Jura Wines: Ouillé vs. Sous Voile
One of the greatest highlights of our trip was our visit to the Jura wine region of France, north of Geneva and east of Burgundy. Here there is a very long history of making oxidized wines, which taste very, very different from the wines we are all used to. We spent three days in the absolutely charming town of Arbois, exploring the food and wine of this unique and beautiful area.
The simplest way to explain Jura wines is to point out that however wine is aged, there is always some evaporation, often called the “angel’s share.” The most common practice of winemakers around the world is to top off barrels frequently in order to keep air away from the wine in order to prevent oxidation. In Jura, however, the traditional method is to let the wine evaporate without topping up, which causes two things to happen. First, the wine oxidizes as wine evaporates and the wine is exposed to more and more air. Second, the local air contains naturally occurring yeasts which start growing on the surface of the wine. As in the photo at left, the wines develop a veil (voile) of yeast on the surface where the air touches the wine. As the yeast dies, it sinks to the bottom, even while new yeast grows on the surface.
The entire process is very similar to how sherry is made in Jerez, Spain, and wines from Jura do taste a bit like fino sherry. In the photo at left of Desiree Petit winemaker Damien during their big annual release event over their annual Ascension Thursday (I am not making this up) weekend, you can see the inner workings of the sous voile (under the veil) aging process, in contrast to the more common ouillé process of topping up barrels to prevent oxidation. Sometime in the next few months we will pour both styles of Jura’s most famous grape, savagnin, in both styles, so you can taste the difference!
Lyon: it’s the Food, Dude!
Lyon is France’s second largest city. And though Paris is absolutely a World Capital in every respect, even Parisians give a nod to Lyon as the Food Capital of France. This reputation dates back to the early nineteenth century shortly after the French Revolution, when “Les Mères Lyonnaises” began a tradition of “honest cooking with taste and spirit, but most of all―with local and seasonal top quality ingredients.” Thus Lyon designed the day’s menu around what was available that day in the market. The tradition of Les Meres led to the contemporary Bouchon which one finds thoughout the more touristy areas of Lyon, and which offer traditional Lyonnaise dishes.
For the Real Thing we actually booked a lunch at the most famous reincarnation of Les Mères Lyonnaises, La Mere Brazier (Michelin **), with our seasonal neighbor Brenda. All you need to know is that there was a platoon of black-suited wait-staff attending to our every need. We Knew we were in a thinner atmosphere when, as we got off the city bus right in front of the restaurant (in a bit of rain) the liveried Doorman came to Brenda’s rescue with an umbrella and an arm, to guide her all the way to the door, and the subsequent meal was a parade of exquisitely prepared and beautiful dishes.
What show is that???
Southern France is littered with well-preserved Roman ruins, such as the Pont du Gard and the amphitheater at Nimes, both of which date back some two thousand years– a very long time to us, a passing moment to our Planet. So it is that we took the Funicular (tram) up the hill from Vieux Lyon to the plateau overlooking the city, with its spectacular panorama, and took a leisurely stroll to the ruins of the old Roman amphitheatre dating back the the 1st Century. We were drawn to it because Amplifiers were filling the Air with Sound. On arrival, we found a rehearsal in progress of a fascinating show, obviously American, with great music. We have not been able to sort out what show it is, or whether it will play at the Amphitheatre or not. All I can say is that we would buy tickets Immediately if we knew how, where, and when!
This week’s Tasting Notes
Perazzeta Sara Bianco ’13 Italy $11
Something of a “super-tuscan white,” this blend of Trebbiano, Malvasia, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc has arrived just in time for Summer. Nose of lemon zest, sage, mango, and pineapple leads to a rich bouquet of flavor and a crisp, refreshing finish.
Chateau Lancyre Rose ’12 France $15
(50% syrah, 40% grenache, 10% cinsault): Bright pink. Intense red berry and tangerine with notes of anise and white flowers; juicy and precise, with palate-coating cranberry and bitter cherry flavors.
Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec ’11 Argentina 89pts $14
Crushed blackberry, licorice and violet on the lively nose. Quite ripe and sweet in the mouth, showing impressive volume and breadth for the price range. Finishes with serious ripe tannins and noteworthy persistence.
Tineta Ribera del Duero ’11 Spain 91 pts $12
100% tempranillo; copious notes of creme de cassis intermixed with hints of wood smoke and charcoal. Intense aromas of blueberry, cherry liqueur, licorice and Indian spices. Lively, sweet and spicy in the mouth, with energetic black and blue fruit flavors, zesty minerality, and notes of bitter chocolate and dark berries on a long, spicy and sharply focused finish.
Avignonesi Rosso de Montepulciano ’11 Italy $18
Perfumed aromas of red berries, violets, cinnamon, and almond flower. Juicy and bright, with precise strawberry and redcurrant flavors and lively acidity. Finishes long and fresh, with lingering floral perfume.
After a very long day of travel, we got home from France last night on the 11 o’clock boat, after driving from Aix-en-Provence to Marseille, flying from Marseille to Heathrow to Vancouver with a 4-hour wait in London, delays with baggage in Vancouver, and of course that eerie thing of spending nine hours in the air while the Sun moves eight of those hours with you. So you land just an hour after you take off, local time, which is, you know, always hard to get your head around cuz it’s so close to the local time when you took off all those hours ago!
Rosé en Provence
At some point you have to ask yourself: how is rosé made, anyway? Well, there are several methods, but the one most used en Provence probably accounts for most of the rosés you see on our shelves. Rosé is typically made from red grapes (i. e., that can alternatively be used to make red wine). The main difference is that when making rosé, the juice remains in contact with the skins for as little as a few hours, and at a relatively cool temperature, before separating it from the skins. The longer the contact time between the skins and the juice, the darker the color and the more red-wineish the wine becomes. So the very pale rosés one often finds in Provence usually mean that the contact time is very short, with the common goal of producing a wine that is aromatic, fresh, crisp (acidic), and refreshing. And pale!
Commanderie de Bargemon
Our last few days in France were spent at Aix-en-Provence, which is spitting distance from one of our best-known rosé producers, Commanderie de Bargemone, where we did squeeze in a brief visit. The land here is quite flat, and the fifty-odd hectares of grapes here translate into about 400k bottles, or in the ballpark of 33K cases. There we took a tour of the production facilities with owner Marina.
This Week’s Tasting Notes
Anne Amie Amrita white ’13 Oregon $14
Palate-tickling blend of pinot blanc, viognier, and riesling; aromas of quince, Rainier cherry, and lemon; palate of strawberry, raspberry, and nectarine; good match for Asian spices.
Bargemone Provence Rose ’13 France $14
Pale pink. Bright, mineral-dusted aromas of pink grapefruit and dried red berries. Light-bodied and racy on the palate, offering tangy citrus and redcurrant flavors. Finishes brisk and dry, with good lingering spiciness and length.
Olivares Monastrell Altos de la Hoya ’11 Spain 91 pts $10
Black raspberry and cassis aromas, with spicy mineral and floral elements. Powerful dark fruit flavors with vanilla and cola nuances and juicy acidity. Impressively velvety wine, with very good finishing breadth and lingering spiciness.
Rio Madre Rioja ’12 Spain 91pts $10
Sexy, high-toned cherry and blackcurrant aromas with notes of Indian spices and fresh rose. Smooth and seamless in texture, offering intense black and blue fruit flavors that become spicier with air. A great value.
Les Aphillanthes Galets Plan de Dieu ’10 91pts $23
From 45-65 year old vines, 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Mourvedre. It boasts stunning aromas of kirsch liqueur, licorice, camphor, tobacco leaf and underbrush. Spicy, peppery and loaded with fruit.
Since circumstances here en France are conspiring to make posting the weekly blog something of a challenge, this post will just be a reminder to all of our Faithful Followers that the wine shop will NOT be open this weekend, because we are en chateau deep in the French countryside in the northeast corner of the Languedoc wine region. If there is time later I will update. Right now I gotta go or some really good wine is gonna disappear before I get to it!
ummm…late reminder…we are not open this weekend or next…!
Just concluding a week in Lyon and environs, leaving today ( Saturday) to join Ryan and tour group at a beautiful place somewhere, as best we can tell, in the middle of No Where…!
More later ! In the meantime, here are a few photos. The first is the view from the top of Hermitage, the second of Hermitage from below, third, a street in Vieux Lyon.