Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Monday night I went to a highly educational brown bag tasting of a few of the wines of the Savoie and Jura. As usual there were two flights - four whites and then four reds - and since we did not know what the theme would be (or if there was a specific theme) for the first flight, it was fun to guess what common thread might be looping its way through the wines.
First, a primer on the wines of the Jura and Savoie, since I realize that sometimes I skimp on background regional information. As an aside, as time allows and my mood dictates, I'd like to begin providing better context for the wines I describe here -- I mean, you can't taste wine in a vacuum, man. [For the bona fide wine cognoscenti and assorted other impatient readers who wants to get to the tasting notes, scroll down a bit and you will find them.]
Located due west of the Swiss border, the vineyards of the Jura extend north to south just a hair longer than the Cote d'Or, which would be about 30 miles. Not a large region, especially considering how much of it is covered by wooded areas, not vineyards. Not too far to the west lies the Saone River and then, Burgundy. The southernmost reaches of the most southerly part of Alsace, the Haut-Rhin, is about 100 miles to the northeast of the Jura. There are four appellations: L'Etoile, Chateau Chalone, Cotes du Jura and Arbois. Given the proximity to Burgundy, it is not surprising that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are grown. Savagnin is a regional specialty used for making the sherry-like vin jaune and sweet vin de paille, as well as occasionally being blended with Chardonnay to make a wine sous voile ('under a veil,' or 'flor,' tufts of yeast which protect the wine from fully oxidizing since the barrels are not topped off, in order to produce a delicious, slightly oxidative style). These sous voile wines are like blue cheese, you may not get them at first and then you'll either fall in love or still not get it. For reds, Poulsard is very light in color and sometimes deliciously earthy. Trousseau is blockier and a bit richer. The Cotes du Jura does champagne method sparklers, mainly from Chardonnay, and they do them very well.
Savoie lies in more mountainous terrain, to the southeast of the Jura and closer to the Swiss border. There is one basic overlying appellation: Vin de Savoie. Grapes most often used for white wine include Roussette, also known as Altesse, Jacquere, and Chasselas. Mondeuse (peppery, assertive) and gamay are common for reds. Bugey Cerdon is the delicious, slightly sweet, sparkling rose which many people have been enjoying of late.
Here were the wines of the evening, starting with whites:
2006 Frederic Giachino Vin de Savoie Abymes
Crisp flavors of apple and pear skins, with a creamy, slightly oxidative aspect. Not sous voile, just leesy and rounded. My initial guesses ranged from jurancon, to grenache blanc, though the subtle, crisp alpine aspect of this wine gives it away as neither. No one could call this one.
2006 JF Quenard Chignin Roussanne Vieilles Vignes
Deep golden color, with a roasted nut, honeyed aroma and full, dry flavors. I was convinced that we were dealing with Roussanne here. Not my favorite grape variety and I was accordingly quick to call out that I didn't like the wine. How did Roussanne make its way up from the northern Rhone, I wonder?
2003 Jacques Puffeney Melon Que Rouge Arbois
Spicy meyer lemon flavors with some mature notes. I was guessing cote chalonaise with bottle age, maybe '02 because the combination of acidity and richness was so appealing. This was my number '1,' even though I mistakenly suspected it to be Chardonnay and prepared myself for the embarrassment of picking a Chardonnay based wine that wasn't Chablis or Champagne to be my favorite of the flight.
2004 Domaine de Montbourgeau L'Etoile
Super mineral and earthy. Some white flowers. It was like a richer, Chard mid-palate influenced fino or manzanilla sherry. Good nutty finish. Whilte it's probably not going to end up as powerful and convincingly tasty as the 2002, I like this wine quite a bit.
2004 Jacques Puffeney Pinot Noir
Sour cherry and spice on the nose and palate. Great acidity, interesting iron ore minerality, and terrific elegance. I thought Poulsard, it turned out to be PN. You were right, Mark, well done. Mmm...this was my red of the night.
2005 Jacques Puffeney Trousseau Cuvee 'Le Berange'
A darker color, richer and more intense on the nose. A bit blocky and four-square on the palate with mixed berry fruit. Persistent though. Young wine. Kudos this time to Nadia, for calling trousseau - I know Martine would be proud!
2004 Jacques Puffeney Poulsard
A bit of a cooked quality to the cherry fruit aromas. Foresty on the palate. Lots of finesse and elegance on the finish. For some reason I was thinking Mondeuse, recalling a great bottle of Jura wine that at the time I remembered as Mondeuse but really was Poulsard. I posted on it nearly a year ago here.
2003 Jacques Puffeney Arbois Vieilles Vignes
Pinot Noir, Poulsard and Trousseau. Terrific building floral flavors on the palate, with a touch more elegance than the Poulsard. Some licorice on the finish. Again, I wanted to say it was Mondeuse.
So the reds turned out to be a Puffeney extravaganza - not a bad flight! We enjoyed the remaining wine with some amazing pan seared and oven finished chicken and potatoes (I learned that Gary used to be in the catering business and let me tell you, dude can cook). When will you be hosting your next PMW tasting, Gary?
As always, thanks to the gracious host and the entire group for staying on the ball, coordinating busy work and personal schedules and tasting wine together on a Monday night.