Archive for November, 2011
White wines from the Jura are truly something special. In the oceans of wine out there, the emphasis of this strikes home with me more each time that I taste one. Unfortunately, that remains a relatively rare experience, as finding these wines is difficult. In 2006, the Art Of Eating featured Jura wines in a fascinating in-depth article. This was the first time I’d heard of them, and at the time finding them was all but impossible. But slowly, and I believe partly as a result of the interest sparked by this article among a small group of wine drinkers, certain shops in Boston began carrying more of them. Even Vin Jaune could be found if you were especially fortunate.
Of late, I’ve found that these wines are harder to find, which is a real shame because they can be so utterly fascinating. Wines from this region simply aren’t like wines made anywhere else in the world, and the best of them are truly sublime. Of course, I’m speaking here largely of the whites, which are the Jura’s calling card. The reds, made largely from Pinot Noir, Poulsard, Trousseau are nowhere near as impressive, often light in body and flavor. But the whites can be amazing.
Vin Jaune is the white that the Jura is most famous for, but many of their other white wines, typically made from Chardonnay or Savagnin, can be very delicious and feature many of the same qualities that Vin Jaune does. This all owes to how these wines are produced. The combination of the Savagnin grape (unique to the Jura) and their method of aging wines sous-voile (also unique to the Jura) produces white wines like no other.
The production of Vin Jaune requires the use of 100% Savagnin and aging the wines in barrel for at least 6 years, during which time the barrel is never topped up, allowing it to develop a thin film of yeast on the surface of the wine. The result is that the wine oxidizes very slowly during those 6 years, developing the characteristic flavors of walnut, butter, coffee, honey, apple, and cocoa.
Other whites from the Jura do not have such requirements. Yet, nonetheless many are made in a similar fashion, often both using the Savagnin grape and aging sous-voile. The distinction between these and Vin Jaune would be the duration of aging, which is closer to 1-2 years.
While Savagnin is perhaps the grape that the Jura is most notable for, Chardonnay is also widely grown, and just as often treated in the same fashion. This wine from Domaine Rolet is a great example of this. It is from grapes grown in the the l’Etoile appellation (also home to the excellent Domaine de Montbourgeau), but they also grow grapes in the Arbois and wider Cotes du Jura appellations. Domaine Rolet is a family-owned winery, tended to by the four Rolet siblings, and overseeing 60 hectares that include the 5 typical Jura varieties: Chardonnay 34%, Savagnin 21%, Poulsard 21%, Trousseau 10%, and Pinot Noir 13%.
The label on the wine has a small statement reading:
La constitution geologique du sous-sol jurassien fait du Revermont une terre de predilection quant a l’obtention de vins blancs secs d’un haut niveau. Celui-ci, privilegement le cepage Chardonnay restitue bien toute la delicatesse du terroir de l’Etoile.
“Revermont” refers to the ridge of hills that runs north-south through the l’Etoile appellation, and throughout much of the Jura generally. L’Etoile is the second smallest appellation in the Jura, covering 160 hectares. It gets its name from the small star-shaped fossils of pentacrines (extinct relatives of starfish) that are found in the soil. This is an appellation well-known for its oxidized wines, both Vin Jauneand other whites. I’ve had several whites and a Vin de Paille from this appellation and all have been excellent.
The wine is a ight, greeny gold with auburn tints. The nose is bright and promising, with notes of apple orchard, pear, and hazelnut. On the palate, the wine is soft and smoothly textured, with dense flavors of poached pears, brioche, vanilla, and walnut, all ringed by a nutty acidity. Much more full, well-textured, and layered with flavor than the nose indicates. The finish is lingering, with notes of pear and walnut.
This wine does a great job of walking a tightrope between the soft and supple texture and fruit-driven flavors of Chardonnay, and the nutty, sweet acidity characteristic of many Jura whites. It’s really enjoyable, and the flavors continued to develop as the wine warmed. Highly recommend…