The history and worldwide reputation of Burgundy and the Jura couldn't be more different. While Burgundy's vineyards have been carefully delineated over centuries and pricing has placed them atop the most collectible fine wines in the world, the Jura has remained quietly tucked in a sleepy corner of France an hours drive east. Jura certainly has its enthusiasts, but for the most part the wines have been sold in France. One evening at a Parisian restaurant a blind tasting of a single wine set in motion a series of events may ultimately be the turning point for the Jura.
Guillaume D'Angerville, of the Domaine Marquis d'Angerville estate in Volnay, is at the helm of one of Burgundy's elite and storied estates, with roots dating back to 1507. It was at this Parisian restaurant Guillaume asked the sommelier to pour him a glass of wine blind - a regular request of his. The one rule Guillaume had this evening was that the wine must not be from Burgundy. The sommelier pours, Guillaume takes a sip, pronounces it terrific, but that the sommelier had broken the one rule, no Burgundy! The sommelier grins, reveals the wine, Stéphane Tissot's Bruyères Chardonnay from the Jura, and well, the rest is history.
D'Angerville's arrival in the Jura was initially met with skepticism from the locals. A Burgundian coming in search of vineyards to purchase was not something those in the town of Arbois were thrilled about. There's a more insular feeling in the Jura where so many of the wines are kept local that outsiders, even from nearby, are met with a suspicious eye. However, Guillaume's true fondness for the wines and the history of the small region revealed itself quickly. He made it clear his goal was to bring a worldwide awareness to the great, and incredibly unique, wines of the Jura. Several properties were subsequently purchased, and organic and biodynamic viticulture was implemented at all immediately. Included were the famed holdings of Jacques Puffeney, who had recently retired. And with the 2012 vintage the wines of Domaine du Pélican were released, the name deriving from the pelican that graces the crest of town of Arbois. Something tells me that Parisian sommelier enjoys recounting this story quite a bit each time a guest orders the Pélican wines!
2014 and 2015 mark very important vintages for the estate. Now that the land has been in control of the domaine for several years we're starting to see the results of meticulous viticulture and a better familiarity with vinification. 2014 in Jura, as in Burgundy, is a lights-out fantastic vintage for the whites. And the warm, dry 2015 is a momentous vintage for Pélican as it's the first time they've chosen to release their 100% Poulsard bottling, a personal request I've had of the domaine for some time now!
(A really wonderful interview with Guillaume can be heard here from Levi Dalton's indispensable I'll Drink to That Podcast)
The white wines of Pélican are made in the ouilée style, where barrels are topped up each month with wine to prevent oxidation. (Jura's Vin Jaune style, and other whites, can be produced where barrels are left un-topped, leaving very distinctive oxidative, nutty notes as the wines age.)
2014 Domaine du Pélican Arbois Chardonnay
$49 per bottle.
Like Burgundy, limestone is present throughout Arbois, but gravel and marl soils here are very distinctive and gives Chardonnay added texture that stands out. There's a length to the finish here and an electric personality that develops more and more with time in the glass. A Chardonnay to serve blind to any Burgundy lover!
2014 Domaine du Pélican Arbois Savagnin Ouilée
$49 per bottle.
Savagnin is the single variety that the Jura is most recognized for, and is the base of Vin Jaune. On one hand it's hearty, savory, and rich, but still mineral and saline-driven at the same time. Even with the fresher ouilée style for aging Savagnin showcases a nutty, almond paste characteristic that sets it apart from all other whites. Pairing with Comté cheese or Coq au Vin Jaune with morel mushrooms is perfect, but its versatility on the dining table is wide.
2015 Domaine du Pélican Arbois Trois Cépages
$49 per bottle.
A blend of Pinot Noir, Trousseau, and Poulsard. Light, fresh, and pure red fruits. Silken texture that you would expect from top Red Burgundy, with fascinating notes of worn leather and orange blossom.
2015 Domaine du Pélican Poulsard
$49 per bottle.
The most delicate and ethereal wine of Jura.
Tasted (below) at D'Angerville in Volnay last June. Since arriving to the US for the first time this wine, made without sulphur additions, has developed into everything I hoped it would. It has very high toned spices, with citrus and faint watermelon notes to go along with its vibrant red cherry core. This is as pure and unadulterated at wine gets!
Mixed 4-pack containing each wine
$179 (regularly $196)