Brett happens

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Octavin and Gahier tasting (1/4): Chardonnays

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Breaking from its usual focus on a single winemaker, the most recent Jura Oenorama tasting was a study in contrasts that featured two lesser known estates: the dynamic, even edgy Domaine de l’Octavin and the more traditional Domaine Michel Gahier.

Founded in 2005 by Alice Bouvot and Charles Dagand, Domaine de l’Octavin owns five hectares of vineyards around its home base of Arbois. Its wines are as natural as they come: made from organically and biodynamically farmed grapes using a non-interventionist approach with no added anything (including sugar, yeast or sulphur) and bottled unfiltered and unfined. What’s more, the winemakers are open to experimentation; one of their wines is a blanc de noirs made from Poulsard, for example. As the owners are amateur musicians and classical music nuts, several of the wines have been named after characters in Mozart operas.

Media-shy Michel Gahier is based in Montigny-les-Arsures, where one of his neighbours and friends is Jacques Puffeney. Farming at the 6.5-hectare estate is fundamentally organic, though not certified as such. The wine-making is very traditional. The red grapes are destemmed and cold-macerated, then fermented for about one month with some punching-down of the cap early on. The wines, both red and white, are matured in old foudres and barrels and bottled unfiltered. Though off many drinkers’ radar, Gahier’s wines are much prized by Jura connoisseurs (they feature prominently on the list of Arbois’s Jean-Paul Jeunet, the Jura’s only Michelin two-star restaurant) and remain reasonably priced.

We began with a flight of Chardonnays.

Arbois 2010, Pamina, Domaine de l’Octavin ($34.15, Les Importations du Moine, 6 bottles/case)
100% organically and biodynamically farmed Chardonnay from the La Mailloche vineyard. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured on the lees in second- to fifth-fill barrels for two years, occasionally stirred and regularly topped-up. Unfiltered, unfined. No added sulphur. 13% ABV.
Yeasty nose with nuances of lemon, browning apple, chalk and a whiff of burned rubber. Medium-bodied. Tart yet the wine remains more soft than angular. There’s straw upfront, fruit (yellow apple?) in the background and plenty of chalky minerals. A faint hazelnut note creeps in on the finish. Not what you’d call a tightly focused wine but fun to drink. (Buy again? Sure.)

Arbois 2011, Les Follasses, Domaine Michel Gahier ($25.50, Primavin, NLA)
100% Chardonnay from the high-elevation, slow-ripening Les Follasses vineyard. Matured in neutral barrels, which are kept topped-up. 12.5% ABV.
Appealing nose of limestone, spice, apple, lemon zest and a faint lactic note. Fruity but dry, round but also ethereal. Crunchy minerals add flavour and texture while the zingy acidity combines with a saline note to make the long finish a lip-smacker. Fresh and tasty – what’s not to like? (Buy again? Def.)

Arbois 2010, Les Crêts, Domaine Michel Gahier ($27.50, Primavin, NLA)
100% Chardonnay from the hilltop Les Crêts vineyard. Matured about 15 months in a large foudre and then another 12 months in smaller (600-litre) demi-muids. 12.5% ABV.
Strong burned match odours slowly gave way to hints of stone fruit, lemon and minerals. The richest and smoothest of the three. The fruit tends to apple and pear, the minerals to flint as much as chalk. Dry but a shade less than Les Follasses, the residual sugar rounding the wine and taking the edge off the sustained acidity. A faint nuttiness echoes through the very long and minerally finish. Balanced and complex – just lovely. (Buy again? With pleasure.)

Contrary to what some U.S. merchants claim, Gahier’s Les Follasses and Les Crêts bottlings are not made in an oxidative style: the barrels are kept topped up, so no yeast veil develops and the only oxidation that occurs is through the barrel staves. Gahier does make a sous voile Chardonnay, the La Fauquette bottling.

Written by carswell

May 27, 2014 at 17:29

5 Responses

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  1. Can you please provide an ordinal ranking of the set {Sure, Def., With Pleasure}? If you could also include you include “Yes” and “Yep” in the Brett Happens ranking class function it would be appreciated.


    May 27, 2014 at 17:41

  2. Gratitude for your Poulsard ranking scale.


    May 30, 2014 at 16:16

  3. … and so the list grows.


    May 30, 2014 at 17:02

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