I’ve had an insatiable craving for Jura Chardonnay ever since drinking Stéphane Tissot's 2016 Les Bruyères Arbois Chardonnay. Granted, that was two years ago, and I've since learned that Tissot is a rare fish in the Jura's sea of white wines, many of which too brett-heavy or lactic-tasting for my taste. But continuing the search for gems, I'm adding another name to the list—here's my latest discovery (and obsession) that has jolted my love for Jura back to life.
Today, I’m happy to offer a lineup of François Rousset-Martin’s Chardonnays, Savagnins, and Aligoté.
Château-Chalon is best known for its sherry-like vin jaune, made from the Savagnin grape and aged under a veil of flor, but François is more interested in making his wines in the ouillé (topped-up) style. He’s also keen to explore his appellation’s micro-terroir, similar to what Stéphane Tissot has done in Arbois, farming almost two-dozen small parcels (all of which a hectare or smaller) in Château-Chalon and Côtes du Jura. Like the rest of the Jura, soils here are abundant in clay, marl, limestone, and François proves that Château-Chalon can produce just as soulful ouillé whites as the more popular Arbois and Pupillin appellations.
Whether it's the Chardonnay, Savagnin, or even the Aligoté, each flaunts its variety's typicity with invigorating enthusiasm; I use the word "electric" often, but it especially applies here. I'd be happy drinking any of these whites, but a highlight was the 2018 La Chaux. It leads with yellow citrus, laser acidity, and slight reduction, but with air, it opens into concentration and depth familiar to White Burgundy (All of the wines have slight reduction that integrates over time; decanting is a plus). Each wine is also vinified by climat (or parcel) with little to no sulfur and bottled unfined and unfiltered. You won’t see Château-Chalon designated on the bottle because these aren't made to vin jaune customs.
François grew up in Burgundy, and his family-owned and farmed a parcel of vines in the Jura. His interest in the science (and terroir) of wine largely comes from his father, a microbiologist for the Hospices de Beaune. Likewise, François's great grandfather taught him the mystic side of wine and family winemaking lore. He earned an enology degree and apprenticed in Rhône and Languedoc before starting his domaine in 2007.
Chardonnay // La Chaux really encapsulates the magic of ouillé whites here in Château Chalon. From 65-year-old vines, it's the most reminiscent of White Burgundy and the only parcel to be planted on limestone in addition to gray and white marl. The Terres Blanches is the only Jura parcel outside of Château Chalon. It comes from 40-year-old vines in the village of Lavigny, planted on gray and white marl. Fermented and aged in barrel for 15 months.
Savagnin // For Puits Saint Pierre, or Saint Pierre’s Well, the cuvée name refers to a climat within Château Chalon. This is the oldest parcel of the lineup (80-plus-year-old vines planted on gray marl) and the only wine that sees partial sous-voile; it's aged under flor for 6 months then topped off for 10 months. Cuvee du Professeur comes from a parcel named after François’s father, a professor at the University of Dijon. The 30-year-old vines are planted on gray marl. Aged and topped up for a minimum of 14 months.
Aligoté // This is somewhat of an outlier, as it's sourced from Bouzeron, the Aligoté-only appellation in Burgundy's Côte Chalonnaise. Like many of François's parcels in the Jura, Aligatô's single hectare of 40-year-old vines is planted on gray marl. It fits into the lineup with its atomic core of citrus, smooth-mineral texture, a brilliant reductive finish.