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.
Touring with the team at Bodegas Raul Perez was the ultimate masterclass on Bierzo terroir. I had never before witnessed such a diverse range of soils and grape varieties under one person's hands. Finishing the day at both of Raul's cellars and tasting each of the parcels we visited was an unbelievable experience. Walking away I was left in total awe of his execution from a vision he had many years ago to work with only the oldest vineyards and immediately shift to the most fastidious organic viticulture.
The arrival of the Raul Perez wines into the US have garnered a lot of attention. Although offers in the past past have been wildly popular, things have changed a bit for the new release of both his whites and reds from Bierzo.
The California allocation sold out in less than a few hours, and today I'm happy to provide the full range that has now arrived to us directly from Perez's U.S. importer's New York warehouse. Wines are all ready to ship now. With the Wine Advocate's Luis Gutiérrez fanning the flame on the first release of these new wines, the quantities are again very limited.
Today, I'm happy to offer the game-changing wines of Bierzo's Raul Perez, covering old vine Mencia, Bastardo, Alicante Bouchet, Godello, and Albarińo.
Perez's natural focus endow his wines with an authenticity that's impossible to miss. As much as he follows the historic path of his ancestors (no herbicides, pesticides, or additives of any kind in the cellar), he's made waves with his 100% whole cluster fermentations and extra long macerations on skins. Raul completely redefines what Mencia is capable of in Bierzo. And, for his whites, he now owns the mineral-driven category within Spain, showing depth and the nuance I've come to expect from elite Chablis and Côte de Beaune Chardonnay.
Tempering the impact of the heat and sun has always been the area of largest concern in the more continental Spanish zones. Working with high elevation vineyards and old vines is not enough to ensure grace, subtlety, and lift are the overriding characteristics when the wine is finally poured. It's the attentive, thoughtful approach to viticulture and minimal intervention in the cellar that Perez has come to trust as the root of success. In doing so, he's become recognized only recently as a master of his craft.
In 2014 Raul Perez was named best winemaker in the world from the German publication, Der Feinschmecke. And in 2015 the same honor was bestowed by France's Bettane & Desseauve. And just last week Decanter magazine asked, "is this the world's best winemaker?"
Ultreia Saint Jacques is sourced from 5 hectares Mencia vines planted between 1900-1940 on clay soils. Supplemented by small portions of Bastardo (Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet). Macerations go as far as 2-5 months. Aged in older wood ranging in sizes: 225L, 500L, foudre, and cement.
Ultreia Tinto is sourced from 3 hectares of mainly Mencia planted in two villages, one on clay and the other on slate. Supplemented by small portions of Bastardo (Trousseau), Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet). Doña Blanco, and Palomino. Aging in neutral 228-liter barrels.
Ultreia Godello is sourced from vines throughout Raul's village of Valtuille de Abajo, planted on clay and alluvial stones. Fermented and aged in neutral foudre.
Ultreia La Claudrina comes from a 0.3 hecatre parcel of Godello planted on sandy soils in Valtuille de Abajo. Fermented in one 1,500L foudre and aged for 1-2 years under flor, which develops starting in the spring after harvest.
Atalier comes from two parcels of own-rooted, pre-phylloxera Albariño vines in the Cambados area of the Salnés valley, located in the southern portion on the northwest tip of Spain. Blocked malo and aged in large neutral foudre.
Encinas is an exciting joint venture between Raul Perez and Crozes-Hermitage's Antoine Graillot. Because Mencia amd Syrah share similar qualities, the plan here was to incorporate Antoine's cement fermentation protocol working with the Bierzo terroir. Interestingly, Mencia was a little more reductive than Syrah on first go around, and so in this 2nd vintage the decision was made to move the wine to large neutral wood after initial fermentation and aging in cement.
La Vitoriana comes from a 1.8 hectare vineyard of the same name, planted with Mencia in 1890 on a mix of sand (upper slope) and clay (bottom slope). Supplemented by small portions of Bastardo (Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet) and Doña Blanca and Palomino. Whole cluster fermented in large oak vats, followed by a 60-90 day maceration, then one year of aging in neutral 225 and 500L barrels.
El Rapolao comes from a 1.5ha plot of Mencia with small amounts of Bastardo (Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet) planted on clay at 550m elevation. Whole cluster fermented and aged for one year in neutral 500l barrels.
La del Vivo comes from 1.5 hectares - a mix Godello and Doña Blanca from two vineyards, La Poulosa (1940, clay) and Las Villegas (1925, sand). 80% of grapes are pressed and fermented in 500 and 700-L neutral barrels. The remaining 20% of grapes ferment on their skins in clay amphorae and remains untouched for one year. The two parts are then blended together and bottled.
Ultreia de Valtuille is sourced from 1.7 hectares of vines planted in the late 1800's. Sitting at nearly 600 meters above sea level on sandy soils these old vines produce what comes across as Raul's most delicate and deeply layered wine. Incredible concentration is met with finesse and a cool-fruit quality that sandy soils are often associated with.Maceration can go as long as 90 days on skins, and aging also is in neutral French barrels. Here the blend is almost identical to the above, but tiny amounts of Godello has replaced Palomino.