While I didn’t buy any wines at the Natural Theory Selection tasting on the actual day (I will likely pick up some of the Lucy Margaux Pinot Noir in a few days), I did buy a few odds and ends. I mentioned to my wine merchant my misgivings about Natural Wine in general as being perhaps not exactly to my tastes. He looked at the wine I had brought to the counter to purchase and asked “but you’re going to drink these?”
The wine for today is the Domaine André et Mireille Tissot Arbois Sélection 2008, a vin juane, or yellow wine, from Jura, France. This is a region and a type of wine that was strangely not covered in the WSET Diploma course, so I’m looking things up as I go along. First, Jura itself. It’s a section of France in the east of the country, roughly in the middle as far as north/south goes. It’s essentially the wine region between Burgundy and Switzerland, so continental on the cold end of the spectrum. It also has altitude as it is nestled against the Alps.
Jura makes a few different types of wine, but the style for which it is best known is this one, the vin jaune. It’s similar style to Sherry in a number of ways. The grapes used vary, but Savagnin is typical, though Chardonnay is used as well, and grapes tend to be picked late. Also, vin jaune is not fortified. However, it is like Sherry in that the wine is oxydatively handled, meaning barrels are not filled to the bung, though the growth of a yeast on the surface is encouraged which does provide some protection. The flavours and aromas that develop tend toward nutty, and the colour can go to a deep golden yellow. It’s meant to age particularly well, so this 2008 is undoubtedly being consumed too soon.
Domaine André et Mireille Tissot produces a range of whites, mostly from Arbois, though one or two from Côtes du Jura as well, and they use Savagnin, Traminer and Chardonnay, as varietals and in blends. I had not heard of them before buying this bottle, but they’re proponents of Biodynamic Viticulture, about which, like Natural Wine, I have some serious reservations. A post for another time.
So this wine in particular is a 70% Chardonnay / 30% Savagnin blend, with 9 months of oak with topping up, and then 15 months without. It does have a golden yellow colour that in other wines would suggest much more ageing than the label of this one suggests. The nose is nutty, very like a Fino Sherry, though with some spice and a bit of honey. On the palate, the promised nuttiness is there, but also some apple and pear. It almost reminds me of a cider, a dry one that is, and it’s very distinctive. A wine of an unfamiliar style, but to my nose and palate a well made one.
One note that I must make, but which feels like a weird thing to express, is that this wine is hard to drink, or rather it’s hard to drink more than a glass. Coming from me, that is a weird thing to say, as I not only love drinking just about everything there is to drink, I also tend to prefer to drink more rather than less. This bottle lasted two days, with two people having a try on both nights. People use the expression “easy drinking” for all manner of wines, but this I would have to put in the “challenging drinking” category.
Please don’t get me wrong – this is a very good wine, and I have enjoyed drinking it, but it does not lend itself to quaffing. It demands your full attention and must be taken seriously. It induces something of a pucker on the finish, which while not actively discouraging you to take another sip, requires one to be a bit more measures in the time between sips than a more welcoming wine might.