Posts Tagged With: Trousseau

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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Sorting the lady’s Trousseau

The grape name Trousseau usually brings a smile to the face of older people who actually remember the meaning of a lady’s trousseau – a ‘bottom drawer’ or ‘hope chest’ – now disappearing from common use in English. The red grape Trousseau found in Jura may have derived its name from the old French word troussé or trussed, meaning tied up like a chicken, which relates to the shape of the bunch, but as usual these meanings are lost in history.

Trousseau grapes

Old vine Trousseau à la Dame

Trousseau is one of the three main permitted red grapes in the Jura, and although increasing slowly, there are only about 150 hectares planted or less than 8% of the total Jura vineyard. The largest plantings are in the north of the region in the Arbois appellation, especially around Montigny-les-Arsures, though certain vineyard areas in the southern Côtes du Jura have been identified as suitable for plantings too. According to local geologist Michel Campy, Trousseau is a sensitive variety, needing good exposure and preferring clay-gravel soils with fragments of limestone and silica.

The new Wine Grapes book confirms Trousseau comes originally from the Jura region and has a biological parent-child relationship with the white Savagnin variety. It is the same as the Bastardo grape of Portugal (and also grown to a lesser extent in Spain) but no-one knows how it arrived in Iberia – there are over 1,200ha grown in Portugal.

Arbois Les Corvées vineyardTrousseau, the harvest
During a sunny afternoon spent  harvesting in the south-facing vineyard of Les Corvées above Arbois with Pascal Clairet of Domaine de la Tournelle, I learned that Trousseau à la Dame (lady’s Trousseau?) refers to an old selection of particularly loose bunches of Trousseau. We were picking earlier than Pascal might have liked as after the difficult 2012 summer weather, quantity was down (Trousseau is prone to coulure or bad flower set), and he wanted to save what he could before the onset of yet another bout of rain.

Actually, the bunches were in excellent condition and Pascal confirmed a potential of about 12% alcohol, though later this was to be tested by his wife Evelyne who was back at the vinification cellar in the village of St-Cyr-Montmalin a few kilometres way. The pickers brought the grapes down the steep vineyard slope, whose clay soils had already dried out from the previous day’s rain. They dragged the rectangular tubs on convenient metal contraptions and then the tubs were tipped onto a large square tray for manual de-stemming.

Manual de-stemming

Manual de-stemming the Trousseau ©Brett Jones

Also providing a final sorting opportunity, rejecting any rotten berries or leaves inadvertently picked, this wooden manual de-stemming tray was surprisingly efficient. The tray has regular holes drilled in it and sits on top of a large plastic tub that can take 300-400kg of grapes. Standing up on the tractor trailer, I was taught to rub my hands over the bunches, keeping them curved so as not to crush the grapes. It’s a much gentler process than the mechanical de-stemmers that producers have used for several decades, preserving the integrity of the grape. The glistening berries fall into the tub and the stems can be thrown overboard. The result is a tub full of berries that look almost like olives.

Trousseau grape berries

The berries after de-stemming; an occasional Chardonnay vine is mixed up in the vineyard, hence the white berries

Trousseau, the wine
The big tubs of Trousseau grapes were taken back to the winery and bucket by bucket thrown into the top of a fibre-glass tank. There are few fancy machines at Domaine de la Tournelle – my overriding impression was of an immaculately clean winery. It always takes a lot of water to make good wine, and most especially for anyone who – as this winery – uses minimal or no chemical intervention. No SO2 is used here whenever possible and only natural yeasts. The Trousseau will have a few light punch downs (usually with feet!) and then regular pumpovers before being pressed.

Pascal Clairet of Domaine de la Tournelle

Pascal Clairet ©Brett Jones

In looking forward to tasting Trousseau Les Corvées 2012, I have recently drunk the 2010 vintage, slightly cloudy, full of pure juicy red-black fruit with a light structure. I don’t think it’s for long ageing, but may well be proved wrong as so often with Jura reds.

Other good producers of Arbois Trousseau include Stéphane Tissot (Domaine A & M Tissot), Jacques Puffeney, Daniel Dugois (who has several cuvées including one specifically from Trousseau à la Dame, named Damelière), Fréderic Lornet (with the cuvée Trousseau Les Dames that I had previously thought to be a vineyard location), Michel Gahier and Lucien Aviet (Caveau de Bacchus). In Côtes du Jura, Domaine Ganevat, Benoit Badoz and Domaine Pignier can be recommended.

California Postscript
There is one other wine in the world that I know of labelled Trousseau and made in a Jura style and that is Arnot-Roberts Trousseau from California. Arnot-Roberts is a small winery based in Healdsburg, Sonoma County that buys in grapes and has a passion for French-style, restrained wines. They purchase their Trousseau grapes from a grower in Lake County who planted it as Bastardo for a port blend. I tried both 2010 and 2011 back in February this year (both not yet bottled) and was impressed by the delicacy, rusticity and overall Jura-style, despite the extra fruit intensity derived from California sunshine. It’s worth noting that Trousseau Gris is a colour variant that is not grown as far as I know in the Jura, but exists in California, sometimes called ‘Gray Riesling’.

The following video was shot by Cathy Ho, and shows Pierre Overnoy demonstrating and explaining (in French) the manual de-stemming method I tried to describe above, but with the Poulsard/Ploussard variety grown in Pupillin a few kilometres away.

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