22 October 2010

surrealist chardonnay: twin peaks & côtes du jura

Watching Twin Peaks twenty years on, I'm still continually struck that anything this surreal and perturbing was ever shown on network television. The only contemporary equivalent that I can think of is Fox News, which for various reasons is not a fair comparison. The surrealism permeating Twin Peaks is not circumstantial, nor is it entirely played for effect; it is instead a kind of setting, a place the characters inhabit. And each time we're tempted to read the general strangeness as commentary on Twin Peaks the town, on small-town nowhere America, some bizarre character from the outside world arrives - e.g. Agent Cooper, Agent Albert, Judge Sternwood - bearing the implication that the surreal is universal.

That being said, if the town of Twin Peaks were in winemaking France, I have a feeling it would be located in the Jura, a region northeast of Burgundy in eastern France, abutting Switzerland, where some of the world's strangest Chardonnays are produced.

While the region's most famous wines, including the celebrated sherry-like vin jaune, are made from Savignin, Chardonnay covers 45% of vineyard land in the Jura, and is often blended with the former grape to create wines far-removed from the typical Burgundian / Mâconnais profile. Even the monovarietal Chardonnays, like the 2007 Ludwig Bindernagel Côtes de Jura "Sous Les Cerisiers" the Native Companion and I drank the other night as we watched Season 2, have a polarizing oxidative element to them, an echo of the flavor of vin jaune. Things are just done differently there.* 

Image swiped from lamaisonrose.info
Personally, I really dig Jura wines. Well-crafted oxidative wines have, in addition to an an enjoyable round nuttiness, a terrific late-palate acidic swish - I'm told it's enzymatic in origin - that kind of replaces the usual acidity that gives structure and balance to non-oxidative wines. The "Sous Les Cerisiers" was a textbook example of this effect: a buttery, Chardonnay-fruited nose promised roundness, which cashew / anisic palate was then nicely complicated by a touch of nori and sea salt, before the lashing sherry-like finish. Totally brilliant. 

The unusual descriptors are entirely intentional here: good Jura Chardonnays, Bindernagel's among them, speak a different language to other wines, in a different syntax. Kind of like the eerie benign giant who visits Special Agent Cooper in his sleep and talks in riddles: 

*Things are done differently chez Bindernagel as well. His is a practicing biodynamic estate, begun in 2003, that produces a wide range of tiny-production cuvées, none comprising more than 1500btls. 

Bindernagel's "Sous les Cerisiers" is currently available at: 

Spring Boutique
52, rue de l'Arbre Sec
75001 PARIS
Metro: Louvre-Rivoli
Tel: 01 58 62 44 30

Various other Bindernagel bottlings are currently available at: 

La Bodeguita du IVème
58, rue Quincampoix
75004 PARIS
Metro: Rambuteau
Tel: 06 19 36 70 06

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