Sunday, June 28, 2009

France Trip Day Seven – The Jura, from Arlay to Arbois

Healthy soil (left), unhealthy soil (right)

Jean Bourdy, Arlay
Jean-Francois Bourdy is the fifteenth generation to make wine here in Arlay at his family’s estate, founded in 1475. Bourdy is as much museum as working winery, with bottles from vintages ranging back to 1781, all of which, Jean-Francois insists, are drinking beautifully. To prove the point we tasted a 1955 (my birth year) Clos de Jura Rouge made from one-third each Pinot Noir, Poulsard and Trousseau, the three originally red grapes of Arbois. It spent four-plus years in barrel – the normal aging time for Bourdy’s regular wines – and was recorked a couple of years ago at which time it was topped off with more 1995 Rouge. It was indeed still kicking, with silky, juicy fruit. Neat. We also tasted a 1953 Clos de Jura Blanc (100% Chardonnay), which was more advanced, but also still fascinating, not unlike older white Burgundy.

Jean-Francois is adamant about tradition, about maintaining the history of his family’s domaine. He sees his time at the helm as the custodian of a tradition meant to be handed down to his children, their children, and so on. Of course, tradition did not prevent Bourdy from converting to biodynamic viticulture in 2005.

We tasted:
Clos du Jura Rouge ‘05
Clos du Jura Rouge ‘55
Clos du Jura Blanc ‘05
Clos du Jura Blanc ‘53
Vin Jaune de Chateau Chalon ‘02
Vin de Paille ‘02
Galant des Abbesses Macvin (an Arbois version of Pineau des Charentes, blending 1 part marc to 2 parts grape juice cooked with twenty different spices)
Cremant de Jura – we tasted this last because I requested it, and I’m glad I did; it was delicious.

Arrving in Arbois, we checked in to Hotel Jean-Paul Jeunet, then went in search of lunch. After walking several blocks we noticed La Balance, Mets et Vins – this was the surprise of the trip. Local wines, many organic and/or biodynamic, local food, prepared with great flair, intensely, exotically spiced. We spent three hours here, eating jellied beef (tastes much better than it may sound), guinea fowl, coq au vin jaune, two different types of Comté – drinking (all recommended by our terrific server):
Cremant de Jura, Clos des Grives (Bio)
Savignin ’05, Ligier Pere et fils
Trousseau ’05 “Grevilliere,” Daniel Dugois
Vin Jaune ‘76

It was a fabulous lunch, but it made us an hour late for our appointment with Stephane Tissot, who had a big afternoon set up for us…

Stephane Tissot – Arbois
With 40 hectares (about 100 acres) of biodynamically farmed vineyards, this is one of the world’s largest biodynamic estates. Before tasting we drove to the base of Clos la Tour de Couron, piled out of the car, and proceeded to climb to the top of the hill and up into the top of the tower. The plot at the very top of the property has been planted at twice the normal density, with 12,000 vines per hectare. One of the highest sites in Arbois, it offered an amazing view of the village and the countryside.

Next we visited another vineyard on flatter land, with completely different soil structure. In the middle of Tissot’s land, another grower, who uses pesticides and herbicides, has about six rows of vines. Tissot’s vineyards are lush and green, buzzing with life, with deep, high quality soil. The neighbor’s rows had nothing living between them, and distinctly sandy-textured gray soil (see picture above).

The Tissot family is large, with many different branches, and firmly entrenched in the Arbois tradition. Stephane, however, is constantly striving to improve his wine, sometimes coming up with new expressions. He is proud of the wine estate his parents created, but he is not necessarily encumbered by their legacy.

Then we tasted:
Chardonnay ’07, Classic (60% from clay soils, 40% from limestone)
Chardonnay ’07 Les Gravieres (55 year-old vines, 100% limestone)
Chardonnay ’07 La Mailloche (100% clay)
…then the same exact cuve, but from a bottle opened a week earlier, showing no oxidation…
Chardonnay ’07 Les Bruyeres (100% black clay)
Chardonnay ’06 En Barberon
Chardonnay ’06 Clos la Tour de Couron
Arbois Blanc ’82 (Chardonnay, with 10% Savignin)
Trousseau ’07 Singulier (Trousseau is a cousin of Touriga Nacional)
Pinot Noir ’07 En Barberaon
Traminer (Savignin) ’07 (Savignin fermented in stainless steel, no oxidation)
Savignin ’05 (2 years on flor, ala Manzanilla) – At this point Stephane emphasized the fact that the Jura was once part of Spain, and that they introduced the concept of oxidation and flor to the region.
Vin Jaune ’02 (6 years on flor)
Cremant de Jura Brut NV
Cremant de Jura NV “Indegine” – Cremant with native-yeast liqueur de dosage
Spirale ’05 Paserille (Chardonnay/Savignin/Poulsard)
Audace ’06 – 100% Poulsard Passito
PMG ’05 – a concentration of Spirale with 500g/L residual sugar

Exhausted, we limped back to the hotel in time to change before dinner at the hotel restaurant, the Michelin 2-star Jean-Paul Jeunet. Dinner was spectacular, but we were so tired and a little full from that amazing lunch. There’s an obvious lesson here: one big meal a day is enough!
We drank:
Cremant de Jura Rosé – Domaine Rolet
Chardonnay ’02 – Emmanuel Houillon, Arbois Pupillin
Trousseau ’88 Cuvée Saint Paul – Camille Loye, Arbois
Chateau Chalon ’00 – Jean Macie
We ate spendidly, too, but I’m too tired to recount. Later.


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