In the Jura village of Nevy-sur-Seille, François Rousset-Martin exhibits skilled artistry to craft wines in many styles from the stunning vineyards around Château-Chalon. The latest marvel to come out of his cellar is this dessert wine from Chardonnay grapes dried for several months in wood crates, then pressed and aged for five years in barrel without topping-up. It is richly concentrated and yet boasts a lively acidity, while the aromatics will take you for a psychedelic ride. This Jurassic delicacy it is truly one of a kind.
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.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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