The Jura has remained quietly tucked in a sleepy corner of France an hour's drive east. This region certainly has its enthusiasts, but for the most part, the wines historically had been sold in France. However, one evening at a Parisian restaurant set in motion a series of events that would ultimately be a turning point for the Jura.
It was at this Parisian restaurant that Guillaume D'Angerville of Domaine Marquis d'Angerville in Volnay asked the sommelier to blind pour him a glass of wine. The one rule Guillaume had that evening was that it couldn't be from Burgundy. The sommelier poured him Stéphane Tissot's Arbois Les Bruyères, and the rest was history.
At first, locals in Arbois weren't thrilled about D'Angerville's arrival. However, his true fondness for the wines and the history of the small region quickly revealed itself. He made it clear that his goal was to bring worldwide awareness to the great and incredibly unique wines of the Jura. Several properties were purchased and converted to organic and biodynamic practices, including some of Jacques Puffeney's holdings.
In the magically distinctive Jura region, there are certain pockets where varieties blossom into their greatest and truest possible form. For Poulsard, locally known as Ploussard, it's the tiny village of Pupillin, located just south of Arbois. I was on the hunt for an example that lived up to what I drank while visiting the village in 2012, and after tasting through importer Neal Rosenthal's current releases, I was instantly drawn to Overynoy-Crinquand's Pupillin Ploussard.
Mickael Crinquand is the fourth generation to farm these five hectares, all of which have been farmed organically since the '80s. Here, the red clay-limestone marl soil is planted to all of the standard Jura varieties: Trousseau, Chardonnay, and Savagnin, but the oldest vines today are Poulsard.
Fermentation and aging take place in large foudre with pumpovers kept to a bare minimum to limit extraction. This protocol gives a whispery lace structure to Poulsard and highlights everything I love about the variety's fresh strawberry and sweet cinnamon-spiced inflection. In the glass, there's the palest of red hues you'll ever find, with a slight rust-colored tinge. Surprisingly, though, a sturdy tannic structure holds this featherweight in a way that provides a thrilling sense of grip.
Over the last decade, the Jura has brought us a new level of excitement and fascination for their native, obscure varieties. There aren't many importers who can touch Rosenthal's sense of mission in finding these smaller domaines that show their sense of place under the most sensitive and deft touch. Poulsard often shows a huge disparity in styles and, to be blunt, soundness due to its reductive and finicky nature. Overynoy-Crinquand showcases the rarefied air of Poulsard with brightness and purity unlike anyone else.
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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.
In the magically distinctive Jura region there're special pockets where varieties blossom into their greatest and truest possbile form. For Poulsard (locally known as Ploussard) that fairy dust of sorts comes from the ground of the tiny village of Pupillin, located just south of Arbois. While Poulsard plantings throughout the Jura are crafted into singularly delicious wines, those from Pupillin are something entirely different.
My hunt for an example that lived up to what I drank while visiting the village in 2012 has been ongoing. After tasting through importer Neal Rosenthal's current releases that included the 2015 Overynoy-Crinquand Pupillin Ploussard, I was taken back instantaneously to that damp weekend 5 years ago. Poulsard here can often show a huge disparity in styles, and to be blunt, soundness due to its reductive and finiky nature. But, the dry and warm conditions of 2015 clearly brought something special for Poulsard. And this vintage has turned out to be the perfect storm at Overynoy-Crinquand, showcasing a wine that speaks to me on a level of purity that I truly find nowhere else on earth.
Mickael Crinquand is the fourth generation to farm these 5 hecatres, of which all have been under organic regimen since the 80's. Here the red clay-limestone marl soil is planted to all of the standard Jura varieties: Trousseau, Chardonnay, Savagnin. But, the oldest vines today are Poulsard.
2015 is not a vintage in Pupillin we can over-generalize as being ripe and bombastic. Poulsard, and the style of the domaine, does not fall prey to vintage constraints like that. Fermentation and aging takes place in large foudre, with pumpovers kept to a bare minimum to limit extraction. This protocol gives a whispery lace structure to Poulsard and highlights everything I love about the variety's fresh strawberry and sweet spiced inflection. In the glass there's the palest of red hues you'll ever find, with a slight rust-colored tinge. But, a suprisingly sturdy tannic sturcture holds this featherweight in a way that provides a thrilling sense of grip.
Over the last decade, the Jura has brought us a new level of excitment and fascination for their native, obscure varieties. There aren't many importers who can touch Rosenthal's sense of mission in finding these smaller domaines that show their sense of place under the most sensitive and deft touch. Of all the esteemed terroirs within the region, it's Pupillin's Poulsard that compels me the most. At $29 per bottle from a magic vintage this is the wine that's finally ended my long pursuit.
2015 Overnoy-Crinquand Arbois-Pupillin Ploussard
$29 per bottle.