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While it is unlike us to associate certain wines with certain seasons, the chill of winter simply requires a degree of decadence that I can only find in the savory and sumptuous white wine from the Jura. Perhaps I am biased, but when the cold wind is at one's cheeks, who can deny the revitalizing effects of a hearty sous-voile? Further, few vignerons craft the sort of Savagnins and Chardonnays that captivate us quite like the affable Fabrice Dodane.
Domaine de Saint-Pierre began in the 1980s when the late Philippe Moyne left his law practice to replant a few hectares of vines in the storied villages of Vadans and Saint-Pierre in Arbois. Early on, Fabrice, who studied viticulture in Beaune, was hired as Moyne's vineyard manager. By 2008 he had converted the entire estate to certified organic viticulture and since taking over the Domaine in 2012, he has continued to move the estate towards a more natural approach. The winery is meticulous (aside from splashes of fuchsia-colored wax for the bottle caps) and lined with stainless tanks, oak barrels, and a separate dry room where his Savagnin quietly develops for six years under flor. His reds (which are exceptional in good vintages) are made without added sulfur, and most recently he's begun experimenting with making white wine without any sulfur additions; notably his punchy 2015 Chardonnay "Les Brûlées."
There is, unfortunately, only a fraction of the typical quantity of red wines available from the Jura due to the difficult 2016 and 2017 vintages. But in their noticeable absence, we've had the opportunity to focus on Chardonnay and Savagnin. It's been a thrill to rediscover their ability to express the distinctive marnes soils of Arbois with the effort of precise winemakers like Fabrice. For example, his spectacular 2010 Savagnin "Voile" demonstrates all of the things we enjoy about the variety: invigorating saline acidity, lemon zestiness, and supple weight, without allowing the voile-aging to dominate the palate. It is both a lesson in balance and in aging one's Jura whites!
After a lovely visit with Fabrice in May, we are happy to report that 2018 is "ça roule!" (it's rolling) and there should be plenty of wines, red and white, to go around next year. In the meantime, bravo to Fabrice for the truly wonderful line-up of both traditional and modern Savagnin and Chardonnay! Amanda Bowman
"Autrement" is Fabrice Dodane's modern take on Savagnin. The wine is made ouillée or "topped-up" for a less oxidative (traditional) expression of the variety. The style may be considered modern, but the aromas are classic Jura: crushed seashells and toasted walnuts give way to bright notes of freshly cut apple and lemon peel on the nose. The palate is laser-like yet dense with tightly woven mineral acidity that cuts through the rich flavors of walnut oil and lemon curd. The finish is persistent and deliciously salty. Highly recommend for fans of the nerviness and tension found in Albariño! Amanda Bowman
Fabrice Dodane ages his sous-voile (under flor) Savagnin for six years in his cool, dry cellar in Mathenay. The 2010 is masterful and balanced with the pure, mineral-driven Savagnin radiating through the cloak of rich oxidative aging. Aromas of curry and brown spice mingle with lemon pith and nutty cheese. The palate is wonderfully textured with punchy mineral acidity and tangy citrus flavors beaming through supple notes of toasted walnut, curry, and yellow apple. This is one of the most precise and nervy sous-voile Savagnins that I have tasted. Highly recommend drinking now but there is plenty of acid and tension to age for at least ten years. Amanda Bowman
"Les Brûlées" comes from Fabrice Dodane's vineyard planted on a hill rich with limestone near his cellar in Mathenay. 2015 was the first vintage for this cuvée and Fabrice's first experiment with making white wine with zero added sulfur -- we think it's an applause-worthy success. The seductive aromas of smoky gun flint and yellow apple skins mingle with lightly oxidative notes of walnuts and Comté. On the palate the wine is dense and textured with powerful mineral acidity that finishes with a lingering salty nuttiness. An expressive wine that is drinking well now but should continue to evolve over the next decade. Amanda Bowman
"Larmes du Paradis" is made from Chardonnay with a bit of Trousseau. Alternatively called Macvin in the Jura, this style of wine is made by arresting the primary fermentation with distilled grape spirit while there is still a fair amount of residual sugar in the wine. The result is a wine with deep golden color that shows aromas of warm golden raisin, hay, dried dates, sweet spice and a hint of spearmint that was less present in past bottlings. There is plenty of depth and concentration on the palate with a complex exchange between sweetness and acidity. There are many ways to enjoy this Vin de Liqueur, my favorite is serve chilled as an aperó but it works equally well served after dinner with cheese (Comté, especially). Amanda Bowman