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You Don’t Know Jura?

John Tilson • 3/20/11        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

 

OK. I admit it. In the past I have known very little about Jura wines. What little I did know recalled a Sherry-like wine that I tasted sometime long, long ago. But, as I recently discovered, there are new things happening in Jura and it is being re-discovered. Here is the story.

The Jura is a region in France between Burgundy and Switzerland. It consists of six separate sub-regions. Wine has been made here since the Middle Ages. Historically, the most well-known wine of the region has been the Sherry-like Vin Jaune. This wine is made by aging the wine for six years in barrel. This allows evaporation to form an air pocket and oxidize the wine while forming a layer of yeast similar to the flor that produces Sherry.

The climate of Jura is similar to Burgundy, but a bit colder. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes were brought into the area in the Middle Ages and used with the other 40 grape varieties that were already prevalent there. Towards the end of the 20th century, the planting of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir increased dramatically. As a result, many of the old varieties were lost. Today Chardonnay accounts for about 45% of the total vineyard area.

Jean-Francois Ganevat is a relatively new producer. However, his family’s history in Jura dates back to 1650. Their land is in the Cote du Jura which is a sub-region of Jura. The Cote du Jura was created in 1937 and is the region’s largest area extending about 50 miles from the North well into the South. The total area of the region is some 1600 acres. The Cote du Jura  wines account for about 70% of Jura’s red wines and 30% of its whites. Until 1976, the Ganevat family had cows (used to produce milk that goes into the great cheese of the area Comte) as well as vineyards. After that Jean-Francois’s father concentrated on the vines. Jean-Francois worked with his father from 1982 to 1989. Then he left to attend wine school in Beaune. After passing his exam, he went to work at Domaine Jean-Marc Morey in Chassagne-Montrachet until 1998. At that time he decided that the allure of making new style wines from the Cote du Jura using old, traditional techniques was compelling.

When he returned, the family vineyards consisted of some 15 acres. They now have increased to over 20 acres which are spread over four different terroirs (areas with different soils and/or climates). The grape varieties consist of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as 17 of the 40 old Jura grape varieties. Biodynamic agriculture is used exclusively in the vineyards. (This is an organic process which balances the relationship of the soil, plants, and animals as a self-nourishing system with minimal external inputs.) About 35-40 different wines are made each year. The production of each wine is very small, sometimes as little as one barrel (25 cases). The total annual production is under 2,000 cases. The red wines are kept in Burgundy barrels for one year before bottling and the white wines are kept for a minimum of two years before bottling. The white wines are aged in large barrels called demi-muids which have more surface area than regular sized barrels (up to two times the size of a regular Burgundy barrel). This reduces the wine’s exposure to the wood and allows more expression of the grape flavor. The white wines are made using ancient whole cluster fermentation, no racking, no sulphur dioxide added during fermentation and only a touch at bottling. The reds are made with entirely de-stemmed grapes, ancient whole berry fermentation, and no sulphur dioxide.

The resulting wines are incredibly pure and represent a unique tasting experience. The alcohol is low –- 11.5% to 13% — and the wines are impeccably balanced with great purity. The Domaine Ganevat wines were imported recently, for the first time, by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, California in extremely small quantities. I was able to purchase a bottle of six different wines, but all the wine was sold in a matter of a few days. This is somewhat surprising to me given the relative obscurity of the wines. But, having said that, some buyers were obviously onto the story. So I apologize if you cannot find these exact wines to buy. However, I would urge you to remember the name Domaine Ganevat and, if you ever see any of these wines, buy them and give them a try.

I cannot help but be reminded of many years ago when some of my friends and I came across the newly imported Red Burgundies from a then little known producer named Henri Jayer. Interestingly, Kermit Lynch was one of the three or four importers that brought in those first wines from the 1978 vintage. The Underground Wineletter was the first publication to review the 1978 Jayers in an early issue which had a picture of the 1978 Jayer Richebourg on the cover (I will soon be reviewing this issue in a retrospective issue so stay tuned!) The Henri Jayer wines were some of the greatest young Burgundies we had ever tasted. They had an incredible purity unlike any other Burgundy that I had ever encountered. In this regard, I see the same purity in the Domaine Ganevat wines. Back then a few subscribers complained that they could not find the Jayer wines to buy, but I encouraged them to continue to look for them and follow the future vintages. Those that followed this advice were well rewarded. For from then on, the wines of the late Henri Jayer became some of the most coveted in all of Burgundy. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is really saying something. To make the prediction that the wines of Domaine Ganevat will follow in those foot steps and become some of the most coveted wines of Jura is surely damning with faint praise. So let me just say this. These are some of the purest, most remarkable young wines I have ever tasted from anywhere! So make sure you know Jura and Domaine Ganevat!!

2009 Domaine Ganevat Red Wines

Ganevat2009 Domaine Ganevat Pinot Noir Cuvee Julien Cote du Jura. These Pinot Noir vines were planted in 1977. The alcohol in this wine is 12%. It is medium red in color and has a lovely perfume of pomegranate and cherry with faint hints of smoke and spice. The wine is very pure and flavorful and has great balance. The fruit flavors are complex with hints of cherry, berry, and pomegranate and a very faint spiciness. Delicious –- Outstanding.  $39.60  Best Buy3-yellow-stars

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Ganevat2009 Domaine Ganevat Poulsard Vielles Vignes Cuvee de L’Enfant Terrible Cote du Jura. This vineyard was planted in 1959. Poulsard grapes are dark skinned, but the skins are very thin and very low in color phenols. Hence, it is usually blended with other red grape varieties to make red wine or used to make rose or white wines. No wonder the name of this wine translates to “terrible baby.”  Maybe. But this is one beautiful baby! The wine has a light red color and a gorgeous perfume of rose petals with hints of cherry and a kiss of vanilla. It has a delicious, pure cherry fruit flavor with the faintest hint of spice and is flavorful with great finesse. The finish is long and there is a nice underlying crispness. This is really gorgeous and the alcohol is only 11.5% — Outstanding.  $36.00  Best Buy3-yellow-stars

Ganevat2009 Domaine Ganevat Trousseau Plein Sud Cote du Jura. This vineyard was recently planted in 2000. This is a great wine and from relatively young vines. I can only imagine what this wine will be like when the vines are old. That is the stuff dreams are made of! Trousseau is also known as Trousseau Noir, Cabernet Gros, and Bastardo (yikes!). It is grown here and in Portugal where it is used in making Port. The wine has a medium red color and a stunning perfume with a cornucopia of fruit –- cherry, boysenberry, watermelon and cantelope –- with faint spice tinges. It is lush, silky, and has great fruit with an exotic melon-like nuance. Long on the palate with lots of complexity, it is unlike anything I can ever remember tasting. The closest thing would probably be a great young Pomerol, but here there is an even purer expression of different fruits. The alcohol is only 12%. This is an utterly compelling wine –- Exceptional.  $39.60  Best Buy4-yellow-stars

2008 Domaine Ganevat Chardonnays

Ganevat2008 Domaine Ganevat Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes Les Grandes Teppes Cote du Jura. The vines here were planted in 1920. The wine is absolutely stunning! It has a light golden yellow color and a deep perfume with floral, apricot, and melon nuances tinged with spice. It is rich, flavorful, and balanced with complex flavors and lots of very pure fruit. Floral, citrus, peach, and melon flavors are backed by a faint honeyed, spicy, mineral tinge and the finish is very long. This is a great Chardonnay –- Exceptional.  $41.40  Best Buy4-yellow-stars

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Ganevat2008 Domaine Ganevat Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes Les Chalesses Cote du Jura. Here the vines were planted in 1902! It is a simply fantastic Chardonnay and the alcohol is only 12.5%! The color is golden yellow and there is a great complex perfume that shows floral, coconut, apricot, and spice nuances with a faint flintiness. The wine is very rich and concentrated, but the wine is impeccably balanced and not at all heavy. Apricot, coconut, citrus, and spice are melded together seamlessly and the finish is very long –- Exceptional.  $39.60  Best Buy4-yellow-stars

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Ganevat2008 Domaine Ganevat Chardonnay Grusse en Billat Cote du Jura. The vines here were planted in 1960 and the wine also has only 12.5% alcohol. Light golden yellow in color, this Chardonnay has a gorgeous perfume of apricot with hints of citrus and spice. It is rich and lush, but also has great finesse and elegance. The  flavors have a tinge of citrus and honey behind the apricot and peach fruit and the finish is long and very crisp which is a nice counterbalance –- Outstanding Plus.  $36.00  Best Buy3-n-half-yellow-stars

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The last words: I hope that I have given you the desire to look for these wines. And, again I apologize for the fact that they disappeared so quickly. Certainly, I do not want to make the situation even worse in this regard, but I have to end with this –- Can you believe these prices? Everything is not only a Best Buy, but a Great Buy if only they could be found. Let’s all keep looking!

In Vino Veritas,

John Tilson

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