Today, I'm happy to offer 15 different wines from Stéphane Tissot that tell the unique story of the Jura like few others can. The range is highlighted by a newer wine for me, one that left me truly awestruck, the 2016 Sous la Tour Pinot Noir - the sole 100% Pinot Noir offered.
Each year the wines of the Jura exceedingly move into the consciousness of more drinkers. Those who've explored Burgundy from top to bottom end up with eyes set on this tiny region located 50 miles east. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are also produced here, but it's their obscure and native red varieties like Trousseau and Poulsard that conjure unrivaled fascination. And the hearty yet zingy white Savagnin, done here without sulfur and aged in amphora, could be the most mystical of the range. Simply put, there's no ambassador who's put the Jura on the worldwide stage quite like its leading man, Stéphane Tissot.
Tissot took control of his family's domaine in 1990 and worked very quickly to drastically reduce yields and convert the vineyards to organic and biodynamic viticulture - Today Stéphane is seen as one of the world's most respected and prominent voices on the subject.
He produces over 25 different wines, all coming from relatively small parcels with a focus on micro-terroir expression. Sulphur in the cellar is kept to bare minimum and strict attention to detail allow the wines to flourish in their flair for extreme purity of fruit and liveliness that separate them from his contemporaries.
At tastings in the Jura you're very likely to start with the light bodied reds before moving into the rich and textured white wines of the region. Trousseau and Poulsard are both transparent in color, and both tend to stay in a more red fruit spectrum.Trousseau picks up notes of leather, while Poulsard showcases wild spices and a more ethereal nature.
Many producers choose to make blends with both, adding Pinot Noir to display the full story of the region. While limestone and clay are prominent throughout the Jura, shale and grey and blue marl are also present in Tissot's home of Arbois - An appellation that surprisingly was one of the very first in France to receive AOC status in 1936.
Let's get one thing out of the way now: The Sous la Tour Pinot Noir.
Tasting this for the first time I was really left in awe. There's a tension and discipline here that I've never seen in Jura Pinot Noir. Ever. There are several delicious Jura Pinot's out there, and I appreciate them for their purity and up-front pleasure, but this is a wildly different beast.
As the night went on and I expected the structure to soften and unfold a bit I was left perplexed. The frame of the wine held up, much like a serious 1er Cru Red Burgundy. There was a flood of more sweet brown spice and increasingly vivid red fruit tones, but the core of mineral tension didn't budge at all. I was thoroughly mesmerized by this wine all night. Nearly impossible to stop drinking.
I recommend all the whites and reds from Tissot offered below, but the Sous la Tour is now a benchmark of Jura for me.
Onto the rest of the lineup!
Hand de-stemming is rarely seen anywhere in the world of wine, but for top cuvées in the Jura it has become somewhat of a classic method. Extremely labor intensive, but yielding the very most pristine fruit possible.
The hand de-stemmed Trousseau spends six months on its skins in a 420-liter clay amphora. An extremely rare wine for the US that's allocated in single cases. The texture stands out from just about any red wine I've come across. It's at once broad and deeply textured, but extremely mineral-driven and focused on the palate. Those notes of bright red fruits are met with that quintessential leather trait that's so particular with Trousseau.
The Poulsard is all about high toned, electric strawberry and raspberry fruit with savory brown spices, cinnamon particularly standing out. Whereas the Trousseau illustrated how lighter bodied reds can still carry brawn and earth, the Poulsard is a masterpiece on the ethereal inflection of Jura reds.
Tissot's Chardonnays each have that unmistakable reductive, flinty note that's often referred to as Noble Reduction. If you're a fan of the wines of Jean-Marc Roulot and Coche-Dury in Meursault, this distinctive smokey and matchstick trait, at its best, adds an utterly mesmerizing personality to Chardonnay.
Patchwork comes from a mix of clay parcels and limestone parcels, hence the name. This offers a perfect introduction to this style of fresh Jura Chardonnay that can rival examples found an hour west in Meursault and Puligny Montrachet. Aged in mainly neutral oak barrels, with up to 10% new wood.
Graviers is Tissot's expression of pure limestone soils. The reductive element we see in Patchwork is ramped up a notch and the finely-etched mineral component is more focused and tight here.
Bruyères is Tissot's expression of the dark, Trias clay, which (counterintuitively) endows slightly more of the reductive feature as compared to pure limestone soils. Smokey and spicy.
Mailloche comes from pure clay soils where limestone has strained out over time. This offers the most full and broad expression of Chardonnay on the palate with powerful reductive elements.
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 that 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 ofJacques Puffeney, who had recently retired. And with the 2012 vintage the wines ofDomaine 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!
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.