A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Trousseau - Arbois, Jura, France

If you do a Google image search for Trousseau, you might be surprised at what pops up.  It seems there is a company that makes bridal dresses who goes by the name Modern Trousseau, trousseau being another name for the outfit of a bride, apparently (the grape, it turns out, is named for this reason...the shape of the bunch apparently looks "packed up" like a wedding dress). Searching for its other well-known synonym "Bastardo" leads you down an entirely different pathway, as there is (or was, I don't really know) a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies named Antonio Bastardo.  The crossroads of the world can sometimes amaze you.

But obviously we're not here to talk about wedding dresses or obscure Phillies pitchers.  We're here today to talk about the grape Trousseau and its place in the Jura (we've briefly visited Trousseau in a Crémant de Jura post).  As mentioned above, Trousseau is known as Bastardo in Portugal where it is allowed as part of the Port blend.  It's grown in small quantities in Australia and California as well, but it's not a very important grape in either of those places.  It's not very popular with growers because it yields irregularly, but it is a good fit for the Jura because it buds late and misses many of the early spring frosts common to the region.

As for the Jura, well, the Jura is different.  Let's go ahead and get that statement out of the way because it is uncontroversially true.  At tastings of Jura wines, you should be presented with the red wines first before you work your way up to the whites as the red wines are frequently made in a much lighter style and tend to resemble rosé wines in color more so than reds.  To give you an idea, the thin skinned and pale Pinot Noir is used in the Jura to provide extra color and structure to the red wines of the region (especially those made from the Poulsard grape).  That's how light many of the reds from here can be.  The whites, on the other hand, are usually introduced to wood at some point along their way and, very often, are intentionally oxidized to some degree.  We'll talk a bit more about that when we get to Savagnin on this site.

The point is that the Jura is weird and, frankly, it's not for everybody.  The distinctive nutty tang of oxidation is, technically speaking, a fault in the wine and some people just can't get past that.  The red wines are un-apologetically light in color and body and don't carry the new-world hall marks of over-extraction and oak-blanketing.  Jura wines are old-school, plain and simple, and some people just can't get on board with that.  And that's fine.  There's just more for me, I guess.

Before I get to the wines I tried, I do want to talk for a minute about the place I got them.  The place is the Wine Bottega in the North End of Boston and if you like wine, this is the kind of place you can't afford not to go to.  The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and friendly and their selection is out of this world.  They have tastings at least once a week and at those tastings they put on a master class for each region and producer that they are profiling.  You won't find Parker and Spectator scores plastered all over the place, but you will find witty, informative blurbs on an astonishing number of bottles to let you know what you might expect when you pull the cork.  This place has become my go-to wine shop in the Boston area and I've been spending so much time there over the past few months they may need to start charging me rent. Nearly every bottle from the Jura that I'll be writing about over the next few days were picked up from the Wine Bottega.  They have more bottles from the Jura than probably anybody else in Massachusetts so if you're curious about the region, start here and put yourself in their hands.  They won't lead you astray.

The first bottle was from Michel Gahier in Arbois, Jura (the town at the very top of the region that has its own DOC and which is the go-to place for Jura reds).  I will say that wines from the Jura don't come cheap, as this bottle set me back $32.  They are unique and fascinating, though, so I don't mind spending the money.  In the glass, this wine had a pale ruby color.  It was explosively aromatic with wild, brambly red fruit, dusky raspberry, wild strawberry, tea leaves, damp herbs and musky leather.  "Perfumed" is too nice a word for what was going on here.  This was wildly and savagely aromatic and absolutely intoxicating to smell.  On the palate, the wine was medium bodied with high acid and no tannins.  There was wild strawberry and light raspberry fruit with some forest floor/wet tea leaves flavors as well.  It was not as explosive on the palate as it was on the nose, but was very nice.  Cool weather Pinot Noir is a good comparison point here, so if you're a fan of that kind of thing, give this a shot.

The second bottle I tried was a 2005 Domaine Rolet Pere et Fils from Arbois which I got at Bin Ends for about $19.  The wine had a pale ruby color and a delicate nose of strawberry and raspberry fruit.  The nose here was much more restrained than in the prior bottle, possibly because of the bottle age but also possibly because I think Rolet is tends to be a little cleaner and more polished than some of the other producers of the Jura.  On the palate, the wine was medium bodied with acid on the higher side of medium and very low tannins.  There was some dusky strawberry fruit with some red cherry and a little bit of baking spice and forest floor character to it.  The fruit was very pure here and much cleaner and more polished than the Gahier bottling.  If you twisted my arm about it, I'd probably say that this was a better made wine, technically speaking, but that something gets lost sometimes with pure technical virtuosity.  This wine was definitely a little cleaner and smooth around the edges, but it just wasn't as interesting as the Gahier bottling to me.  The analogue to cool weather Pinot Noir is much more pronounced here and this would be a good introduction for those of you who aren't yet ready to throw your hands up and let the Jura take you on a wild ride.  But for those who want to take a little walk on the wild side, go check out my friends at the Bottega and let them hook you up.  I can't imagine you'll be disappointed.

I also would like to point out that I have written the section on the Jura for AG Wine's iPhone app.  The piece is currently in the final editing stages and should be up on the app soon.  If you buy the app now, you will receive all future updates with new regions for free.  You can check out AG Wine's website here or you can go here to download the app for your iPhone or iPad.  It's definitely one of the most informative and useful wine apps that I've used and I enthusiastically recommend it for people interested in learning more about wine and less about wine scores.  I've also written the section on Alsace and the upcoming section for Savoie as well.  Their free Wine News app also syndicates my posts so you can follow Fringe Wine and many other great writers on the go for free.  In the interest of full disclosure, I do not receive any financial compensation from AG Wine for any of the content or promotion that I provide to them.

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