Jean-François Ganevat loves to experiment, and he sees a small harvest in the Jura as an opportunity to look outside his home region for fruit to supplement the modest harvest from his own grapes. With this sparkler from the 2017 vintage, he looked north to the verdant hills of Alsace, where he found a parcel of organically farmed Riesling. The juice finished its fermentation in bottle and was not disgorged, giving a slightly cloudy pét-nat with a fine, yet lively bead along with lively aromas equal parts floral and funky. Curious, intriguing, refreshing, and fun to gulp down for no particular reason at all.
Jean-François Ganevat comes from a long line of winegrowers, dating as far back as 1650. He creates a stunning number of cuvées, ranging between thirty-five and forty every year! His methodology goes far beyond the details of the average vigneron. For some, his process would be maddening, as each cuvée calls for a highly individualized élévage. All of his wines are de-stemmed by hand, each cluster carefully trimmed with scissors. Committed to minute doses of sulfur, he ages many of his whites on the lees for extended periods of time. Jean-François Ganevat is a master of his craft, one of the true magicians of the eclectic. To say that his grapes are spun into gold would not be far from the truth; they are entirely otherworldly.
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.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
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