the reds, the whites and the Vins Jaunes and Château-Chalons (in which Audouze recommends caviar with the 1969 Château-Chalon!).

My thanks to Jean-François Bourdy and to Richard Dudley Craig of Dudley Craig Wines, who has small stocks of all these old vintages in the UK, as well as the current releases.

Categories: Events and Tastings, Producers | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

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