Posts Tagged With: Vin de Paille

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.

Categories: Events and Tastings | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stéphane Tissot stars in Jura travelogue

Among Jura wine aficionados, Stéphane Tissot needs no introduction: his wines can be found all over New York City, San Francisco, and considering that we are talking about the tiny Jura wine region, they are fairly widely available elsewhere in the USA, in Canada, Australia and even these days on a few lists in London.

Stéphane in his tasting room ©Brett Jones

Stéphane in his tasting room ©Brett Jones

Running Jura’s largest biodynamic wine estate and exporting 40% of his production – a high proportion for Jura – Stéphane still needs to nurture his French clients buying the 60% and he is proud to do so.

Recently Stéphane’s fame will have broadened in France with his appearance in a beautifully produced edition of the France 3 TV documentary programme Des Racines et des Ailes (literally translated as ‘Roots and Wings’), which explored many aspects of Jura life. The programme opens in Arbois with the TV crew joining Stéphane and his team for the harvest of grapes destined for drying to make Vin de Paille. It shows how the grapes are painstakingly laid on straw in wooden cartons, which are then stacked up in an attic; the film then moves on to follow Stéphane’s role in the wonderful Biou festival in Arbois.

The multi-faceted attractions of the Jura
The 1 hour 45 minute programme is really well worth watching for anyone who understands a little French, as the filming gives a real taste of what makes the French Jura region so interesting. There are various stories including a look at forestry and the making of shingle roof tiles; how a beautiful Palladian villa built in the middle of Jura’s woodland is being painstakingly restored as a luxury B&B; a traditional transhumance procession down the mountain (called the désalpe); extreme diving in one of Jura’s large lakes; a wild animal and bird rescue centre and hospital; the rescue of an old steam train, and husky driving in the mountains.Hirsinger chocs

Local culinary delights feature too. Stéphane reappears with the crew to meet one of his local friends, the wonderful Arbois chocolatier, Edouard Hirsinger. The film explores the way he makes some of his chocolates using locally grown absinthe among many other flavours, and shows the fascinating museum Edouard has created with his father. Together with a group of others, they partake in the traditional and painstaking way of making marrons glacés, ready for Christmas. And Stéphane has friends in high places too, specifically at a Comté cheese ageing specialist, who ages thousands of cheeses at Fort Les Rousses, high in the mountains. A fascinating discussion ensues, with a 3-year-old cheese being likened to a 50-year-old wine.

Where innovation and tradition meet
I loved watching Stéphane’s pride and enthusiasm in visiting and learning from other Jura artisans. Stéphane is a joiner and participator in his region, even if in his winemaking he pushes the boundaries and limits of what is deemed traditional (something that doesn’t always win him local friends), his heart and determination is always in the right place.

In March this year I spent a couple of hours with Stéphane together with Sophie Barrett of New York City’s Chambers Street Wines. As always with Stéphane, we had a rapid but illuminating tasting learning new things all the time. Stéphane produces 35 wines, a huge range for a modest estate and here is one Jura producer where I can’t select a particular style at which he excels as there is simply too much that is good in so many styles. Here I will just touch on the beginning and end of our mini-marathon tasting.

Crémant du Jura BBFIn his sparkling Crémant du Jura range, I love his BBF – a Blanc de Blancs from 100% Chardonnay aged for nine months in fût (Burgundian 228-litre barrels). He also served us 2010 Indigène where he uses indigenous yeast even for the 2nd fermentation in bottle. He bottles the base wine blend (50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 5% each of Trousseau and Poulsard) with a few centilitres of Vin de Paille that is undergoing fermentation. The Vin de Paille grapes are pressed early in the year and the juice or must takes several months to ferment; bottling of the Crémant takes place in around April so the timing is perfect. The final wine is Extra Brut and is very fine, full of fruit with a creamy character.

For many years, Stéphane has made two or more sweet wines, made as Vin de Paille, but not allowed to be labelled as such. Instead they are moût de raisin partiellement fermenté issu de raisin passerillés, which translates as ‘partially fermented grape juice from dried grapes’. Spirale is the name of the main cuvée and the 2007 we tasted was from 60% Savagnin with 20% Poulsard and 20% Chardonnay (each vintage varies in composition), and it had a residual sugar of 300grams per litre but only 8% alcohol. It is beautifully balanced and on the basis of previous vintages I’ve tasted will age supremely well. Jura wine law requires a minimum alcohol of 14% hence why the wine is not able to be labelled Vin de Paille. A second sweet wine we tasted was PMG 2007 with a whopping 450g/litre of sugar and around 6% alcohol – it will take a few years for the luscious sweetness to calm down.

Collaboration between local artisans
The Des Racines et des Ailes programme continues with the pressing of Stéphane’s Vin de Paille, when his father André (the estate is still named Domaine André et Mireille Tissot) joins him. I’ve always been impressed how André encouraged and supported his son Stéphane and his wife Bénédicte in following their ideas for the estate that André with his wife Mireille had painstakingly built up over the years.

The end of the documentary sees the chocolatier Edouard Hirsinger learning to drive a husky team in the mountains and being taken to see a herd of bison – another chance to get in touch with the nature of the Jura region that both he and Stéphane value so much.

Amazingly, the whole of this edition of Des Racines et Des Ailes is currently available on YouTube, I presume legally – so here it is. Great practice for your French if you are not a native speaker, and if you do not understand the language, you will still enjoy the images.

Wishing you a Happy New Year and a Jura-filled 2013, certainly I expect my year to be Jura-focussed and hope that this time next year I will have something to show for it.

Categories: Jura culture, Producers | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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