Geek Speak (Written For The Wine Country Newsletter)
So in the last addition of The Wine Country newsletter I secretly put some feelers out, wrote about some of my little geeky wines and waited to see if anyone would take the bait. They did. This was not as much of a “Let’s see if they go for it” thing as it was research. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of introducing some new wines to the store, these are not wines that you just toss on the racks and wait for people to grab them. Truthfully with wines this unusual just tossing them on a shelf could end up backfiring on me which is why I have been hesitant to bring them in….but I love them so.
So the thing that really did it for me, pushed me to pull the trigger, (aside from losing my mind while tasting one afternoon) was the overwhelming response to two of the wines in that last feature; the 2006 Jo Pithon Anjou, ($18.99) and the 2006 Domaine de la Charriere Jasnieres ($19.99). Two somewhat funky Loire wines made from Chenin Blanc that are not at all polished or really all that easy. These are wines with layers of complex flavors, lots of minerality and some fun funky stuff going on. People not only gave them a chance, they came back for more. I was astounded and encouraged by how much people seemed to adore the quirky nature of those little wines, made me wonder what kind of response we would get from some extremely “unusual” wines. I was still dangling the idea around in my head when I sat down with one of our sales reps one busy afternoon. Randy and I tasted through the wines and I knew it was time to quit “dangling” and put these wines in people’s mouths.
The region of Jura while gaining popularity with sommeliers’ and the ultra fanatic wine collectors of the world, is relatively unheard of in most circles and seeing as the region represents about 1% of France’s total wine production it is little wonder why. Jura is in fact France’s smallest wine region, it is located between Burgundy and Switzerland and has four appellations; Arbois, Cotes du Jura, Etoile and Chateau-Chalon. There are five varieties grown in the Jura the whites are Chardonnay, (the most planted variety in the region) and Savagnin (nope not a typo) and the reds are Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir. The reds are savory and light but it is the white wines of the region that have more weight, fuller textures, bigger flavors and from which is made their most “famous” wine, Vin Jaune.
Vin Jaune is made by taking the best lots of Savagnin and aging them in old Burgundian barrels but not completely filled and as evaporation occurs a beneficial yeast forms over the surface of the wine, (much like the flor in Jerez where Sherry is made). This yeast layer which is called the voile, (the veil and some wines are labeled, Sous Voile, under the veil) combined with the acidity and aging a minimum of 6 years gives Vin Jaune its signature tangy, nutty, faintly salty flavor and tremendous complexity. While reminiscent of Sherry because of the oxidative qualities of Vin Jaune, the wines are not fortified and have a deeper, richer texture and complexity that is pretty mind bending.
Not all the wines in the region are Vin Jaune, and many of the Chardonnays coming from the Jura remind me very much of great white Burgundy. There is a bunch of intrigue and tremendous flavor to be found in this tiny little region, time to get brought up to speed on one of the hottest, most geeked out on, hard to find, intellectually stimulating wines on the planet. Tiny region, funky grapes, not polished or pretty or inexpensive but very rare, untamed, wild, unconventional, haunting and really damn thrilling wines to experience.
2008 Tissot Arbois Classique Chardonnay $26.99 The very first thing that came out of my mouth when I smelled this wine was, “It smells like Meursault!” Amazing depth on the nose, roasted nuts, minerals and a bit of holiday spice. On the palate the wine is broad, full and again reminds me of great white Burgundy but maybe just a touch dryer and with a linger that goes on forever. Cannot think of the last time a Chardonnay under thirty dollars brought me so much pleasure.
2007 Tissot Arbois Les Bruyeres Chardonnay $36.99 The aromatics on this wine had me completely captivated, took me twenty minutes to notice that I had not yet tasted this wildly beguiling wine. Intoxicating aromas of salted nuts, butter, cinnamon hard candy and minerals kept unfolding with each spin of the glass. The palate reminds me of Blanc de Blancs Champagne or Chablis in that doughy, stony, mineral rich way but the finish is a blast of salted butter and another rush of roasted nuts. You taste this sexy wine long after you have swallowed and that linger keeps you wanting more.
2005 Tissot Arbois Savagnin $41.99 This was Randy’s head spinning wine. Unbelievably expressive on the nose. Nutty, salty, full of browned butter, roasted citrus. The palate is so expansive and full it seems to almost grow in your mouth and wrap itself around your whole tongue. Drinks like a sexier and more refined Sherry andf would be absolutely stunning with chicken in morel cream sauce or a wedge of the regions famous cheese Comte. Not to be missed if you wish to really get a feel for the wines of the region.
2004 Berthet-Bondet Tradition Sous Voile $28.99 Classic Vin Jaune. Doughy, nutty, salty and showing plenty of oxidized aromas and flavors. Nice and full on the palate with a savory wildness that is true to the style. Delightful wine that would be lovely with a bowl of French onion soup or a plate of cured meat and cheeses.
2002 Berthet-Bondet Vin de Paille Vin Liquoreaux (375 ML) $44.99 Produced much like Italy’s beloved Vin Santo, by letting the grapes dry on racks for about three months before pressing. The result of that drying time is a fiercely extracted and intense aroma and flavor. Made from Chardonnay, Savagnin and Poulsard this wine is packed with dried apricots and quince, salted nuts and the palate is very much like apricot jam. A wine to serve after dinner with nuts and strong cheeses.