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We debated using this incredible drawing for our header, only because we didn't have any Vin Jaune in stock, but we actually found a few bottles of Vin Jaune!
While inquiring about Vin Jaune with several importers in the city, we ended up deciding to offer a sampling of what's available in the city at the moment. Not exhaustive at all - surely there's merit for a second "nostalgie" email - here's a rundown of some wines from well known and some lesser known Jura producers.
I wish I could say I tasted these all, but alas I have not. Several years with very limited harvests (when was the last "plentiful" vintage in the Jura?) and relative scarcity means there is often little chance to taste the wines here in New York, let alone in France. My last trip to Arbois was in 2018, and though I do attend industry wine fairs in France each winter, most Jura producers don't attend, as they don't have any wine to sell! I can say that I have enjoyed fine bottles of wine from all of these producers, and have tried to make a selection based on the hits and the curiosities.
Loreline Labord, from Les Granges Paquenesses, has consistenly been producing very approachable and relatively affordable wines. Her topped up (ouillé) Savagnin bottlings show typicity, without thinness or the sense of overdone batonnage (they're not too creamy or fat). Her reds are balanced, very rarely reductive, and overall quite charming, perhaps the best choice for introducing a newcomer to the red cepages of the Jura.
Ludovic Bindernagel, aka Lulu Vigneron, is an old Chambers Street fave. I was first introduced to the wines by Sophie Barrett, who wrote an article about her visit to Les Chaix du Vieux Bourg in 2011. We haven't had reds in stock in so long I can't remember the last time I tried one, but I've always been a fan of the whites, which usually highlight everything I love about the more inherently oxidative side of Savagnin. Even his Chardonnays are uniquely Jurassian.
Overnoy-Crinquard is an estate I was peripheraly aware of. I haven't tried all of the wines, but I found their 'Ploussard' (old spelling of Poulsard) to be delightful and look forward to trying their Trousseau. Mikael Crinquand is winemaker here, and the small estate has been producing wines from organically farmed vineyards for many generations, with a modest 5 hectares of vines.
Domaine de la Borde, run by Julien Mareschel, is a small estate in Arbois-Pupillin that I know for whites mostly. The Chardonnays in particular are some of my favorites to share with friends alongside a Maconnais or Côte de Beaune expression, for the learning experience, and because they're tasty.
We've written about Domaine Ratte a few times, once to highlight a lineup, and once simply to rave about a specific wine, the 2019 Chardonnay 'Grand Curoulet.' Turns out there's a tiny bit of that very wine left with the importer, along with the 'Clos Maire' red that I was a fan of when I tried it last year (I had 2018, current release is 2020, but I'll put my money on it being good).
Domaine de la Pinte wines I've mostly consumed in the Jura, as almost any restaurant or cafe in the little sleepy town of Arbois will likely have a reasonably priced bottle of Pinte on the list. They are a large domaine for the area (and this email), with about 34 hecatares of vines, but they were also early proponents of organic farming, certified organic since 1999, and practicing biodynamic since 2009. Their wines may not list among the most memorable for me, but I find them to be a very reliable estate for wines with a classic Jura profile. No bells and whistles, just good local Jura wine. Mags are the only format available at the moment, but the 2012 Savagnin and the 2016 Melon Queue Rouge jumped out at me as bottles I might have to try with some friends. Melon Queue Rouge may just be a red-stalked Chardonnay, though several producers in the Jura argue it is distinct from Chardonnay. Either way, 2016 was a vintage I paticularly liked for balance and acidity, and there's only one way to find out if it's good!
Bruno Bienaimé is the new kid on the block for me. We brought in his 2018 Trousseau not long ago and a few customers with notably good taste snatched them up, but not before I had a chance to purchase a bottle and try it. I was really impressed with the deep flavors and balance of the wine along with its obvious ageability. In one of John Gilman's articles in "A View from the Cellar," Gilman writes: "Among the producers whose wines I especially liked in preparing this article, Bruno Bienaimé was one who really stood out for me. Monsieur Bienaimé is not a long-time vigneron in the Jura, as he is a native of the Champagne region and spent a full decade working as Vincent Laval’s right hand man in his cellars in Cumières learning the fine nuances of making Champagne, prior to starting his own project in the Jura... Bruno Bienaimé plows his vines by horse, uses a gentle basket press for the crushing of his bunches and indigenous yeasts for the fermentation of all of his wines, which are done in barrel. They are aged in a variety of older casks, never chapitalized and bottled without filtration after fully two years of barrel aging. Bruno is also quite circumspect with his use of SO2, with one gram added at the press and another gram added just before bottling. From what I tasted of Bruno’s wines, he is excelling with all four varietals that he is currently bottling, and though one of the newcomers to the region, he is also one of its stars." (John Gilman, "View from the Cellar") One update to this is that Bruno stopped using sulfur at bottling after the 18’s and is generally only using SO2 at press now.
Ludwig Bindernagel, a favorite of ours from the Jura, currently works with the newly-minted Lulu label. However, when he first came to the region in the early 2000s, he produced wines as Les Chais du Vieux Bourg, the domaine he had purchased. ‘BB1,’ though it may sound technical, or even scientific, stands for ‘Baby One,’ as it was the first cuvée Lulu ever created. It is a blend of Chardonnay and Savignin, and produced in a topped-up, or ouille, style. Hints of crisp apple and salt on the nose, with a delicate, slightly floral and oxidative character. Zingy on the palate, with pear, cured lemon, white pepper and salt. Incredibly balanced - neither the Savagnin or the Chardonnay steals the show in the glass. Spot on, Lulu! Bring on the Comte! -DH
100% Chardonnay on clay and limestone in Pupillin, vinified for 6 months in large foudres. This is a joyful bottle with a fine mousse bursting with aromas of dry hay, iris, toasted hazelnut, Comté, and baked orchard fruit. The palate has an elegant frame of mineral acidity. Flavors are gently oxidative with floral undertones, ginger, and cherry pit. A delicious bottle to serve with raclette, Peking duck, or on its own! Amanda Bowman
This is a balanced and medium-weight Savagnin from Loreline Laborde of Les Granges Paquenesses. The color is a clear, brilliant lemon. The palate is spicy, with yellow apple and pear, green herbs and a dash of white pepper. A core of strong minerality contributes a refreshing, zingy middle.
'Libellules' is a tasty and very forward Trousseau from blue and grey marl soils on a south-facing slope in Poligny. A lovely cherry color in the glass, with notes of strawberry and red cherry on the nose. The palate is ripe and friendly, perhaps not screaming "JURA!" but it is very charming and in many respects a great way to entice newcomers to the region and its special wines. Notes of plums, cassis and fresh green herbs circling around a center of cool minerality.
From the l’Etoile AOC, this is an Ouillé white blend of Chardonnay and Savagnin
All of Ludwig Bindernagel’s wines are fermented naturally and see very little sulfur during the winemaking process. The strain of Pinot Noir used in this bottling is known as savagnin noir and is unique to the slopes of the Jura, though there are very few parcels of it left. The grapes were hand harvested from massale selected vines grafted to pre-phelloxera rootstock. The vineyards are planted on marl and calcareous soils. Its a rather rustic wine, with woodsy aromas of smoke and black cherry, and flavors of blackberry, cherry, dark flowers and a hint of roasted meat. Pair this Pinot with roasts of white or red meat and starchy root vegetables -DH
Domaine Overnoy-Crinquand lies in the center of the village of Pupillin, producing fantastic wines from their 5.5 hectares of organically tended vines planted in limestone and clay soils. Pupillin is recognized as the home of the Ploussard grape, and given the results that Mikael Crinquand is consistently able to obtain, we have to agree. In previous vintages reduction was a bit of an issue, but this wine is clean and vibrant upon opening. Beautiful red berry fruit and rose petal aromas on the nose are anchored by a rustic minerality and brambly herbs redolent of sage. Although it’s translucent in the glass, it has a surprising amount of tannic structure and grip along with incredibly pure fruit and spice. Try this with spicy carnitas or roasted poultry!
Juilen Mareschal is one of the only people to make wine in the Côte de Caillot, right outside of Pupillin. Working organically with .25 hectares of 35-year-old vines planted in Bajocian limestone on the top of steep slopes at 600m in elevation, he crafts serious Chardonnay in the ouille style, showcasing the true terroir of the site. The wine ferments naturally with indigenous yeasts and is raised in old, 1200L barrels. In terms of taste it would appeal to seasoned Chablis and Mersault drinkers with complex fruit and walnut aromas, and an excellent structure anchored by a piercing mineral core.
A serenipitous "mistake," this is a partial carbonic maceration Poulsard. The name essentially means “oh shit” like a happy accident, because he was surprised at how good the wine came out.
This is incredibly refined, with beautiful spiced lemon and sea air aromatics, with little touches of dried pineapple and crushed almonds. On the palate there is more yellow and orange citrus and crisp apricot, rounded out with some classic Jura spice. But the mineral core here is most alluring - the stone is totally exposed. It adds so much freshness, though there is no shortage of acidity. The end result is a wine of great delicacy. My colleague Mariko compared it to a ballet dancer, stepping lightly but with perfect precision.
Clos Maire is a blend of Pinot Noir and Trousseau from Arbois. On the palate, rich and woodsy cherry combines with a touch of tilled earth, black pepper, and black tea. On the finish, an essence of smoky herbs and spice. An incredibly balanced blend, where Pinot's finesse is matched by Trousseau's attractive, dark grit.
From John Gilman's View from the Cellar: "Bruno Bienaimé’s 2018 Trousseau comes in at a svelte 12.6 percent octane and delivers beautiful complexity on both the nose and palate. The bouquet is beautifully pure, complex and red fruity, wafting from the glass in a blend of bitter cherry, wild strawberries, woodsmoke, a hint of tree bark, chalky soil tones, peonies, dried rose petals and a gentle topnote of sweet botanicals. On the palate the wine is medium-full, tangy and very transparent, with a good core, lovely focus, complexity and grip, moderate tannins and a long, vibrant and bouncy finish. I love this wine’s girdle of acidity out of the blocks, which will carry it far into the future and already makes it a lovely companion at the table, though the wine is still a puppy and deserves further bottle age! A lovely, low fat and very complex example of Trousseau. 2021-2050"
From John Gilman's View from the Cellar: "The 2018 Pinot Noir from Bruno Bienaimé is again his first effort with this grape variety... The wine is beautifully low octane at 12.2 percent, but completely ripe and pure, wafting from the glass in a mix of sweet dark berries, black cherries, woodsmoke, bitter chocolate, sa touch of meatiness, chalky soil tones, violets and a topnote of fresh marjoram. On the palate the wine is bright, complex and full-bodied, with great soil signature and grip, a good core, ripe tannins and a long, focused and beautifully balanced young finish. This lovely Pinot deserves some bottle age to soften up more completely on the backend and allow its secondary layers of complexity to emerge, but it is already quite enjoyable for those who do not mind a touch of youthful tannin in their pinot noir. For my palate, I will tuck it away for five or six years and let time work its magic." -