Throw a bunch of sommeliers, chefs, foragers and winemakers in a 40-person bus for a weekend and you’re bound to have a pretty incredible time.
When forager Stéphane Meyer a.k.a. “Le Druide” popped his head through Frenchie a couple of weeks ago and asked me if I wanted to haul ass down to the Jura to taste some wine, forage some leaves, eat some good cheese and taste a 150 year old Vin Jaune, the answer was unequivocally yes.
Next question: how many could I bring along? Greg and wife Marie (who recently integrated Frenchie’s team as his highly efficient partner in the creation of Frenchie to Go) joined the fun as well as another newbie: Caroline Loiseleux (great friend and ex-sommelier at Itinéraires). We all made our Saturday-morning grasse matinée sacrifice to head down to Gare de Lyon, discover Jura and spend some time with our peers.
To name a few, there was all of Terroir d’Avenir’s crew, sous-chef of Sergent Recruteur Daniel Baratier and girlfriend Charlotte Arnaud who heads up the floor at l’Arpège. Astrance’s Pascal Barbot and longtime sommelier Alexandre Jean (we call him Réjean) were game as well. We shared our TGV seats with La Dernière Goutte’s Juan Sanchez and one of his Semilla chefs.
Once in Dole, after a 30-minute drive, we hit up the cellars of François Rousset and started to taste. Vintages flew by as François calmly poured 1994 Vin Jaune (19 years of aging) and listened to our guesses. It was fresh and vivid, with bright flavors of passion fruit, lemon zest, nuts, figs and truffle. His wines are never heavy and atypical of what you’d expect of Jura Vin Jaune. Réjean comments, “These are the Vin Jaunes that make people who don’t like Vin Jaune love it!”. François’ father was a teacher but kept making wine on the side as his family had for a long time for their personal consumption. Then François took over and set up in 2007 in Nevy-sur-Seille right under Château-Chalon.
He is a very discreet man and is still very unknown. It is a shame because his wines are fantastic. His style is very pure and extremely drinkable. He remarks to me in one of our conversations when I ask him why he thinks his style is so atypical that “a paramount factor of wine quality in Jura is the cellar and its situation“. The yeasts that live in the cellars and are responsible for the veil of yeast on the vin jaune and allow it to carry on years with no topping up play a major part in the product obtained. The situation of the cellar and its ventilation, temperature difference and general humidity level is also a unique “terroir” factor to the final result.
Next stop, famille Serret’s beautiful home lies atop Château Chalon and was the stage of our Saturday lunch. The chefs start opening bags brought from Paris and get cooking. Creamy foie gras, pastrami, bacon, gambas and miso mayonnaise, juicy hot dogs, Yellow Landes chicken put sous vide with Spérule Odorante and then cooked over an improvised grill, homemade terrine, and the list goes on.
Surrounded by all these food and wine lovers, I couldn’t help but feel so thankful… and then the sun came out.
After downing a couple of bottles of Overnoy’s Poulsard 2011, some went for a walk through Château Chalon but I opted out for a well-needed afternoon nap in on of the Serret’s many rooms. I was dreaming of Comté, morrels and tender Landes chicken when I was awoken by a call from Greg informing me that they were tasting 150 year-old Vin Jaune from the Serret cellars and that he knew I’d be pissed if I didn’t get to. Good man!
Monsieur Serret had pried out of the vestige of his cellar a unique and incredible bottle pre-1860s that was identified as such because of the shape of the bottle.
As the sun went down, we tasted history in a glass. The colour was ochre with flecks of black (probably dead lees that were completely oxidized) and the nose held notes of dried apricot, lemongrass, figs and black truffle that quickly vanished. Even for the minutes its grace lasted, we tasted something that no one alive when it was bottled ever lived to try.
Sometimes humility comes in the form of a 62cl clavelin.
The trip ended with a day of work on Sunday and a flash-tasting of over 150 wines produced by 30 natural winemakers at Le Nez dans le Vert. As well as tasting wines, we took advantage of Olivier Grosjean’s presence to get a signed copy of his collaborative book “Tronches de Vin” that simply ROCKS!!!!
Breakdown of our tasting
Julien Labet is at the top of his game with the delicious Fleur de Savagnin 2011 and his Chardonnay En Billat 2011, both crisp, mineral with vivid acidity that are heading straight for our wine list at Frenchie.
Jean-François Ganevat still has nothing to sell but that’s old news. If you do manage to get some wine, Grusse en Billat 2012 was superior to Grands Teppes 2012 by a mile.
Jean-Pascal and Peggy Buronfosse (in Rotalier next to Fanfan) are getting better and better as the wines gain in minerality, acidity and overall complexity.
We spent some time fawning over Pascal Clairet‘s wines particularly his Fleur de Savagnin 2010 and his Chardonnay Les Corvées sous Curon 2010 both incredibly fresh, crisp and pretty wines.
We enjoyed Domaine de la Borde Julien Mareschal‘s wines particularly his Arbois Pupillin Chardonnay “Caillot” 2010 that was both deliciously salinic and very reasonably priced. The vines are on limestone soils exposed south with a 30% slope at 550 meters.
Another heartthrob was Domaine des Marnes Blanches‘ Géraud Fromont who makes delicious pure Côtes du Jura Chardonnay “En Lévrette” 2010 that is aged 18 months in oak vats and could easily pass for a Burgundy Chardonnay from the Côte de Beaune. It is on limestone soils sprinkled with Gryphaea which is a fossilized shell and adds a great deal of minerality to the wine. Think Chablis but oakier.
Let’s not forget dreadlocked hippy Étienne Thiébaud from Domaine des Cavarodes. His Arbois Savagnin Pressé 2011 is beautiful and slow to reach Paris but thankfully we are patient.
Even though Philippe Bornard is notorious for being a ladies man and I wouldn’t go home with him, his Arbois Pupillin Ploussard 2005 La Chamade was the bottle I wanted to wake up to.