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Perhaps it's counterintuitive to promote white wines from the Jura at summer's peak. After a sweltering day, few people reach for a rich, toasty wine and a hunk of Comté. But, as eternal students of the Jura's terroir and as fans of its stewards, we have come to appreciate that for every sous-voile Savagnin uncorked on a winter evening, there is a racy, ouillé (topped-up) counterpart that no one would refuse at a summer cookout. Not to mention that all of these examples benefit from time in bottle, away from our greedy hands, anyway. It's not especially difficult to find either style in the market, but it is rare to find winemakers who can (or want to) excel at both; which is why the wines from Domaine des Marnes Blanches continue to be a treasure on our shelves and tables year round.
Pauline and Géraud Fromont named their winery after the white marl soils in Cesancy, the village in the Sud Revermont where they purchased their first plot of vines in 2006. The Sud Revermont is made up of small, pastoral communes clustered along the gentle slopes of La Petite Montagne in the south of the Jura. The soils there contain less of the distinctive marls of Arbois and more limestone; a composition that shares more similarities with Burgundy than the Jura*. It is here that Jura's white wines are in their glory, with beloved producers like Labet, Buronfosse, and Ganevat producing some of the area's top wines.
The Fromonts are Jura natives who come from an agricultural background focused on polyculture: a philosophy they applied right away by converting their new holdings to organic farming and becoming certified by Ecocert. Today the couple has a combined 10 hectares of vines that are up to 100-years-old planted in the neighboring villages of Vincelles and Sainte-Agnès, where the concentration of fossil-rich limestone is much higher.
In addition to making traditional sous-voile wines, which are kept in a flor-friendly 200-year-old stone farmhouse, the couple vinifies each of their parcels separately to showcase the local terroir, a practice more common in Burgundy. The latter provides a fascinating exploration of the difficult vintage. The 2016s are lighter than the ripe 2015s, but they show brilliant complexity on the nose, herbaceous flavors, and tightly coiled minerality. The yields were low across the Jura, especially for reds, in 2016 (and 2017) so we have limited stock of the wines available, all of which we are grateful to have and happy to share! Amanda Bowman
* Wink Lorch explains this in her wonderful book, "Jura Wine."
"Les Molates" is a bright and honeyed, topped-up Chardonnay that comes from the Fromont's younger vines (around 35-years-old) planted in red marl under limestone in Sainte-Agnès. After a direct press, the wine is allowed to ferment spontaneously, and is then aged in neutral oak for 18 months before bottling with minimal added sulfur. The robe is a golden straw color in the glass and the aromas offer a sweet vernal freshness with notes of white flower, beeswax, lemon meringue, and chamomile. On the palate, the body is leaner than past vintages with delicate citrus acidity carrying notes of ripe yellow apple over a pleasing, salty mineral finish. Amanda Bowman
"Les Molates" (topped-up Savagnin) comes from younger vines (around 25-years-old) planted in red marl under limestone in Sainte-Agnès. Like its Chardonnay counterpart, the wine is directly pressed and is allowed to ferment with native yeasts, then aged for 18 months in neutral oak with minimal added sulfur before bottling. Amanda Bowman
"En Quartre Vis" (topped-up Chardonnay) is sourced from a few different parcels, all of them vinified separately in neutral barrel then blended together in stainless steel tank before bottling with minimal added sulfur. The robe is a cheerful lemon color in the glass and offers vivid aromas of clementine, fresh mint, honey, and crisp apple skins. The body is light and nervy with taut acidity beneath layers of tangy citrus and salted melon on the long finish. The flavors continued to evolve on the second day; this wine should shine in 3 years. Amanda Bowman
The "En Quatre Vis" (topped-up Savagnin) continues to be the stand-out of the collection. The Savagnin for this cuvée is sourced from a few different parcels, all of them vinified separately in neutral barrel before being blended together in stainless steel tank before bottling. The 2016 is rich, pure-fruited, and beautifully textured with savory minerals and vigorous acidity. The wine is a yellow-gold color in the glass and shows complex aromas of lime flowers, mint, sea salt, and almond skins. This wine is excellent now and will only get better with a few years of bottle age. Amanda Bowman
"Les Normins" (topped-up Chardonnay) is a new cuvée for us and a most welcome addition. From 75-year-old vines planted in white marl under limestone in the Fromont's first holdings in Cesancey. After a direct press, they allow spontaneous fermentation, then age the wine for 23 months in neutral oak barrel with minimal added sulfur. The wine is a golden hay color in the glass and offers heady aromas of white flowers, honeycomb, walnut and zesty lemon curd. The body has a waxy texture with powdery minerals and crackling acidity. At 14% ABV it is high in alcohol, but deceptively so (until you stand up!). The flavors are hedonistic with classic notes of Comté and, surprisingly, ripe red fruits. This is a powerful wine that should age well for years to come. Amanda Bowman
"Levrette" is a topped-up Chardonnay from older vines (around 60-years-old) from the Fromont's limestone and Gryphées (fossil-rich) soils in the Vincelles vineyard. After direct press, they allow the wine to spontaneously ferment, then age in old oak for 18 months before bottling with minimal added sulfur. Amanda Bowman
The "Empriente" Savagnin is made in the Jura's traditional sous-voile style. From our old friend and colleague Tim Gagnon: "For their sous voile wines, Geraud and Pauline Fromont have a separate, three-story cellar that creates an environment conducive to healthy layers of flor. The wines (which are never sulfured) are put in barrel on hot days to assure that the flor develops quickly, and they will not be moved again until after a minimum of three years. The Savagnin vines for this cuvée are 45 years old. This Savagnin is classic and precise with an emphasis on balance and freshness. Tropical fruits abound with fenugreek, curry powder, honey-baked walnuts, and saline pears. The palate is sharp and focused with a tangy saltiness and fresh fruit with nuts followed by dried flowers rushing forward on the finish. It is an impressively crafted wine that opens up beautifully at the table and would be perfect with a main course of veal or roasted chicken and also the Comté that will follow!"