Burgundy, home to world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, offers some of the most expensive wines in the world. But because of the region’s fame and glory, most wine lovers overlook its neighbour, Jura. However, the fact that Jura has successfully seduced Guillaume d’Angerville, a winemaker with six generations of history in Burgundy, to develop a new brand there tells us that perhaps we should take a closer look at the region.
The impetus for a project in Jura came from a Chardonnay from the region that d’Angerville had blind-tasted at his favourite restaurant in Paris back in 2007. Since he had always wanted to start something new outside the family estate, Jura seemed an ideal place because of its close proximity to Burgundy. Finally, in 2012, he and his partner, François Duvivier, acquired a five-hectare biodynamically farmed vineyard with a modern winery – and thus came the birth of Domaine du Pélican. They subsequently bought another five hectares soon afterwards and leased five hectares more in 2014. Domaine du Pélican has planted all five permitted grape varieties: Chardonnay, Savagnin, Pinot Noir, Trousseau and Poulsard.
Jura is only one’s hours drive east of Burgundy (just over 100km), where the vineyards are at a slightly higher altitude than Burgundy (240–270m). But the region is sufficiently different from Burgundy because of its more diverse landscape and agriculture. Its soil has more clay, it has double the rainfall than that of Burgundy, and of course there are different local yeasts. The 2017 Chardonnay we tasted came from four different parcels, was fermented in big barrels and was aged in neutral barrels for 10 months. It is Burgundian style but has fresher acidity and a less creamy mouthfeel.
Savagnin is a very old variety from north-east France and is thought to be related to the aromatic Gewürztraminer. In Jura, it is known for its famous oxidative style of Vin Jaune, but Domaine du Pélican Arbois Savagnin Ouille 2017 is made in the the same way as its Chardonnay, with regular top-ups of the barrels. It is fresh with pine nuts, white fruits and a touch of minerality that was a perfect match for the miso-marinated black cod wrapped in hoba leaf that we sampled at Zuma Hong Kong. The word ouille means “to top up”, so the consumer can differentiate it from the common oxidative Savagnin.
Poulsard is another old variety from eastern France. It is aromatic and fragile with a pale colour, but d’Angerville says it can age well if handled properly. The 2017 we tasted certainly has a hint of Burgundian Pinot Noir character. Trois Cepages, a blend of Pinot Noir, Trousseau and Poulsard, is more masculine than the 100% Poulsard, with both red fruits and pepper notes.
At another Jura wine event I attended just 10 days after my tasting at Zuma, I found that Jura wine may have less complexity than Burgundian, but is is more than compensated by its freshness and purity. D’Angerville praises the more genuine and open style of the people in Jura, and this is somehow reflected in the wine from the region.
I can’t say loud enough that there are a lot more wine regions and grape varieties out there than the mainstream wines we mostly drink. Don’t worry about not having a clue about the origin or variety of a certain wine – just try it and let your palate do the judging. Even better, if you plan to visit a wine region, spare a few days to visit its neighbours to explore their wine. This is exactly what I am doing right at this moment. Three-quarters of Jura wines are locally consumed, and this is why we don’t often see them on the market. I’m looking forward to discovering this small wine region first-hand!
Domaine du Pélican is available in Hong Kong at Corney & Barrow.
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