In February 2022 I’ve had the tremendous pleasure of attending a masterclass hosted by one of the greatest winemakers from the Jura: Stéphane Tissot of Domaine André et Mireille Tissot. 20 wines were tasted, accompanied by lessons in terroir by Stéphane himself.
The masterclass was hosted by the Dutch importer of Tissot (and many other great domains) De Geluksdruif and hosted at the wonderful and beautiful Restaurant Entrepot in Amsterdam.
The tasting was set up nicely with many side by sides to emphasize Stéphane’s focus on showcasing the individuality of his vineyards, with many comparisons being the same vintage and exact same steps in winemaking, so that the terroir is allowed to express itself fully in the glass.
There are many Tissot wineries based in the Jura and Stéphane, like so many, comes from a long line of winemakers. Currently he is heading one of the larger domains in the Jura, with around fifty hectares of vineyards in different parts around Arbois. He employs 25 year-round employees and is considered one of the finest winemakers in Jura by wine lovers around the planet, while focusing completely on natural wine making.
The domain has been a pioneer in organic winemaking for the area, working organically now for 24 years and biodynamic since 2005, for all vineyards. All this is shared while we are drinking the first glasses, two of his Crémant de Jura’s: Indigène and BBF. Connecting the story to the wine Stéphane shares that since he started working biodynamically he wants to absolutely minimize the number of outside inputs into the winery and the wine and therefore he uses his own Vin de Paille as a dosage for the crémants. It’s the BBF that really (really!) stands out to me, making me question how much I really enjoyed the most recent Champagnes and how this would stand next to them. It consists of mostly 2014 Chardonnay mixed with some 2015, was raised in fût for a year and then spends 52(!) months sur latte in the bottle, the wine was disgorged in 2020. According to both Stéphane and the importer, Olivier, the fact it has been disgorged well over a year ago, makes the wine a lot softer, richer and more opened compared to the more recently disgorged wines.
Shortly touching on the always hot sulfur questions at these tastings, Stéphane mentioned he used only 5ppm on the must and 5ppm at bottling for the crémants, slightly less than for his still white wines (max 25ppm at bottling). The crémants are financially important for the domaine as they make up around 25% of the total production.
Next up is a side by side of 2019 Chardonnays: Les Graviers and La Mailloche, with significant differences between the two. La Mailloche comes from one of the most clay-based soils in the entire Jura and it shows: the wine is deeper, richer and suprisingly is also a bit higher in acidity than the more limestone based Les Graviers.
In general the ‘standard procédé’ for the Chardonnays is destemmed, put in barrels where it ferments with the native yeasts and is raised for barriques for around two years. The wines are bottled unfiltered with a maximum dose of sulfur of 25ppm. He explains that about 15% of his barrels are new oak but that he soaks them with water first to get out the most pronounced toast flavors. Another important thing for his style of winemaking is that he emphasises that he uses a lot of lees for the wines in the barrels: “I use many, many lees in the barrels to help fight oxidations. The 15% new oak on my wines helps me fight too heavy reductions”.
“For every ten barrels that we use, I like one that is new and one that is very old” — Stéphane Tissot
All barrels are kept ouillé or topped up, opposed to the oxidative style of winemaking that the Jura is so famous for. Stéphane explains that when he grew up all white wines were oxidative and Chardonnay was basically just planted on soils lacking the clay necessary to plant Savagnin, the grape so suited for oxidative wine. Chardonnay was only blended with Savagnin to create an oxidative ‘cuvée classique’. Convinced of the potential of the region and also the Chardonnay grape, he started making non-oxidative Chardonnay in ’97, right after Alain Labet (the father of Julien). He also makes some ouillé Savagnin, more on that later.
On to the next we tasted the 2018 Chardonnay cuvées Sursis, Les Bruyères and Clos de la Tour de Curon. Again cuvées that differ as much from each other as the are equal. The Sursis is the wine that displays most of what I was introduced to in New York as ‘TLR’, or ‘Tissot-like-Reduction’, a term coined by American sommelier and winemaker Rajat Parr. The reduction is prominent on this wine but in a way that makes it stand out and gives it a beautiful character of its own. The wine is labeled Côtes de Jura because the vineyard is located in Château-Chalon and only Savagnin is allowed to be planted there under the appellation name. The Clos de la Tour de Curon is another stand-out, Stéphane points out that this is the vineyard in Jura with the least clay, the vines are directly planted in limestone. You can tell by the lifted acidity in the wine, very welcome in a hot vintage such as 2018. Even though Stéphane isn’t, I’m kind of bothered by the omni present high alcohol of this Chardonnay; Stéphane shares it has a whopping 15.7% alcohol.
Nonetheless, he is a big fan of the 2018 vintage, sharing that his father told him that in his life he had never seen a vintage with such high quality of the grapes as such high quantity at the same time. His father was 83 at that time.
Last for the ouillé whites we are fortunate that Stéphane has brought along two wines with some age on them. Important because multiple times throughout the afternoon he shares that he strongly believes that his wines will show more of their separate terroirs as they get older. We taste a 2009 Chardonnay Barberons from magnum and the same Chardonnay Clos de la Tour de Curon as we tasted earlier, also from 2009. The wines are deep and beautiful, the 100% limestone soil of the Tour de Curon makes it seem almost ten years younger than the Barberon. It’s astonishingly fresh and deep at the same time, even though this vineyard was only replanted by the domain in 2002.
After the extensive Chardonnay tasting, we switch to the reds: Cuvée DD 2019, Trousseau Singulier 2020, Trousseau Amphore 2019 and a mindblowing Pinot Noir Sous la Tour 2018. He’s happy with the place the Jura reds are in at the moment; after decades of trying to make big wines, the time is finally there for the light reds that Jura is so capable of making.
“When I was young, the whole world wanted to make a good Bordeaux, from Chile to South-Africa. This hurt Jura. But now the whole world wants to make a good Pinot Noir and the time for wines like these is ripe.” — Stéphane Tissot
All reds are quite light in color, often bottled without added sulfur. The Cuvée DD had just been opened but was already giving off a ‘future-mousey’ vibe. The 2019 is significantly lighter, fresher (and more well-balanced) than the 2018 we currently have on offer. The other ones are sound and clean as a whistle. Stéphane shares his experimentation with amphoras and how he currently has buried Georgian qvevri but doesn’t like the effects for his wine. The current amphora wines are from amphoras made in the South of France of which he employs around 35(!). The Pinot Noir Sous la Tour 2018 is singing, a truly majestic Pinot Noir, not bothered with the hot vintage and showing beautiful fresh red fruits on a base of earthy structure, herbaceousness and very fine tannins, the wine has spent one year in barrique of which 15% was new.
Now to the Savagnins. First we taste the 2018 Traminer, a Savagnin ouillé that has spent 2 years in 600L barrels. It’s beautiful but isn’t as comforting a glass as the previous ouillé Chardonnays. This might be a wine that needs some time. Also it is a little lost in the anticipation of the five Vin Jaunes we are about to taste.
A little tasting in a tasting we will never forget: five Vin Jaunes from one vintage, all made exactly the same, just highlighting the terroir, something that is often overlooked with Vin Jaunes, Stéphane shares. He started making only single vineyard Vin Jaunes since 2003, just a whiff of each glass confirms why. We taste En Spois, La Vasée, La Mailloche, Les Bruyères and Château Chalon, all from 2014. First of all, all of these wines are incredible, wow. At the same time, so are the differences. Some seem so young, others more developed, some focus fully on acidity, in others the alcohol seems more present. Our favorite is the first glass, the 2014 En Spois, our notes make it clear: the perfect smell for a wine, we don’t recall a more beautiful smell. There’s a depth to the smell we can’t put our finger on but which gives the wine a significantly deeper smell than others. It’s from a Trias soil with eastern exposition. The La Vasée, a Vin Jaune that Stéphane loves to pair with oysters, is very harsh still, planted fully on a vineyard exposed to the North. The acidity is through the roof, but as Stéphane explains: “we have time”, something he repeats multiple times during the Vin Jaune tasting, meaning that he thinks these wines are still infants and by ‘time’ he probably means at least a decade. He says that at this age he would open it the night before if he had a tasting in the morning.
The Cháteau-Chalon is another stand-out, displaying clearly more finesse and elegance than the other Vin Jaunes while being richer as well, mesmerizing. The Les Bruyères was a little boozy to me, smelling as equal parts Vin Jaune and schnaps, while the La Mailloche is displaying a fascinating whiff of tobacco that makes it a little chunky, almost cigar like.
All in all it’s a very clear sign that making single vineyard Vin Jaunes makes a lot of sense, there’s a clear pleasure in discovering the differences between these cuvées. Last to taste is the Vin de Paille that can’t be called that, the Spirale 2015, a lasting, deep and soothing wine at 8% and 350gr/l of residual sugar.
We have left out the talks about pruning, not topping the vines and leaving a third branch as necessary frost protection, focussing just on the wines here. Maybe we will write up those lessons later.
This afternoon was one well spent with a winemaker that is too old to be called a talent and seems to enthusiastic and eager to be called a legend. Yet, he is already leaving a significant mark upon the Jura and will luckily continue to do so for many years. A true believer of terroir, or a sense of Place.
Markus Praat, founder at ASOP Wines