Posts Tagged With: Christophe Menozzi

A celebration and tasting of Vin de Paille

For many decades on the nearest Sunday to the 22nd January, the village of Arlay in the Côtes du Jura has celebrated the patron Saint of wine growers, Saint Vincent to which its church is dedicated. A church service is followed by a procession of the Commanderie des Nobles Vins du Jura et du Comté in their red robes. From 2009, the village decided to add to the event by celebrating that nectar of the Jura, Vin de Paille, in an event named La Pressé du Vin de Paille. The fact that Arlay’s two principal producers, Château d’Arlay and Caves Bourdy are both well known for their Vin de Paille helped.

Commanderie Nobles Vins du Jura

Procession of the Commanderie des Nobles Vins du Jura ©Brett Jones

Compared with the huge event La Percée du Vin Jaune taking place this weekend, as always the first weekend of February, the Pressé is a modest village affair, albeit this year with a few hundred in attendance. The procession leading out of the Church was led by colourful locals dressed up in peasant gear, notably those wheeling ‘brûleurs de sarments’, metal braziers to burn the vine cuttings, and followed on by the dignitaries from the Commanderie. The actual pressing of a symbolic few crates of dried grapes took place twice in the day using an old wooden hopper and press mounted on a stage and the audience got to taste the resulting sticky grape juice. It is presided by Comte Alain de Laguiche and his winemaker Philippe Soulard of Château d’Arlay, with Jean-François and Jean-Philippe Bourdy of Caves Bourdy.

There was a good range of local food stands offering delicacies ranging from the local cheeses and hams, to snails, chestnuts, honey, nougat and cakes, as well as a clutch of Jura wine producer stands offering their complete ranges to taste. An inside exhibition provided some shelter from the inclement weather that arrived in the afternoon and offered an art exhibition, demonstration of barrel-making and a fine collection of local books with several authors present including Philippe Bétry, author of a recent excellent book on Vin de Paille.

A not-so-serious blind tasting
The guest of honour at this year’s event, inducted  into the Commanderie, was local Jura sommelier of Château de Germigney Christophe Menozzi, a good friend and real expert on Vin de Paille, who advised Philippe Bétry in his book on some fascinating food matches. In another nod to the Percée du Vin Jaune at which there is a rather serious competition to judge the best Vins Jaune, the ‘clavelinage’, Christophe had organised a little blind tasting of ten Vins de Paille, named a Paillevinage. The judges were mainly consumers (rather sweetly, those named Vincent were especially invited in honour of the day…) but I was able to join in, even though this was strictly an amateur competition to judge everyone’s favourite three wines.

Blind tastingChristophe gave advice to those new to tasting, especially blind tasting and suggested they spat – only I and the couple of vignerons present were seen to do this. But, really it was an extremely difficult selection to judge. From several  different vintages and all made from a different mix of grapes, with quite wildly varying sugar levels, it really did come down to me in choosing what I considered to be those with an attractive bouquet that on the palate showed the best balance, substance and harmony, and length.

So, drum roll …. My top three wines were L’Etoile Château de l’Etoile 2008, L’Etoile Château de Montbourgeau 2009 and Côtes du Jura Rousset-Martin Père et Fils 2006. Honourable mention should be given to the Arbois Jacques Tissot 2007 which was just behind in my scoring. The Montbourgeau was the overall 1st choice amongst the group of tasters.

To find out more about how Vin de Paille is produced, take a look at the Vin de Paille information page I have written for this site. For an excellent series of photographs by Jean-Michel Hugues dit Ciles, taken during the Pressé du Vin de Paille at Arlay this year, take a look at this this feature in the on-line Jura magazine Echos du Jura. And finally, enjoy this little video filmed by my partner Brett Jones.

And if you are coming to the Percée du Vin Jaune this coming weekend, for the fun, to taste or even to bid on that bottle of 1864 Château-Chalon, see you there among the 40,000 people expected, or seek me out via the Press Office.

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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.


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

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