Posted by: tomciocco | February 23, 2013

ARBOIS: FRANCE’S FASCINATING, FACETED MARCHLAND

The producer’s approach to the label of this post’s wine tells the story pretty thoroughly. The first thing you notice is undoubtedly the name “Arbois”. The name of one of the region’s top producers is there too of course, and the fact that this wine is made from the Poulsard grape, as well as the fact that the fruit used to produce this wine is sourced from old vines (“vieilles vignes”), and the vintage of course, but it’s the name of the appellation that holds the marquee…

And indeed, the larger region called Jura that contains this appellation is a sort of blessed hinterland. This is an often chilly, stormy, region with regard to weather, and the terrain is a heavily forested knot of craggy low mountains that is lodged right in the center of Burgundy (to the east), Alsace (to the north) Francophone Switzerland (to the east), and the French Savoy Alps (to the south). But within this isolation, it’s quite contently complete in an oenological sort of way…

In addition to the very pale “reds” made from the unique-to-Jura Poulsard vine (tonight’s wine), there’s also the only somewhat more deeply pigmented wines made from the also exclusively Juran Trousseau variety, as well as a very particularly accented and old tradition in Pinot Noir as well. And then there are the dry whites, made from Chardonnay and another ultra-local variety called Savagnin (bottled solo, or blended together), a Sherry-like oxidized wine also made from blends of Chardonnay and Savagnin called Vin Jaune (“Yellow Wine”), as well as sweet wines called Vin de Paille (“Straw Wine”) in red (from Poulsard and/or Trousseau) or white (from Chardonnay) that are so called because the grapes are laid out on straw mats (like Amarone and Recioto in Italy) to allow the grapes to dry somewhat to concentrate color, flavors, and sugars.

As previously indicated, this evening’s selection from Jura’s top appellation is an old vines Poulsard, that despite its transparent, pale red/chestnut color that could be visually construed as a rose`, is very much a red wine – well structured with lots of effusive aromatics and big flavors. I served it with an appetizer salad of Comte` cheese, red onion, and apple with an herb vinaigrette, and then a main course of pan-fried pork chops with a mustard, shallot, and cornichon sauce with a side of cubed, roasted rutabagas (A.K.A. swede, or chou-navet in French).

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Domaine Rolet Arbois Poulsard Vieilles Vignes 2009

Deep but transparent dusky pink/caramel color. Expressively aromatic nose of strawberry, watermelon, and maraschino cherry fruit and ethereal but pungent notes of seaweed, black coffee, pine resin, fresh thyme, and coriander seed. The medium-light weight body is nonetheless very well structured with softly angular and dry tannins and a tart acidity underlying an overall supple texture, and elegantly rustic flavors of citrus peel, grilled peaches, Darjeeling tea, pine nuts, and a touch of bacon fat. Very long rosewater and dried fruit finish.

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