Last story from my backlog of late october
I first tasted the wines of Lise & Bertrand Jousset at a small wine event organized a few months ago at L'Ebauchoir, a wine restaurant in the 11th in Paris (see the 3rd story of this post). The tasting was centered on the production of the younger vignerons of the Montlouis Appellation and you could taste both the dry and the sweet Chenins along with enjoying the great food of the place. The Joussets wines were definitely among the ones I preferred that day, very pure and elegant.
Lise and Bertrand Jousset are a young couple who are very active in the regenerating new-blood group of the young vignerons of Montlouis, an Appellation most of us know through the names of people like François Chidaine and Jacky Blot who have already made a good job to put Montlouis on the map.
Montlouis is Chenin country, along with several other Loire regions like Vouvray, Savennières, Coteaux du Layon and Jasnières. The Chenin variety is not outwardly aromatic like some other, easier variety, plus it is more fragile because of thin skins. In this interview of Eric Morgat [in French], another young talented winemaker from Savennières, we learn that to get a beautiful Chenin wine you must get a ripe harvest without excess, low yields and long élevages. He says that Chenin is more a variety underlining terroir than an aromatic variety.
Bertrand confirms that this variety ripes later, like around the 10th or 15th of october, at a time when the weather is not always good, which brings uncertainty every year. The skins become soft when the harvest nears and if it rains then, problems can occur. But with this variety, the vigneron can make different types of wines, dry, sweet and with the in-betweens, and if well-managed in the vineyard, you get very pure wines which age beautifully.
Bertrand Jousset had then a good experience of the work in organic vineyards, he used to do the vineyard tasks for several such wineries. He had also worked for a conventional winery which allowed him to see the other side of the coin. He says with a smile that he fled away with relief... He got his formal training in a viticulture school Amboise (Loire), where he attended a two-year cursus named "Conduite et Gestion d'une Exploitation Agricole" in 1998 & 1999.
For his vineyard work, he had to buy a tractor and several tools because the previous vigneron didn't farm the same way that he would.
Typically, the grapes are picked by hand in boxes, there's no sorting table, all the sorting takes place on the vine and in the buckets before they're poured into the boxes, the goal here being to avoid damaging the grapes on a table. Because of this double sorting, the picking takes more time than elsewhere. After pressing the Chenin, there's a settling of the lees (débourbage) in the intermediary chai on a lower level (see one of the pictures above, near the stairs) and the wine is flowed by gravity into the casks further down in the tuff cellar. The fermentation takes place on indigenous yeasts in the barrels, no intervention there.
Lise and Bertrand make about 12 cuvées every year, 7 of them with Chenin, 2 sparklings, 2 dry wines, 1 demi-sec, 1 moelleux and a liquoreux. They also make a Cabernet Franc/Gamay red wine named Y a Rien Qui Presse, a 100%-Chardonnay, a natural sparkling made with Gamay & Grolleau, and a still rosé with the same varieties. There's not much to say about the cellar work, says Bertrand with a laugh. Still, he says an interesting thing about his cellaring of the wines : he brings his dry wines to the end of their fermentation in the casks but he doesn't want the whole élevage to take place in there, so when the alcoholic fermentations are completed, which can last one year or one year and a half in some extreme cases, he blends the casks of a given cuvée in a vat where they'll have their élevage if necessary, but he doesn't want any élevage in wood.
Back to the élevage : No rules about the length, he just avoids it to take place in wood. If he could financially, he would make longer élevages than now, and he hopes to do that in the future.
For the SO2, he adapts his use of it on the vintage. What he likes to do is to put a gram or two at the setlling of the lees, it allows him to make a slight intervention at this stage as he doesn't have any cold-temperature system. What he wants to avoid through this light adding is the wine to go toward primary aromas. Then he adds a bit of sulfur when he blends the wine into a vat, but not at bottling itself. This makes for dry wines an average of total SO2 going from 50 for easier vintages to 80 for the more difficult ones, which is very low and makes almost nothing in free SO2 in the bottles.
I alas didn't take notes this time but I'm looking forward to the next tasting of their wines in Paris or elsewhere to correct that and pay tribute to their work on Chenin.
The wines are exported to Canada (Quebec - Rezin), Belgium (Jacques Delire Vins Fins), the UK (Vine Trail), Holland (de Winjtherapeut), Japan (Izumi Trading), Spain (Lavinia), Italy.