On the Trail

In the Jura – Part II: New Friends

Keith Mabry

I was excited to visit Xavier at his domaine in Poligny. The town of Poligny is probably most famous for its Comté cheese, and Comté is the best cheese; nothing goes better with wines from the Jura. Xavier is a fourth generation producer with six hectares of plantings, the majority of which goes into his sparkling wines. I was familiar with the wines because I tasted them back in February when his importer was in town. I was deeply impressed and committed to a small order even back then (there were only a few cases of each, so I could only get what I was offered). While together we tasted his range of wines which allowed me to confirm my first impression which is: this guy is fantastic. He makes one of the better Cremants from the region for my taste: a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. The bottles are aged thirty-six months on the lees, hand-riddled, and disgorged.  He even does a sparkling rosé which is a blend of 50% Poulsard and 50% Pinot Noir.  Light salmon color and a slightly richer texture with overt spice notes.  Great texture on both these wines with lots freshness.  We’ll have some of the regular brut but the rosé will have to wait until the next release.  

Xavier’s specialty are probably his sous voile wines (wines aged under a layer of yeast called ‘voile’). He does a special savagnin, a “reserve” that is aged in large demi-muid (500L barrels) as opposed to barrique. This is a riskier venture because if something bad happens he loses the entire barrel, which is much higher in volume than the standard barrique. We tasted the ’08 and it was something truly special; the aged complexity of Vin Jaune with a touch more freshness. 

Of course, I was most excited about our flight of Vin Jaunes.  We tasted the 2005, 2007, and 2008 in succession. It’s hard to believe such wines with their oxidative characterstics could be so varied but what a difference. The 2005 was developing hallmark smoky notes with layers unfolding. The 2007 was lighter on the nose showing briny qualities with heathery roasted grain flavors. This could be a great crossover for single malt aficionados with its almost iodine quality. The 2008 was overtly the freshest of the bunch not because it was the youngest but because the vintage dictated a lighter perfumed subtle quality; a master class in the wines of the Jura. A fun fact about Xavier: he actually helps out a friend who started a vineyard project in Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California.  He plans to make a journey there to assist on some winemaking and who knows, perhaps in a few years we’ll be bringing you the Mexican equivalent, Vino Amarillo. Be on the lookout for Xavier Revochon wines in June.

Jean-Franҫois Ganevat is probably the most famous producer you’ve never heard of.  His wines are on top lists all over Europe.  Small amounts of his wine trickle in the United States and are quickly snapped up (I’m one of the snapper-uppers). The winery is located in the small village of Rotalier in the southern end of the Cotes du Jura appellation and I was fortunate enough to visit the winery and have an insightful barrel tasting with Jean-Francois’s sister Anne.   First, I must say, there is really nothing easy about what they do. They are Demeter-certified bio-dynamic. The amount of detail in the winery and the shear cleanliness of it are something to behold. They have developed some of the best vineyard sites in the entirety of the region producing microscopic amounts of chardonnay, savagnin, poulsard and pinot noir. If that weren’t enough, they are sourcing grapes from other appellations and putting their Jurassian flare all over them. Gamay from Beaujolais and gewurztraminer from Alsace and who knows what else, because they make eighty different cuvees!  Not a typo, EIGHTY!  They have a range of amphorae, big casks, small casks, cellars for reds, whites, and an attic for Vin Jaune.  All kinds of things going on here.  I won’t dwell too much on the tasting because there was too much to see but needless to say a few things stuck out in my mind. 

Their chardonnays are some of the best around. Not just in Jura, but anywhere! This is Grand Cru level stuff. Like Montrachet good. And rarer! Thankfully, not as expensive though (but not inexpensive). Their savagnins (the non-oxidative ones) are insane! No one is making them quite like this (except maybe one guy named Henri Le Roy, but more on him next time). The pinot noir and poulsard are beautiful but not exactly your Burgundy crossover wines. Mostly because they make Jura wines not Burgundy. There is usually someone in a region that becomes the benchmark by which all other producers are measured be it someone like DRC in Burgundy or Latour in Bordeaux. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other world class wines to be found there, it just means they have deservedly earned your attention. So let this serve as your introduction to the the Ganevats: Jean-Francois and sister Anne. Alas, I wish I had the wines to offer you now, but know that if you do acquire one of these magical bottles down the line you have gained something singular and distinctive that should be cherished.    

-Keith Mabry