25 May 2011

arbois apéro: domaine de la loue, domaine rolet

My landlady S and her husband G have become sort of like a second family to me over here. So it's the happy custom, whenever my actual real-life family visit, to introduce them to S and G, their wine-savvy Parisian replacements.

S and G invited my sister J3, her boyfriend J4, and I round for an apéro recently, and we were fortunate to catch them a few weeks after their return from a large wine tasting in the Jura.*

G, in his impeccably curatorial fashion, had prepared a marvelous cheese board and decanted two of their recent discoveries: a 2009 Domaine de la Loue Arbois Savagnin, and a 2000 Domaine Rolet Arbois Savagnin that had been bottled in 2006, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Arbois appellation.

Domaine de la Loue is a microscopically tiny, mostly biodynamic domaine based in Port Lesney, run by vigneron Catherine Hannoun. Her Arbois Savagnin is sourced from young vines in Pupillin, on a lieu-dit** called "Sous la Roche." She explains on her website that in 2009 the yield from this tiny parcel was actually big enough for her to decide to vinify it in three different ways. I suspect, but can't prove, that the bottle we had was from the portion vinified in steel and aged in oak barrels.

It was a bit warped and tight at first. The wine had clear energy, but was all coiled together, not showing properly - tasting it was like trying to wear a suit jacket that had been stuffed into a tennis ball tube for a year. Lemon rind, evanescent white floral, a gummy low-toned sort of honey. After a few sips I was ready to move onto the Domaine Rolet, which shone a brilliant polished-wood yellow in its decanter further down the table.

Earlier that day, J4 had, against my advice, eaten a dodgy sandwich from the questionable late-night bakery across the road from my apartment. I got the impression he was eager to move on to water, the poor guy. I'm convinced there's some oenological corollary to Murphy's Law stating that one is invariably presented with numerous interesting wines at those times when one is least prepared to derive pleasure from them.

He was a trooper, anyway. The 2000 Domaine Rolet Arbois 70th anniversary Savagnin was, at least outwardly, the more majestic of the two wines. Rich, brazil nutty, slightly waxy, it hit the familiar Jura pleasure points quite forcefully, demonstrating more personality than I tend to associate with Rolet, who with 61ha of vineyard holdings are the second largest producer in the Jura. I soon found it a little weighty and savoury for daylight hours, and switched back to the Domaine de la Loue - only to find the latter had really blossomed in the meanwhile. Now it showed a marked white floral character, and a freshness I seldom associate with Savagnin.

We shook up the decanter a bit, poured more rounds (skipping J4, at his behest), and continued nibbling little matchsticks of compté reservé until it was time to leave for dinner.

(Before anyone helpfully points this out: yes, all present were well aware that these cheese and these wines might have been more conventionally served after a meal. We figured: to hell with it. The best circumstances for a given wine are invariably just whenever one is most excited about opening it. Similarly, I've been shuffling around Paris for most of this gorgeous season listening to violent claustrophobic adolescent rap mixtapes - rather than something more summery - just because the former happen to have caught my interest lately.)

* In retrospect, perhaps this was what inspired my more recent bike trip through said region? I don't know. No actual connection between this post, and the series to follow shortly detailing the bike trip. I just have a surfeit of material in the springtime, it seems; an awful lot of drinking to think about...

** For what it's worth. I don't see Hard Day's Night-style mobs clamoring for particular semi-unknown Arbois lieu-dits anytime soon. It appears Domaine de la Borde also farm this particular lieu-dit.

Related Links:

Jura Bike Trip: Excuses
Domaine de la Pinte's 2005 Arbois Pupillin with my landlady
Pairing a 2005 Puffeney Arbois with an episode of Twin Peaks
Homemade foie gras with my landlady

A review of one of Catherine Hannoun's reds @ LeBlogd'Olif

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