Jura tripping – Le Nez dans le Vert

The Jura has been one of those destinations that kept on lingering on my wish list, so the eighth edition of Le Nez dans le Vert, the region’s gathering of organic winemakers, was the ideal excuse to make a quick dash into France. It should not come as a surprise that the largest wine event in the Jura focuses on organically grown wine. 17% of the vineyards are worked organically, only surpassed by the Provence (where weather conditions are a lot more favorable to those who want to go the natural way).

Granted, in the larger scheme of things we are only talking about 331 hectares, but it does prove that the organic way is feasible even in regions not blessed with an ideal climate. It should not come as a surprise that in times were sustainability and respect for the environment are at the forefront of what we consider to be important, Jura wines have become quite popular, as evidenced by the large number of international visitors in attendance.

As first-time visitors, comparisons to previous editions are impossible, but what I could gather from comments is that the move to a tent behind the castle of Gevingey is something to rethink. As it rained in the morning, the air within was damp and muddy, so tasting note wise it was not the ideal venue (unless grassy counts as a unique Jurassic aroma). Nevertheless, it was a fantastic occasion to acquaint ourselves with plenty of wines and winemakers that do not make their way across the Franco-belge border.

For starters, a very quick introduction on the Jura, courtesy of Wink Lorch’s magnificent book Jura Wine.

  • White varieties: Chardonnay in a leaner, more mineral style than just 70km to the west, and Savagnin which can actually be quite fruity and energetic when vinified dry but is often used to make more oxidative wines.
  • Red varieties: Poulsard or Ploussard, Pinot Noir and Trousseau, the first two giving energetic, fresh wines and the latter being capable of something a bit more juicy, but with a grounded, rustic edge.
  • Terroir: enormously complex, broadly defined by deposits (mainly clay and marl) from the Triassic and Jurassic geological eras. Michel Campy published an extremely interesting book called Terroirs Viticoles du Jura, which I would recommend to everyone looking to get a notion of the depth and complexity the soils of the Jura has to offer.
  • Styles: the classics in white, red and sparkling, but to the outside world mostly defined by the oxidative wine style of Vin Jaune. Following fermentation, the wine is put into casks which are not topped up completely, exposing the wine’s surface to oxygen. This will trigger a voile, a film which will protect the wine from oxidation, allowing it to develop in a very particular way. Two other styles associated with the region are Vin de Paille, a sweet wine made from grapes dried on straw mats, which is simply delicious, and Macvin, a vin de liqueur. 

To say the last two years have simply sucked for Jurassic wine makers would still be an understatement. 2016 was the year of frost and hail in neighboring Burgundy, and although the Jura was spared initially, it was drowned in rain showers during the summer. Powdery mildew hit hard, not even giving winemakers the time to treat their vineyards, so yields took a hit. The climate did not give the vines the time to recover in 2017, with three consecutive nights of frost leading to tiny tiny yields, with plenty of winemakers resorting to négoce wines to have at least something to offer to their clients.

So, what did we find in our glass? The wines on offer where not always the easiest. A lot of the winemakers were sold out, so they could only show cask samples of wines that had not even gone through half of their élevage. Acidity could be quite prominent in the whites, and I was at times not quite convinced by purity and stability, in particular in the long run. The red wines were surprisingly harsh, Poulsardwise I was pleased when the fresh and energetic character of the variety was emphasized, but when it came to Trousseau, rusticity unfortunately reigned. A quick overview of the wines that stuck with me.

André-Jean Morin only started to make his own wines in 2015, after having been a faithful supplier to a cooperative for years. His Savagnin ‘Terres Bleues’ was slowly coming together, showing nicely polished fruit to counter the quite intense acidity (to be bottled in 2019). I really liked his Poulsard: fresh, crunchy and energetic, very impressive for someone who started on his own in the less than easy vintages.

Ratapoil has been a longtime favorite in my cellar, and I was immensely pleased that quality has taken yet another leap forward in recent years. A gorgeous Va Donc, 100% chardonnay stood out, with a crunchy sesame edge to it, yet surprisingly soft on the palate. Ratapoil Rouge, a blend of ancient Jurassic grape varieties is really expressive, crunchy red fruit with a nice bite to it and a favorite for a simple homecooked meal.   

The stands of Jura royalty (Ganevat, Pignier & Tissot) where understandably quite crowded, but a bit of patience goes a long way. The en primeur offering of Ganevat’s Belgian importer was basically non-existent for this year, so I was quite happy to taste at least some of his wines here. Les Grands Teppes Vieilles Vignes was simply marvelous, completely carried by an invigorating minerality, yet with a quincy tang to it. Super-complex, and a joy to taste. Pignier, who loyal readers could remember from last year’s asparagus match, had a lot of wines on show, with the GPS, an oldschool blend of poulsard, savagnin and gamay blanc (chardonnay) being an interesting highlight, sharp and quite floral.

I was impressed by the two wines presented by Domaine du Pélican, the Jurassic adventure started by Guillaume d’Angerville of Burgundian fame. The Chardonnay 2016 was quite mellow, had a bit more softness than I would have expected, and a quite forward oak imprint. I loved Trois Cépages 2016, a blend of the Jura’s three red varieties which was beautifully in aroma, silky and delicate on the palate, very elegant all-in-all. Put against Berthet-Bondet’s La Queue au Renard, which came across much more grounded and slightly rustic, I would put my money on Pélican’s for future enjoyment.

Finally, the wines of Kenjiro KagamiThey have been a bit patchy in the past; gorgeous and focused when opened, only to go off when exposure to oxygen increases. Unfortunately, I have been unable to check up on them in recent years as they appear to be perennially sold out, so it was nice to taste Mizuiro, a very crunchy lime impression at first, but then roundness, a gentle note and a taut touch towards the finish.

 

2 thoughts on “Jura tripping – Le Nez dans le Vert

  1. As a long time Jura observer it is always painful to miss Le Nez, but I wonder whether it was such a bad thing to do this year. That said, I admire the wines you single out (though I hardly know the Pélican wines), and I shall have no hesitation to give my support to all the small, hard pressed, artisans whose self-respect and perfectionist approach will surely mean they with will not release poor wines.

    I do accept that reductive winemaking can cause issues in this land of oxidative techniques (a certain irony lies there). With exposure to air, reduction usually blows off. A carafe, and even a vigorous shake can do the trick. With one recent red it smelt nasty, but left for a day it was fine. Not ideal, I agree, but at least it didn’t end up down the sink.

    A pleasure to read, as always.

    1. I was really surprised by Pélican. There was a lot of huff an puff a couple of years ago when Puffeney sold his vineyards to a Burgundian winemaker of all people, but when you see what great wines they produce, it is an inheritance in safe hands.

      The issues that you mention are fine when you have the time to drink a wine over the course of a couple of days, but from a restaurant point of view, this is a luxury that you cannot afford.

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