This Saturday, 12-4, we’ll be tasting a selection of wines from several producers in the ancient Jura and Savoie region of France.
Importer Charles Neal will be on hand to discuss the wines in detail. Based in San Francisco, Charles is a leading authority on wine from the east and Southwest of France as well as brandy, having written books on both Armagnac and Calvados. Charles’ philosophy is simple: find high quality wines from small growers that display the grape variety from which they come and the terroir upon which they are grown.
The Jura is a bucolic region near the eastern border of France. It is the first steps to the Alps and named after the Jurassic period and the warm seas that left their geologic mark there as limestone. Lying just across the Saône Valley from Burgundy, one finds many of the vines planted to be Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, along with indigenous varieties like Savignin, Poulsard and Trousseau.
Savoie is even further east than Jura and higher into the French Alps. The vertical dimension is most important, as a well directed slope and mountain buffers are key to proper ripening. Geologically complex, viticulture there is pure opportunism, and only two percent of the region’s agricultural lands are occupied with vines. Our tasting will be focused mainly on deeply colored, highly aromatic wines from the Mondeuse variety.
If you want a glimpse of what good wine tasted like in the time of Shakespeare, look to these Alpine producers that have mostly eschewed the fashions of wine industry and have excelled at crafting the classic wines of the region. These are all excellent wines to pair with dishes on the Thanksgiving table.
Maison Angelot is run by the brothers Eric and Philippe Angelot. Their 57 acres of vineyards are divided into about 20 different parcels on the hillsides of Bugey. Maison Angelot Mondeuse is a fruit forward, easy drinking red wine to pair with cheese courses or turkey and stuffing.
The Grand family has been in the Pupillin region for over 300 years. Seventh generation vigneron Lothain Grand studied winemaking in Beaune and did internships in Meursault and the Jura. His son, Emmanuel is now taking charge of the estate. Domaine Grand Pinot Noir comes from 20 to 40 year-old vines grown on a clay and limestone slope.
Domaine Edmund Jacquin is run by brothers Patrice and Jean-Francois Jacquin and is spread over 55 acres exposed south and southwest — ideal for trapping the light and warmth of the sun in this cool climate. Jacquin’s expression of the Mondeuse variety is pure red cherry fruits, floral and earthy notes.
Rising star Yann Agostini’s wine studies have taken him to St. Émilion, Cahors, Yarra Valley, Châteauneuf du Pape, and finally back home to the Hautes Alpes where he manages a little over 11 acres of vines. La Mémoire Neuve is made with 100% Mollard from vines ranging in age from 5 to 55 years old. Soft on the palate with black fruit and a savory note of black pepper, it’s quite versatile at the table.
You can find up to a half dozen domaines named Quenard just on a single signpost along the route du vin southeast of Chambéry but only one of them is the impressive Jean-François Quénard. He owns 37 acres of vineyards around the village of Chignin and took over winemaking from his father after studying in Burgundy, Gigondas, Bordeaux, and California. His cuvée “Elisa” is classic Mondeuse.
Young Fabien Trosset recently took over management of the family’s 39 acre estate in the Combe de Savoie Cru of Arbin. He works mainly with the Mondeuse variety grown on severe, south-facing slopes. His wines, particularly the age-worthy cuvée “Avalanche” made from 50+ year-old vines, are fleshy and pungent reds with a hint of mountain herbs.
In the tiny hamlet of Boyeux-Saint-Jérôme husband-and-wife team Marjorie and Bernard Rondeau produce only one wine, the sparkling rosé Cerdon de Bugey. After meeting at University in Bordeaux while they were both studying wine, the couple moved back to Marjorie’s home to take over her family’s vineyards. Their Cerdon de Bugey is made from 100% Gamay and is always on point. This is a perfect aperitif with just the right amount of juicy acidity to balance a light sweetness.
Domaine Labet is a name to follow in the Jura. The family’s 29 acres of vineyards are in the small town of Rotalier in eastern France. Winemaker Julien Labet studied at Domaine Ramonet in Chassagne-Montrachet among others, and since taking over winemaking responsibilities has added production of non-oxidative, ouillé wines in search of the expression of Jura terroir. These bracing, crystalline wines are benchmarks in the region.