Posts Tagged With: Savagnin

Arbois Bids Adieu to Two Exemplary Vignerons

The month of May saw the sad death of two Jura vignerons, who were hugely important figures both locally and internationally. Pascal Clairet, who ran Domaine de la Tournelle with his wife Evelyne, ended his life aged just 58 on 5th May. Lucien Aviet (known as Bacchus) of Caveau de Bacchus died on 28th May, aged almost 84.

Arbois vineyards
View over Les Corvées vineyard above Arbois © Mick Rock, Cephas

Firstly, I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathies to their families and friends. I know that all who have enjoyed their wines over the years, or indeed met these two extraordinary characters on visits to the Jura wine region, will be touched by these losses, as is everyone in the region, or connected with the Jura wine world, to whom they gave so much of their time.

I am personally grateful to both Pascal and Bacchus not only for the wines they crafted – Pascal together with Evelyne, and Bacchus with his son Vincent – but also for what they taught me about the terroirs, grapes and winemaking in the Jura. Both men showed single-minded purpose in the way they chose to bring the Jura terroir to life in their wines.

Although both made highly characterful Chardonnays that reflected their terroir well (interestingly neither vigneron ever made a Pinot Noir as far as I am aware), it was their handling of the three indigenous Jura grape varieties, Savagnin, Poulsard and Trousseau that to me provided the star wines in their ranges.

Their profiles in my book, Jura Wine, were written more than seven years ago but still reflect well these fine Jura estates, which had both very much made their mark on the region by that time. The main photos that feature in this post, kindly provided by Mick Rock of Cephas, chief photographer for the book, were taken exactly eight years ago in the early summer of 2013, one that was slow to kick in, not so dissimilar to 2021.

Lucien Aviet: 1937-2021

Lucien Aviet aka Bacchus
© Mick Rock/Cephas

Born into a farming family, Lucien Aviet made wine full-time from 1960 having returned from fighting for France in the Algerian War. He was one of the first vignerons to bottle his own wine from the vineyards he built up in and around his village of Montigny-les-Arsures.

Of a similar age, Lucien knew Pierre Overnoy well and although many of their vineyard and winemaking methods were different, like Pierre he remained adamant that indigenous yeasts were essential to making good wine. The two of them were the vignerons represented at the famous tasting of the 1774 Arbois ‘vin jaune’ in 1994. Lucien said the experience of tasting a 200-year old wine gave him goose-bumps.

He was an emotional, dedicated man, who for this English woman, took time to get to know. But I felt I knew him enough to write this in my book:

“Much respected locally, Bacchus seems like one of those dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists who believes there’s only one way to do things, yet he presents his opinions almost as a challenge, always accompanied by a mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes. And there is nothing Lucien enjoys more than pouring his wines and sharing laughter and banter around the stove in their old cellars, full of foudres adorned with cartoons and bons mots.” The official notice of his death posted by his family asked that according to his wishes, everyone should raise a glass to celebrate his life.

He was and remains a hard act for his son Vincent to follow, but the latter’s wines are going from strength to strength in quality, still aged in their beautifully maintained Alsace foudres among other oak barrels. Whereas there are wonderful traditional Savagnins and Vins Jaunes, and some fascinating Chardonnays (Cuvée des Docteurs after the medical students who helped Lucien with his first harvest), it is their Trousseau cuvées, named by Lucien Cuvée des Géologues in homage to the geologists who helped him select the best terroirs, that have been among the most wonderful expressions of this grape variety. The great character of Bacchus will always be remembered in the name of their winery, Caveau de Bacchus.

Pascal Clairet: 1962-2021

Pascal was from Montmalin, a vineyard village close to Arbois, but his family were not vignerons; wine became Pascal’s chosen career beginning as a wine technician. He founded Domaine de la Tournelle in 1991, and was running it full-time from 1995, taking on the cellars in Arbois, to be joined a couple of years later by Evelyne.

Hand de-stemming Trousseau under the tutelage of Pascal Clairet © Brett Jones

My earliest memories of meeting Pascal was as part of the press group for the Percée du Vin Jaune almost 20 years ago. He had worked for several years earlier as a technologist for the CIVJ. Along with his friend Jean-Michel Petit, the two were considered then as representatives of the younger generation. Pascal was often there to greet and sweet talk the media over dinners, his support for the Jura allied with his openness and frankness did the job perfectly.

When I started to visit the region regularly, Domaine de la Tournelle soon featured on my priority list for visits, and in those early days it was usually Pascal who hosted me, rather than Evelyne as she would be busy with the children. That said, I must stress that they were the earliest true working partnership of man and woman in the Jura wine world that I came across. It is to Pascal’s great credit that he always appeared to treat Evelyne as his equal in their business, especially in winemaking – she was also qualified as an oenologist. Pascal was the one in charge of the vineyards.

Pascal was discreet about the estate’s conversion to organics, then biodynamics and taking the natural route – he was never one to proselytise, more one to question everything. In his early days he had tasted much at the side of Pierre Overnoy, and had evidently learned from him about handling the difficult Poulsard grape. When, after the blisteringly hot and early 2003 vintage, he made his first no-sulphur-added, carbonic maceration cuvée of Poulsard, rebaptised Uva Arbosiana to reflect the old name of the grape, I was surprised and won over by the wine, eager to learn why and how he had done it. The wine remains a favourite (or possibly the favourite) Poulsard of mine, and I adored a bottle of 2018 shared over a meal in Arbois last summer.

Also influenced by Pierre, Domaine de la Tournelle was one of the earliest to make a Savagnin Ouillé from 1994, named Fleur de Savagnin. Its pristine quality shines brightly providing essence of Savagnin, yet the other Savagnins from the domaine including the Vin Jaune are exemplary too. Trousseau from the fabulous Les Corvées vineyard and beautiful terroir Chardonnays show the huge attention to detail, making a natural wine range that reaches the heights of quality you might find in the best made according to any winemaking regime.

Pascal was a proud man, sometimes troubled yes, and he was another vigneron who loved to share the joy of wine with others. This was utterly in evidence on the October day in 2012 when my late partner Brett and I spent the day with the Clairets for harvest, another time when I learned so much, as well as having enormous fun.

Pascal was one of the early creators of the Le Nez dans le Vert group of organic vignerons and had recently taken on the task of being co-president. In normal times the group organises a large tasting in the Jura once a year for public and professionals, and another in Paris for pros only, but also acts as a support group internally. Many of the younger and more recently established vignerons looked up to him as a mentor, so they will feel his loss particularly badly.

I have little direct contact in the region right now, and it is very early days for Evelyne, but she has indicated to me that, while obviously devastated, she will carry on with all that the pair built up together. I wish her all the courage in the world for the task and sincerely hope that I and others will one day be able to toast the memory of Pascal on the beautiful terrace of their little summer Bistrot de la Tournelle, another fine joint creation of this special couple.

Pascal and Evelyne Clairet in the garden of Domaine de la Tournelle, by the Cuisance River in Arbois © Mick Rock, Cephas

A Region that Must Rise to the Challenge

As if these losses were not enough, after a warm month of March this year, April once again delivered debilitating frosts in the vineyards of the Jura as they did elsewhere, causing potential crop losses of up to 50% in some vineyards around Arbois. The losses are still being fully assessed but follow on from bad frosts and low crops for other reasons too in both 2019 and 2017.

Coupled with the complications of Covid halting the important local restaurant trade for so long, not to mention on-site tastings for a period too, the region is struggling to keep a brave face, despite its undoubted continued and growing success on export markets.

I wish all the Jura vignerons the strength to keep on going through all these challenges. We believe in you, your individualistic wines and your fabulous region and thank you for your work and dedication.

Postscript: This is a post about recent events in Arbois, especially. For personal reasons I haven’t been able to write much recently, but it would be remiss of me not to mark also the death of the legendary Château-Chalon vigneron Jean Macle in December 2020, aged 87. He was another man from whom I learned so much. His work is being admirably continued by his son Laurent.

On the wall in the cellar of Caveau de Bacchus © Brett Jones
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Special Offer: Celebrating the 3rd Printing of the Jura Wine Book

To all who love Jura wine, I wish you a Happy New Year. The big news from me is that more stock of the Jura Wine book is now available after I pushed the button for a third printing.

Three thousand copies sold to people based in over 50 countries makes me proud and I’m only sorry that I can’t find the time to create a new edition. Yet, this award-winning book is still 95% up-to-date and there’s no more comprehensive guide to the Jura wine region in existence, even in French.

To celebrate the third printing, from today, 3rd January to 3rd March 2018, I’m offering an unprecedented one-third (33%) discount from the regular price for orders placed directly on my Wine Travel Media site, shipping at the usual rates. At checkout use the code 3RDP33 valid to March 3rd, 2018. If you want to sell the book in your wine or book store, then contact me for an even better price for a minimum of five copies. Single books are sent via airmail worldwide; wholesale orders are despatched using a 2-5 day courier service.

A Special Educational Tour
In mid-October last year under difficult personal circumstances I felt privileged to lead a select group of wine lovers and students on an exceptional, educational Jura wine tour organised with Wine Scholar Guild. Participants travelled from the US, Sweden and Hong Kong for this opportunity and they were not only wonderful, supportive company, but also eager to experience and learn about this fabulous and special region.

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Revelling in the autumn colours in Montigny-les-Arsures with François Duvivier (far left) of Domaine du Pélican ©Wink Lorch

The Jura experienced a very challenging 2017 season, with debilitating spring frosts in many areas and a hot, overly dry summer. Harvest arrived early in fabulous weather, but it delivered an average 50% crop level, with this figure varying from 10% – 90% across the region. The good news is that the grapes were picked in tip-top condition. The excitement was well over by the time of our visit, but I was still hugely grateful to the time-poor vignerons, with so little to sell, for receiving and welcoming our group.

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Each Chardonnay has its own rock, but Stéphane Tissot’s Patchwork mixes them up. ©Wink Lorch

Each visit/day offered a different educational experience. On day one we focussed on biodynamics in the Arbois AOC. At the impressive Domaine de la Pinte, oenologist Emmanuelle fielded questions on all things Jura and biodynamics, typical of a first visit. Lunch was at Brasserie Aux Docks in Arbois with a sublime mushroom risotto and the best pigeon dish I have ever eaten. To wash down our first meal together we continued the theme with a juicy Poulsard/Pinot blend from Domaine de St-Pierre and a spot-on Trousseau from Domaine Ratte. Then, in Montigny-les-Arsures we toured the cellars and tasted terroir Chardonnay with the ebullient Stéphane Tissot; and moved on to sample newly bottled vintages with François Duvivier of Domaine du Pélican.

Day two was the traditional day when we started with a visit to learn about Comté making at the Fruitière in Plasne before heading across the premier plateau to Château-Chalon. There we explored and tasted in the cellars of Domaine Berthet-Bondet and had a quick walk to view the splendid vineyard panoramas from the hilltop village. The ever reliable Petit Victorien in Voiteur was our lunch stop when we drank a superb Domaine Mossu Savagnin with a choice of trout or chicken in Vin Jaune. Comte Alain de Laguiche laid on a special comparative tasting of different vintages of Château d’Arlay’s wines and pointed us to a photo stop in their newly converted organic vintages below the old Arlay fort. As ever, Nicole Dériaux of Domaine de Montbourgeau in l’Etoile could not have been more welcoming, encouraging our amenable bus driver (thanks Stéphane of Arbois Tourisme) to take us to the vineyards, where her son was engaged in the sad task of removing vines, killed by the horrible and ubiquitous esca disease. Her impeccable range of wines was much appreciated.

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The sad job of pulling up dead vines, affected by esca in the vineyards of Domaine de Montbourgeau in L’Etoile. ©Wink Lorch

For day three, we took the hour-long drive from the north to the south of the Jura wine region, starting with a comprehensive visit to Géraud Fromont at the dynamic Domaine des Marnes Blanches in the Sud Revermont. We viewed his vineyards, the purpose-built winery and the tasting room of course, learning plenty on the way. A casual lunch with decent food and pleasant service at the Hotel Golf Val de Sorne proved that there are still both ordinary and downright poor Jura wines to be found if you aren’t careful, but on an educational trip like this, how can you truly appreciate the good without the bad?

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Just add fresh grapes and off goes the fermentation again – at Domaine Pignier. ©Wink Lorch

After lunch we met the ever-bubbly Jean-Etienne at consistently the most underrated Jura family estate, Domaine Pignier. We started the visit with their modern (!)  vinification cellars, dating from the 17th century, discussing their latest experiments with amohorae and concrete eggs as well as a newly revived ancient method to help problems with natural fermentations. If the fermentation gets stuck, just chuck in a bucket of fresh grapes (that are deliberately picked late and still have active yeasts on their skins), see photo, left. We ventured down into their extraordinary 12th century Carthusian cellars before a tasting of part of their pristine range. Our final visit was a zippy tasting with Clémentine Baud, who with her brother, Bastien form the impressive new generation at Domaine Baud Génération 9. This estate has always provided an educational welcome.

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Le Grapiot in Pupillin has an excellent list of the village wines. ©Wink Lorch

We were back in and around Arbois for our final day starting with a tour and tasting at the Arbois Fruitière wine co-operative, one of the region’s largest producers, offering great consistency of quality, especially of Vin Jaune and their huge Vin Jaune cellar is an eye-opener. Then we drove up to the Ploussard capital of the world, the village of Pupillin. First we experienced an ultra-casual, fun tasting with Phillipe Bornard and then it was our last meal, lunch at surely the best value restaurant in the region, Le Grapiot. To match a beautifully created simple meal, a Chardonnay from Domaine de la Renardière and a Ploussard from Maison Overnoy were the treats. Our final visit was to the ever-philosophical Frédéric Lornet, tasting young and old wines of several styles and discussing oak barrels, as he was born into a cooperage (barrel-making) business. There is so much education and fun to be found in the Jura.

Classy Chicken Supper
This account would be incomplete if I did not mention the outstanding professionalism and kindness we received from the Baert family and their staff at our sumptuous hotel, Château de Germigney. We never had enough time to fully enjoy the lovely breakfasts in the orangerie, but made use of their other beautifully-furnished rooms for aperitifs and after-dinner coffee/tea and revelled in two splendid dinners with wines that I chose from their massive wine list, currently managed by sommelier Sébastien Bulle.

Apart from the incredible cheese trolley, the real highlight of the two meals at Germigney was the Volaille de Bresse au Vin Jaune en deux services – a highly original take on chicken in Vin Jaune, with half a chicken (they are small) for each of us, prepared in two different ways. I chose four contrasting Savagnins to run through this meal, starting with the tangy 2015 Foudre à Canon Domaine de la Borde, then the sublime 2008 Domaine de la Tournelle R (an aged topped-up Savagnin), the very traditional 2010 Domaine Salvadori and finally 2009 Jacques Puffeney Vin Jaune. As they say, we were spoilt.

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The Wine Scholar Guild group on the freshly ploughed vineyards of Château d’Arlay ©Wink Lorch

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Worldwide Wines Inspired by Jura

In the past year I’ve had the chance to try several Jura-inspired wines of the world. By this, I mean wines made with the Jura grapes Savagnin or Trousseau, grown outside France and/or wines inspired by Jura’s oxidative methods.

Traditionalists in the Jura wine region tend to become very worried by talk of any trend like this – there are even laws to stop other AOC wine regions in France using these grapes. The same attitude is held by the Savoie AOC authorities about that region’s indigenous varieties. For this outsider, at any rate, this viewpoint is ridiculous – not only do we all know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it provides wonderful publicity for the original; drinkers who discover the newcomers often want to try the original.

In the Jura Wine book I wrote about these wines briefly in Appendix 3, telling the stories of the emergence of California Trousseau and Australian Savagnin. If you own the book, do take a look; and if you don’t, order the book direct from my site Wine Travel Media (quicker and usually cheaper than Amazon) – the book is still over 90% up to date despite being already three years old! Since the book was published, several other Trousseau and Savagnins have appeared on my radar, so below are some brief thoughts and comments.

Trousseau - Eyrie Vineyards labelTROUSSEAU
In what seems like a wonderfully low-key ‘first’, Jason Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards (famous for its Pinot Noir, pioneered by Jason’s father David Lett in the 1960s) was the first in the Willamette Valley of Oregon to have released a Trousseau wine last year. Having tasted Jura Trousseau, Jason thought it might be ideal to plant the grape in the region and he’s not alone. A small group of Oregon wineries has followed suit planting Trousseau, including Analemma in the Columbia Gorge, whose worthy attempt I tasted from demijohn. Even amphora-specialists Beckham Estate of Willamette Valley are planting it… I see an Oregon-Trousseau trend emerging. At a tasting at Eyrie last August, Jason revealed his first release, the 2015 Eyrie Vineyards Trousseau and it was spot on – pale-coloured with a blueberry character, some earthy notes and good acid grip. He made it with no added sulphur.

On a brief trip to Porto last year, we visited the enjoyable wine bar PROVA a couple of Portuguese Bastardotimes and I purchased a bottle of Conceito Bastardo 2014 to take home. Sporting a delightfully original label, it was young so has lain in our cellar until a few weeks ago, when I opened it, yearning for a break from Savoie and Bugey wines, which I’m tasting at full-stretch in preparation for the next book, Wines of the French Alps.

If you weren’t aware, Portugal’s Bastardo is genetically identical to Jura’s Trousseau, even though several growers in the Jura emphatically deny it is possible. Although Portugal has over 1,000 hectares there are few wines from 100% Bastardo, as much is grown in old mixed vineyards in the Douro and used for blending, usually for Port. This varietal example is from the Conceito winery (the brand name means ‘concept’) based in the Douro Valley.  Wine Grapes has little good to say about unfortified varietal Trousseau, but this wine is a cracker, with light colour, a cherry-like nose, good acidity, balanced alcohol (13.5%) and lovely fruit. It was definitely less rustic and earthy than a Jura Trousseau, but a really enjoyable wine.

SAVAGNIN
Late last summer on a visit to the Haute Savoie vineyards just south of Lac Léman, I finally went to the biodynamically-run estate Les Vignes de Paradis, owned by Dominique Lucas, one of the up-and-coming Savoie stars. For me, the excitement lies in his range of Chasselas from the vineyards of Crépy, Marin and Marignin which he is making better than anyone in the region (more in the book to come). However, he has also planted a range of other varieties including Savagnin. Les Vignes de Paradis 2015 Savagnin IGP des Allobroges, which I tasted from that very hot vintage, had been made in concrete egg and weighed in at a hefty 14.5%, but it wore it well, with the wine showing surprising crispness and ripe lemon curd flavours. It had been open more than a week, yet was alive and kicking. An oddity, sporting a high price tag, it proved yet again what a magical grape this is.

Dominique Lucas

Dominique Lucas of Les Vignes du Paradis is ever the experimenter – the camera and hand belong to Mick Rock, photographer, shooting for the next book.

An enjoyable diversion at the Oregon stands at London’s Real Wine Fair, led me to taste Coury Old Vine Savagnin Rose from Jeff Vejr’s Golden Cluster winery. I’m including it here even though Savagnin Rose [no accent!] is not grown in the Jura as far as I know – surprisingly it is not the same as the Savagnin Muscaté grown by a few growers like Marnes Blanches (for its cuvée Savagnin Le Jensillard) in the Sud Revermont, but instead is the non-aromatic version of Gewurztraminer, known best in Alsace as Klevener de Heiligenstein. All are genetically identical, though. From a vineyard planted 50 years ago by a pioneering rare grape grower in Oregon, Charles Coury, honoured by Jeff Vejr in several of his fascinating wines, this Savagnin Rose was simply-speaking delicious – a triumph for this rare grape.

Garry Crittenden is a brilliantly persistent marketeer and one of those who did much to put Australian wine on the map in the UK especially 25 years ago. His son, Rollo is an excellent winemaker and Garry’s successor at Crittenden Estate in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsular region – he is also a huge Jura wine fan. Thanks to both Garry and Rollo, I was able to taste their very first vintage of sous voile (oxidative, under-the-veil-of-yeast) Savagnin 2011, named Cri de Coeur before I published Jura Wine so I wrote about it in that appendix 3. And, they hosted Brett and I for an all-too-fast visit when I was in Melbourne in early 2015 when we were able to taste the 2013 while still in barrel. In May, clever Garry alerted me to the fact that Jancis Robinson MW had a spare sample bottle of the Crittenden Estate Cri de Coeur Savagnin 2013, so as I was briefly in London, off I went to retrieve it so that I could taste it, giving it to others blind at the end of a celebration tasting for the success of the Kickstarter campaign for Wines of the French Alps.

Crittenden Estate, Mornington, Australia

Rollo and Garry Crittenden. © Brett Jones.

This is a part of what I wrote to Garry afterwards: “I tasted this with a group of wine educators and keen wine consumers last night AFTER a whole series of Savoie and other French Alps wines and for many, after a long day of tastings! I gave it to them blind stating it had nothing to do with the French Alps. First reaction, especially on nosing it, from several, was – well, it must be Jura (of course, they were a little biased being in my house!), so I said no and they agreed it was oxidative but probably not Sherry. Then the palate surprised because it appears ‘sweeter’, but see below. Everyone was intrigued and most of them, impressed.

So, now I’ve re-tasted it – I had meant to open it early last night but it never happened, so Crittenden Cri de Coeur Savagninnow it’s been open 24 hours. For me it shows some walnuts and even classic spices, such as ginger and turmeric on the nose; on the palate, it is not as aggressive as some Jura oxidative Savagnin, showing almost sweetness, but it’s more of a textural creamy sweetness rather than sugar. The finish is very long and I see no reason for it not to age well for several years. A great success and much more Jura-like than the previous incarnation, but still shows the extra warmth of your location. Congrats to Rollo.”

Savagnin and Trousseau are right up there among the great grape varieties of the world, and while Jura shows the way, it’s such fun to explore their merits from elsewhere.

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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.

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