Wayne on Wine travels to France and Luxembourg, Days 4-6

Gerard Lambert at Caves Lambert pours Royal Seyssel. Photos by Wayne Crawford
  Wayne Crawford
  Wayne Crawford

By Wayne Crawford

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of five articles.

After two evenings in Luxembourg, our team headed 241 miles south to the small, cool- climate wine region of Jura in eastern France. Arriving in the town of Poligny in the heart of the Jura, we joined Eric de Brises for lunch to discuss the wines of this region. Eric recently coauthored a book on the Jura wine region and is a close associate of Parks Redwine, our trip leader.

The home of Comte cheese, this wine region is known as AOC Cotes-du-Jura. The red grapes are pinot noir, poulsand and trousseau.

  The sparkling wine, Poligny.

The white wines in this region are made using chardonnay and savagnin, a grape unique to the area. Vin juan, “yellow grape,” makes a sherry-like wine exclusively from savagnin at the Chateau-Chalon and L’Etoile.

Most interesting was our introduction to a blend of sparkling wine, chardonnay and savagnin, and a late-harvest wine, Macvin Du Jura, made with small, dried grapes to enhance the bubbling effect. This delightful twist on serving a sparkling wine is indigenous to the region and reminded me of drinking rice wine with the Montagnards in Vietnam—unique and satisfying when building camaraderie.

We easily could have spent two days in Poligny learning to enjoy many unique wines. Our wine journey was introducing us to two or three dozen little-known wine grapes and presentations, which continued to make this trip through the lesser French appellations an exceptional learning opportunity. More discussion will be made in future articles to the wide variety of new grapes introduced on this wine excursion.

We departed Poligny for Le Grand Cave in the village of Cerdon, department of Ain, in the French Rhone-Alpes. Our guest for this visit was Andree Piperini. Le Grand Cave is in the heart of Bugey, one of the least-known French wine areas and a gateway to the Rhone. The Germans in World War II occupied the 300-plus-year-old structure.

The dark-pink sparkling wine was a non-vintage drawn from gamay and poulsard, red wine grapes of the Bugey area. The wine has lots of bubbles, is fruit-forward with floral overtones and has a light alcohol content of 7.5 percent.

We enjoyed a pleasant visit and were given access to Andree’s old wine cellar, showcasing timeworn vineyard tools that reminded us of the value of natural cooling when below ground and surrounded by thick stone walls.

  Emily Redwine, Parks Redwine, Eric de Brises and Wayne Crawford.

We departed the Bugey region and headed to the “Venice of the French Alps,” the city of Annecy on Lake Annecy, a wonderful municipality well worth an extended visit. This large city is in the department of Haute-Savoie, Rhone-Alpes. On this long day, we covered 375 miles.

Thursday, July 17, we departed for Seyssel to visit the Caves Lambert, where grapes have been produced since the 10th century. Our goal was to taste the Royal Seyssel sparkling wine, once a favorite of the British Royal Family as early as 1901.

The vineyard is under new management; they are holding their wines on the lees for four years prior to bottling. Look for a delightful sparkling wine, light and crisp with a lingering finish. The grapes include altesse and chasselas in the older wines.

Leaving Seyssel, we headed to Voiran to visit the Chartreuse Museum. This modern, well-designed museum is a monument to the Chartreuse liquor and its production in the region—everything green. There is much to be said about the origin of the Chartreuse recipe, developed by Carthusian monks. This area is worth a visit for those near Voiran in southern France.

From Voiran, we traveled 28 miles to Chambery, Domaine Labbe, to taste Abymes, a 100 percent jacquere, a varietal that grows well in the Savoie region of France. This white grape is high-yielding and produces a lightly scented, dry white wine, light-straw in color, with aromas of peach and apricot. It is light and crisp and makes a good complement to the cheese fondue native to this this region.

Remaining on a tight schedule, we traveled 140 miles to Grignan, a small French village in the southeast. Grignan is in the department of Drome in the Rhone-Alpes.

The next morning we visited Roussas’ Domaine de Grangeneuve, in the Rhone-Alpes, just a few miles from Grignan. Henri Bour, originally from Algeria when it was a French colony, lives in a 300-year-old home surrounded by 197 acres of vines, including grenache, cinsault, viognier and syrah in a new APO, Grignan-Les Adhemer.

Domaine Bour exports 400,000 bottles of wine yearly, largely within Europe—Germany, Holland and Denmark, with limited export to New York. Henri is completely independent and can export and order within a week. In his words, the aim is to produce very harmonious wines. This unique vineyard has a wonderful tasting room inside a walled courtyard surrounding his home that sees 20,000 visitors a year.

  Jura wine.

Graciously, Henri shared many of his wines from his tasting room. We enjoyed a viognier, light-straw color, brilliant rim-to-rim, with bold aromas of fruit, pear and apricot and floral hints with a touch of oak, since he holds this wine five to six months in oak. It is a well-crafted wine with medium body and finish. He uses this grape as much as 10 percent in many of his red wines.

A second wine tasted was La Truffiere 2012, 100 percent syrah—a luscious red that will improve with age. Henri believes this is the best area in France for wine, lavender and truffles—truffiere to the French. We had a perfect visit with this winemaker and the southern French coastal land so different from the lush, hillside vineyards we previously visited.

In a departure from our wine journey, we visited Domaine Bramarel in Grignan to see a truffle plantation and the well-trained dogs that seek out truffles. The owner, Gilles Ayme, is known locally as Mr. Truffle.

Our next stop was to view the Pont du Gard, a bridge over the river Gard and part of the aqueduct system providing water to the ancient Roman port city of Narbonne, France. This exceptional structure is supported by a grand museum and walking trails to the pont. When in the south of France, this is a must-see educational and historical visit. The bridge and aqueduct over the Gard is 900 feet long and the bridge stands, at its highest point, 160 feet—equal to the Statue of Liberty.

Having enjoyed our detour to the Pont du Gard, we headed to Narbonne on the Mediterranean Sea to establish a new two-day travel base at the Hotel Chateau L’Hospitalet.

Wayne Crawford is a certified specialist of Wine CSW and a member of the Society of Wine Educators and the American Wine Society.


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