Posts Tagged With: Crémant du Jura

Only one word to describe the 2013 vintage

You won’t usually hear wine public relations or marketing people use the word ‘catastrophe’ either in English or French, but I am beginning to wonder whether the meaning is subtly different in contemporary French. In the past few weeks I have heard the word used by the smallest and the largest, and by both the most insular and the most worldly of Jura producers to describe the 2013 vintage. They are usually pretty honest with me, but this seems extreme.

Saint Vernier

Saint Vernier, patron saint of Jura vignerons, must have taken time off in 2013 ©Wink Lorch

‘Cata’ is short for ‘catastrophe’, and when pronounced in French either ‘CaTa’ or ‘catastroff’ with the emphasis on the ‘stroff’ it comes over with some impact. This shocking word was used by Stéphane Tissot when I spoke to him on his mobile phone on his last day of harvest this year on 14 October. Then last Monday I heard it several times from organic producers, both established and relatively new, in Paris for Le Nez dans le Vert trade tasting, even though they all wore a brave little smile. Then I spoke on the phone to the director of the large négociant Maison du Vigneron (part of Grands Chais de France) and tentatively asked about the harvest, couching it with ‘I know quantity is low and it hasn’t been easy, but how was….?’ And yet again ‘catastrophe’ was the answer. To be fair, a few bright souls gamely admitted that Jura was at least lucky to be spared the horrific hail storms that nearby Burgundy suffered. So, what went wrong?

A shortage?
This is not about quality but about quantity. As debates continue in the world of wine about a worldwide shortage of wine (is there or isn’t there?), amongst the most successful producers of the Jura wine world there will be a shortage of certain wines, no doubt. There have now been two seriously small harvests in a row, 2012 and 2013, which for some producers added together hardly equate to a normal harvest level. The 2011 vintage was generous, 2010 not very big, and so it goes on, with vintages more and more like a yo-yo in terms of quantity.

A very late spring
The winter 2012-2013 was long with unusual amounts of snow and spring was slow to start. At first producers were upbeat as they knew that this meant less risk of dangerous spring frost. However, when the cold continued into May, they began to get worried as the vines were hardly starting to grow. Towards the end of that month it was not only still wet, but seriously cold for the time of year.

And then the Savagnin ‘did a runner’!

I was perplexed when vignerons with a wry smile told me ‘les Savagnins ont filé’ as although I vaguely understood the verb ‘filer’ I did not know the expression ‘filer à l’Anglaise’ and I just could not relate it to vines. It turns out that ‘filer à l’Anglaise’ means the same as ‘to take French leave’ or to do a runner. Before actual flowering, the small clusters that had formed on many Savagnin vines simply fell off because of the cold. It also happened to a lesser extent with some Poulsard and Trousseau vines. Some Savagnin vines were left with no flower clusters at all (so no grapes) and others with just one or two remaining. Just a few protected or warmer vineyards escaped the problem completely.

Poulsard Jura

A reasonable crop of Poulsard at Domaine Lambert’s vineyard in Toulouse-le-Château ©Brett Jones

Eventually flowering began at the end of June/early July depending on variety, about four weeks later than in most recent years, but the weather was still not very kind and there was much coulure, and as in 2012 once again it was worst for Poulsard. With the low quantity, producers were resigned to keeping their fingers crossed that at least there would be good summer weather, and indeed there was warmth and sunshine for almost two months in July and August. Upbeat, the growers did not mind a little rain in early September, as that gives the vines a drink and increases the volumes a little, but they did need more ripening time, forecasting harvest would be spread along the whole of October.

Fête du Biou in Pupillin

The mid-September rainy Fête du Biou procession in Pupillin ©Brett Jones

Very hasty harvest
The ban de vendanges (the permission to start picking) was set for 23 September for grapes for Crémant, and a week later for still wines. Most good producers were prepared to sit it out for much longer, but then bad weather was forecast. The whole harvest was stop-start, dodging not just rain showers, but heavy downpours at times. Suddenly grey rot started appearing and looked ready to become rampant. The vignerons rushed to get the grapes in as quickly as possible, even the Savagnins that are usually hardy enough to be left for much longer had to be brought in rapidly. Most finished picking by 12 October or soon after, and of course they had to be selective too, but there was so little quantity to pick, at least they could do it quickly.

Vin de Paille

Only a very few boxes of grapes were drying for Vin de Paille at Domaine Bourdy ©Brett Jones

The final tally is usually given as an average yield per hectare. An average yield for the co-operatives and large producers would be 55-60 hectolitres per hectare (hl/ha), sometimes more than this for those who pick a lot of grapes for Crémant du Jura where yields may be higher. Both the  Fruitière des Vignerons d’Arbois (co-operative) and the Maison du Vigneron averaged somewhere between 30 and 35hl/ha taking into account Crémant. As for most of the organic and other producers who aim to achieve more flavour concentration through lower yields, practicing shorter pruning and bud-rubbing, they ended up with between 10 and 25hl/ha but most were well below 20hl/ha.

Quality is fine, just hardly any wine
Because there was relatively little mildew this year, the quality has ended up as fairly good overall – most producers are saying it was better for reds, but Chardonnay suffered with some rot, and there was so little Savagnin it hardly counts (5hl/ha for some vineyards).

Especially for the many small, quality-minded young producers who have set up in the past five years, this situation is really hard. Many have found keen customers both at home and on export markets eager to buy their wines, but they now can offer no follow-on for certain cuvées. It has to be said that this is exacerbated by the current Jura trend to offer a huge range of cuvées (several producers have upwards of 20 different wines even owning just 5ha of vineyards or less), but that is part of the joy of Jura.

There is absolutely nothing they can do except make the best quality wines they can manage, and hope that financially they can make it through the next few months. Nature usually regularizes things and after particularly small vintages, the vine is ready to produce a bumper crop the following year. Many vignerons thought that this would be the case after the small 2012 vintage, but in fact 2013 was worse – they simply cannot afford to have another poor vintage in terms of quantity, or indeed quality. To avoid an even bigger catastrophe we have to all think positive thoughts for 2014.

Categories: News | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

International Jura wine news for early spring 2013

Hampered so often by either snowy or very wet weather these first months of the year, if only they could finish the pruning the Jura producers would surely have a spring in their step. Positive news stories abound especially for those who export. Looking at statistics for year ending July 2012, exports had reached 7 per cent, the highest ever figure.

Marquis d'Angerville

Marquis Guillaume d’Angerville and oenologist François Duvivier ©Wink Lorch

Burgundians create Domaine du Pélican
Last month I was among the first outsiders to taste from barrel the future Domaine du Pélican wines from Montigny-les-Arsures in the Arbois AOC. This is the new venture from the highly respected Volnay estate Domaine Marquis d’Angerville who purchased ten hectares of vines last year. Its first wines are therefore from 2012, mostly Chardonnay and Savagnin, but with some reds too. The quality is looking really good and I was able to share the news with subscribers to Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages. Here is a link to the PDF of the article headed “A (famous) new name in Jura” where you can read all about the background to the purchase and prospects for the estate.

First Jura wine tasting for professionals in London
On the 14th May the first ever Jura tasting will be held for wine trade and press in Central London, the venue will be confirmed soon. Hosted by the CIVJ, the regional wine promotion organisation of Jura, there will be 25 producers attending. These range from a couple of very large producers with no current UK importers, through to some well-known names imported in a small way, overall a good selection of excellent estates big and small. On the provisional list, I can count at least ten producers who work organically or are in conversion. I will be there, conducting a masterclass during the event and will post more details on a page here, when details shape up.

Nez dans le Vert logoThird edition of Le Nez dans le Vert
Back in the region, the organic wine producers’ fair Le Nez dans le Vert will be taking place again at Domaine de la Pinte just outside Arbois on Sunday 23rd March (consumers) and Monday 24th March (trade). This year the fair has 34 producers, including some newcomers, and some who are newly converting to organic viticulture, a pre-requisite for showing wines at the fair. Amongst the new converts are two Pupillin growers who I’m delighted to see there, Jean-Michel Petit of Domaine de la Renardière and Julien Mareschal of Domaine de la Borde, who I wrote about, highlighting him as a new young grower in the region, for Wine Report, way back in the 2006 edition. Details of all the producers  and the event are shown on the official Nez dans le Vert website.

Discover Jura Wine – The Book
Just a reassurance here that I’m working hard on my Jura book, which will be named Discover Jura Wine, with a sub-title still to be finalised. I will be launching a Kickstarter project in the next couple of weeks to raise funds for a really professional publishing job, and this will serve also to create more awareness and provide even stronger motivation for me too. I am currently juggling with writing the book, some other much-needed work, and writing all too occasional blog posts, which of course also benefit the book. Do take a look at  the wine information pages on this site – I have recently added one on Crémant du Jura. I would love your support in spreading the word about my future book and raising funds for it too – the link above goes to my Kickstarter profile.

And finally… the 1774 turns up in London!
I discovered by chance that the bottle of 1774 Arbois Vin Jaune, auctioned by Christie’s last year (or it could be the other one, but I doubt it… still to be confirmed) is alive, well and awaiting a buyer in the locked vault of Hedonism Wines. This very new shop in Mayfair, London opened last year and appears from reports to be the ultimate expensive wine store. The centuries-old Jura wine is yours for just £72,000. My advice: yes, it will be an extraordinary, hedonistic experience, but honestly you could consider pledging just over 1% of that to my Kickstarter project, and receive a personalized tasting from me plus my book of course, as a ‘reward’. Watch this space for details.

Categories: Events and Tastings, News | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

International Jura Wine News for Summer 2012

Having been a little silent recently, I’m finding it hard to believe how much noise has been generated about Jura wines in the English-speaking press in the past couple of months. Twitter is all abuzz about Jura wines in several languages, including English, and I see increasing blog posts mentioning a Jura wine or two. So, here is my news round-up of what’s happening, with an international slant.

Dole is located an easy distance to the north of the wine region ©Wine Travel Guides

Cambridge – Dole Air link
A small airline named Danube Wings has launched various services to the Jura airport of Dole, just north of Arbois and the wine area. Most notably, from this Friday 27 July until 24 August, Danube Wings will operate a flight from Cambridge airport (recently re-opened for international passenger traffic and reached by train from London in an hour) on Fridays and Mondays to and from Dole. What is particularly interesting is that the checked baggage allowance includes 15kg PLUS four bottles of wine. I asked the PR how this worked, and apparently as long as the bottles are packed in a normal wine box from the shop or winery you buy it from, they will be handled carefully at each end.

I wonder if this wine baggage allowance is a first anywhere in the world, and I also wonder whether the system really will work without breakages. Good news for all, if so. The flight timings are ideal either for a long weekend break, or even a long week break instead, when more wineries will be open to welcome you. I just hope it’s successful enough for them to consider running the flights for a longer period during the year. My travel guides give details of other ways to reach the Jura wine region.

Jacques Puffeney, who celebrates his 50th vintage in 2012, one of the very best Jura vignerons ©Wink Lorch

Tasting reports from Schildknecht and Robinson
Writer David Schildknecht, one of Robert Parker’s team of contributors to The Wine Advocate and eRobertParker has written his first extensive report on the wines of the Jura, following visits to 17 estates last November. His report, available only to magazine or website subscribers, is very comprehensive indeed and, unsurprisingly, enthusiastic too, with very positive comments about the future for this region. He rated 244 wines on the usual 100-point scale, with wines rated ‘outstanding’ – above 90 points – reached by one or more wines from almost all the producers visited, including most of the names sold in the USA. The highest marks were mostly awarded to Vins Jaunes and Vins de Pailles, but Jean-François Ganevat scored very highly with his Chardonnays, although tasted pre-bottling. The highest scoring Ganevat wine was his Chardonnay Cuvée Les Grandes Teppes Vieilles Vignes, which is from vines planted in 1919 – it is a cuvée that I’ve tasted over the years, and I’m very glad that Schildknecht found it as gorgeous as I know it to be. Stéphane Tissot’s Clos du Curon Chardonnay also received 94 points.

Jancis Robinson admitted to me that she had last been to the Jura right at the start of her career, a few decades ago, and that was only to visit Henri Maire. So, I was pleased that she planned a return en route to Alsace back in June. Spending only 24 hours there, on my advice she visited Stéphane Tissot and Jacques Puffeney, and you will see the report in her article in the FT and on her site. She wrote extensive tasting notes too, but these are only available to access by Purple Pages members – on these she detailed a full range of wines from Tissot, Puffeney, and Les Chais du Vieux Bourg (at whose Les Jardins sur Glantine B&B in Poligny she stayed), as well as a few wines tasted at the RAW Fair from Domaine Pignier and Domaine La Pinte.

Jura at the Olympics!
The selection of wines for the London Olympics includes a Côtes du Jura Savagnin Les Sarres 2007 from the excellent producer Jean Rijckaert, based in Burgundy but owning vines in Jura. Although I haven’t tasted this vintage, I have tasted previous Savagnins from Rijckaert and it’s important to note that it is a Savagnin ouillé – meaning topped-up non-oxidative Savagnin. It is likely to taste dry, full, with lovely lemony and mineral freshness to balance. How lucky are the corporate visitors who manage to drink this whilst watching a great sporting event.

Fizz and Chips?
And last but not least, the Pierre Michel Crémant du Jura, made by Maison du Vigneron, part of the Grand Chais de France group and the largest producer of Crémant in the Jura, has won – wait for it – The What Food, What Wine Fish and Chips Fizz and Chips trophy …. A Chardonnay sparkling wine made – as all Crémants – in the Traditional method, it is available in the UK at ALDI for just £6.99. Fizzing value, it has to be said.

Categories: News, Producers, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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