Arbois is as you know a lovely town, with something special beyond its lovely setting in a wooded valley. I believe in special places where there's a telluric energy or something which makes these place special and enjoyable, and I have the feeling that Arbois is one of these places. We dropped there for a short visit the other day (before the snow blanketed the whole of Europe) and here again, we discovered a gem of a wine bar far away from the capital, deep in the wooded hills of Jura. We were looking for a place to dine and first went to la Finette, which is a rather-commercial brasserie open 7 days a week where you can have all the Jura dishes you want in a neo-rustic dining room. Efficient but nothing exciting and the food or the wines don't rock there. So we decided to just eat a small dish and tried the other venue which seemed open that evening : the Bistrot des Claquets. Good pick, if not on the first shot.
The bar is a no-fuss venue where you can hang for a glass and chat with whoever happens to be there. This is usually the case in a bar anywhere but here I really felt it was routine and you hadn't to force yourself into socializing. We ended up chatting with this guy sitting at the bar who was obviously (from what we could catch of the conversation) into natural winemaking. He was Philippe Bornard, a vigneron whom we had heard about shortly before in the Beaujolais.
The Bistrot des Claquets opened in the spring of 2010 and Claudie the manager made it a cosy and friendly place. First, she prepares the best deals in town in terms of price and family cuisine : you can eat there for a mere 10,5 € if you choose an entrée/main-dish (entrée-plat) or a main-dish/desert (plat/dessert. Entrée-plat-dessert costs 13 € and main dish alone costs 7,5 €. You can also opt for the entree buffet or smosgarbord which also costs 7,5 €. Here is a story (in French) with a few pictures of the food.
there's no food service in the evening but as we wanted to eat something more, they kindly ordered a pizza of our choice to a call pizzeria not far from there and that made it.
When we sat and looked at the glass price list on the blackboard, we already felt we were in friendly waters even though there was no winery name (by lack of room on the board obviously) :
Jura Chardonnay 2009 2,2 € - Ploussard 2010 2,2 € - Trousseau 2009 3,5 € - Macvin 2,5 € - Crémant 2,5 € - Savagnin 3,5 € - Vin Jaune 9 € - Cheverny Rouge 2,2 € - Cuvée des Galets (we guessed it was from Estézargues) 2,2 € - Les Dimanches (Hérault) 2,2 €
This sounded good but we felt like maybe we could try a bottle with the pizza. The bottle list was indeed so inviting and affordable, we had a hard time deciding what we would choose (these are the prices to drink the bottle here, not take out prices !).
Jura whites : Chardonnay 2009 Michel Gahier 15 €
Savagnin 2008 Michel Gahier 20 €
Vin Jaune 2002 Michel Gahier 55 €
Jura Chardonnay/Savagnin 2008 Les Orchis Benoit Royer 20 €
Vin de Pays Blanc Domaine de Cavarodes 16 €
Melon à Queue Rouge 2008 Philippe Bornard 28 €
Fleur de Marne 2008 Julien Labet 2008
Jura reds : Ploussard 2010 Michel Gahier 15 €
Trousseau 2010 Michel Gahier 18 €
Ratapoil, Raphael Monnier 11 €
Ploussard 2009 Gérard Villet 15 €
Ploussard 2010 les Gruyères, D. Cavarodes 16 €
Vin de Jardin, Grange aux Belles (Loire) 17 €
Cheverny Rouge, Hervé Villemade 12 € [sic]
Bourgogne Epineuil, Domaine Vini Viti Vinci 19 €
Fable, rouge, Gilles Azzoni (Ardèche) 14 €
Roussane, Gilles Azzoni 17 €
Oeillade, Thierry Navarre, Hérault 17 €
Les Dimanches, Emile Héredia, Hérault 12 €
La Bonne Pioche 2006, Michel Guignier Beaujolais 19 €
Brouilly 2007 Georges Descombes 26 € And 3 sparklings from Domaine des Grottes, Emile Hérédia and Michel Gahier priced from 14 € to 18 € a bottle. I'd order more often a bottle in a bar if we had this type of wine list.
Now another part of this story with Philippe Bornard is that he had just begun participating to a popular French reality show, L'Amour est dans le Pré. This reality show (which must have its equivalent in every country) is about bachelors living in the countryside and in farms, and who are looking for their partner in life. Couples are shaping up in front of the camera and so on, like in these reality shows. We watched it with B. a couple of times a few years ago and it was probably the least boring of this format, first because it's all taking place in remote rural areas and second because the people themselves seem more authentic than the ones shot on these tropical paradises. Whatever, here is the full list of the farmers participating in the current show, among whom Philippe. It was still quite a surprise for the people of the region who knew Philippe when they learnt that he was taking part to the show, so there was a lot of buzz about it. Here is his Facebook page for the reality show...
You may think about it this way : this is the first natural-wine vigneron taking part in a nation-wide reality show ! We may laugh at the idea but who knows, during one of these scenes at the dinner table he may drop a few remarks about the wines he's pouring and the public of these shows could learn something, for a change...
Philippe Bornard is imported in the US through Savio Soares.