From the marl slopes of Château-Chalon, where the Savagnin grape stars in the Jura’s most storied and long-lived oxidative wines, François Rousset-Martin crafts this unusual Chardonnay with regular topping-off of his barrels, to avoid any oxidation. An exotic nose of candied lemon and spices prefaces a focused acidity and a sensation of beeswax and nuts on the palate. Buttery sautéed mushrooms and oozing grilled cheese sandwiches ought to do the trick with this one.
François Rousset-Martin's raison d'être is to better know and understand the incredible terroirs in which he is invested. His new project near the amazing town of Baume-les Messieurs holds great potential once the vines are of age. His current work is most focused on making previously inconceivable wines within the Château Chalon appellation, labeled as Côtes du Jura since he makes them in a non-oxidative (ouillé or topped-up) style. Vinified by climat with little to no sulfur and bottled unfined and unfiltered, the Rousset wines are complex and persistent, falling somewhere along the spectrum of floral and delicate, exotic and savory.
The Jura wine world is a fascinating, mysterious, and at times confusing one. The region’s recent surge in popularity on American wine lists lies in contrast with how strange its wines come across to the uninitiated, with many of its indigenous production methods and quirky winemakers requiring more than an introduction for one to fully savor their virtues. We firmly believe, however, that the pleasure at stake is well worth a slight detour to study the wild world of Jura.
Jura tradition calls for aging whites sous voile, or under a fine “veil” of yeast that grows over wine in barrel that has not been topped-off (non ouillé) to compensate for evaporation. The voile effectively slows the process of oxidation, while chemical reactions between these microorganisms and the wine below give rise to a highly distinctive and complex set of aromas. Often hinting at walnuts, beeswax, oriental spices, cheese rind, and brine, wines aged sous voile can come as a shock to the unhabituated palate. Their textural and aromatic singularity naturally sets them in a category of their own at table, perhaps the best setting in which to gain an appreciation for such wines.
Many Jura producers also produce more conventional whites in an ouillé, or topped-off style, as is practiced in Burgundy–or for that matter, in essentially all the white wines we are accustomed to. This method preserves fresh fruit flavors without the rather rustic, often funky oxidative notes typical of wines aged sous voile.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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