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.
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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