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2012 Arbois Chardonnay, La Mailloche, Stéphane Tissot
The lower slopes of the Jura mountains are among the most beautiful parts of viticultural France. They form the eastern flank of the Saone valley, mirroring the Côte d’Or across the way. It is a shame that their wines are much less well known.
Two main white grapes are used, Savagnin and Chardonnay, to make different styles of wine. The barrels of Savagnin are not topped up, so they become lightly and deliberately oxidised, though the wine is saved from spoilage by the formation of a film of yeast known as ‘flor’ on top of the wine, as also happens with fino sherry. Unusual but exciting wine.
The Chardonnay barrels are kept topped up, but even so the wines tend to offer a hint of the same nutty character on top of the more classic outline of the Chardonnay grape.
Stéphane Tissot is a leading grower in the wine appellation of Arbois, where he farms his vineyards biodynamically and is rare in offering single vineyard bottlings such as Les Bruyères.
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
Arbois is the most important appellation in Jura and the largest along with Côtes du Jura. Home of one of the fathers of microbiology, Louis Pasteur, the appellation takes its name from the small town of Arbois, which is nestled away in the verdant Jura countryside.
The harshness of Arbois’ winters can be an impediment to wine growers but this doesn’t stop the production of some notable wines. The appellation makes wines of a variety of styles:
- Dry whites (in the traditional oxidative or modern aromatic style) from Chardonnay and the region’s signature grape, Savagnin
- Light, fresh, dry reds from Pinot Noir, Trousseau, or Poulsard
- And the regional specialities vin jaune (medium sweet) and vin de paille.
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