15 June 2011

jura bike trip: dinner chez bindernagel

Upon descending into Ludwig Bindernagel's nascent cave space at his chambre d'hôte in Poligny, we encountered - someone else's wines, and a small pile of cheese.

"Oh, let me get that," said my friend D, who'd resourcefully, if cheekily, placed the take-home groceries we'd purchased that morning in the cave without informing our hosts. Ludwig, ever genial, said nothing of it, and continued to show us around the cave. 

We didn't do any barrel tasting - if I remember correctly there was just a tiny lot of Pinot Noir stationed in Poligny, and the rest of his operation is based in Arlay, a nearby villlage that we were unfortunately unable to visit on this trip. Instead we poked around a bit, admiring the work he'd done in clearing the old cellar, and then returned to surface level, where Nathalie had prepared an enormous feast, accompanied - at last! - by a few of Ludwig's splendid wines.

Bindernagel, as one can surmise from the name, is German. As we sat nibbling on rillettes and salad and tarama, I asked him how it came to be that he installed himself in the Jura. He explained that he did his viticultural studies remotely while working as an architect in Paris. He'd fallen in love with Burgundy, and initially hoped to make wine there, but his researches into vineyard purchases turned up nothing financially feasible. Land in the Jura proved significantly better-suited to the starting vigneron, and when a noteworthy deal on some vines came along, Bindernagel bought in.

I don't think it's reaching too far to say his love for Burgundy is perceptible in a portion of his wines. His mivro-cuvées of Chardonnay possess a poise and incisiveness that separates them from more bottom-heavy, lightly oxidative Arbois; meanwhile his Poulsard proves itself bottle after bottle to be among the most expressive examples around. This latter is a grape known for making garnet-tinted nothing-reds; at worst they're mistaken for darkly weedy rosés. In Bindernagel's hands the wines attain a structure I'd associate with northern Burgundy, while retaining that delicate rhubarb scent characteristic of Poulsard. 

All this notwithstanding, the Crémant du Jura Rosé "Delire des Lyres" he opened with appetizers that evening was gloriously un-Burgundian.

It was more Emilia-Romagnan: like a slenderer, sexier, less tannic cousin of Lambrusco. (That the wine is classified a rosé gave me a flashback of the previous day's misunderstanding in Arbois. The term is just much looser in the Jura.) The wines gleaming cherry fruit and broad mouth-rinsing bubbles went a treat with the rillettes.

Ludwig, continuing his baking streak, had made some gougéres (little puff pastries) with a recipe modified to include gaudes, a local grilled corn flour specialty I'd never heard of, resembing a fine dark polenta.

Later, after some hearty stuffed tomatoes eaten by dramatic candelight (hence awful photos), Ludwig produced another unmarked bottle, this time containing his Vin de Paille, or 'straw wine,' which, he explained, had recently been denied the appellation, obliging him to release it as a VDT.

I couldn't really fathom why the control board hadn't approved; it was as fine a Vin de Paille as I'd ever had, although my experience with the genre is admittedly quite limited. So named because the Savagnin, Chardonnay, and / or Poulsard grapes are traditionally left to shrivel and dry on straw mats before fermentation,* the wines are sweet, amber in color, and, if you ask me, not exceptionally distinguished among the various other wines made with similar methods around the world, particularly in Italy. (Anything passito or appassimento undergoes a similar process: Vin Santo, Erbaluce di Caluso Passito, Recioto di Soave, etc.) I suspect some of this is just a marketing conundrum: it is hard for consumers to recognize the Jura for two after-dinner wines, especially since Vin Jaune is so much more distinctive. (This is to say nothing of Macvin. Enough already! I'm going to become a dentist in the Jura.)

Ludwig's not-Vin de Pailles was very nice, however, with keen flavors of dried apricot, and pastry crust. We all remarked upon that aspect of the wine of which he was justifiably most proud: its firm, crisp acidity, all too rare in sweet wines.

We sat smoking and talking over a dessert for some time, until a combination of fatigue and dread of our early train ride the next day impelled us bedwards. The next morning we woke up at Ludwig's customary vigneron waking hour - not my customary waking hour - and wrote our enthusiastic thanks in a guest book he passed around the breakfast table. I noted that most of us, myself included, lamely wrote jokes in English. I put a few homemade madeleines in my pocket for the road, and considered, throughout much of the trip back to Paris, how soon I could conceivably return.

* I read that it's also permitted to hang the grapes, or lay them out on racks. 

Les Jardins Sur Glantine
Hôtel Geurrillot
30, Grand rue
Tél : +33 3 63 86 50 78

No comments:

Post a Comment