Region: Montlouis-sur-Loire / Loire Valley
Domaine Jousset, in which we discover possibly the worlds greatest Pet Nat and amongst its greatest Chenin Blanc.
Let us begin our journey.
Jousset is the estate of Lise & Bertrand Jousset. At the heart of it, the Jousset story is all about Chenin Blanc, grown thoughtfully, sustainably, almost entirely unmechanised, organic in certification, biodynamic in concept and action. Healthy soils = abundant microbial life = healthy plants = terroir driven wine in the glass.
With this level of attention to farming, Chenin Blanc can be as versatile as an artist’s pallet. So what is the Jousset hue ?
- 1. Perfectly clean whole bunches, harvested in a single picking per vineyard*. Each vineyard is harvested when the majority of the bunches are just golden, then there is double sorting in the vineyard, before the grapes arrive in the winery, to remove any under ripe or rotten bits. This therefore excludes botrytis (unless, if the occasional vintage dictates, a sweet wine is in order).
- 2. Whole bunch press, overnight settling, then into barrels in a very cold limestone cave for fermentation, all of this taking place with the help of gravity alone, no pumps.
- 3. Very long slow fermentations, thanks to the cool ambiance of the cellar (which would reach no more than 15°C in the peak of summer). Some wines will take up to a year to ferment dry, and that is ok, as long as they keep ticking along. Predominantly old oak is the way, with maybe 15% new oak added to the cellar each year.
- 4. Nothing added, nothing taken away. Natural yeast, no inoculations, no temperature control or other manipulations. Some cuvées will never see the sulphur can, others get a very small hit close to bottling. Yet these natural wines are always pristine, never the slightest sideways glance.
- 5. To taste, the wines are thrilling. Lean at first, stoney, sometimes with a rich honeysuckle nose, but often quite subtle. With air time, as they warm in the glass, orchard fruit and floral notes begin to appear, and the palate fattens out to a rich and satisfying slurp, but never lacking their trade mark flash of electric acidity.
Pet Nat - The Jousset way
Then, there is the next true love of Lise & Bertrand… The Pet Nat ! These two beautiful souls have made Natural Sparkling Wines their absolute love and specialty. And we are so thankful ! To my mind, they are unequalled in the entire world in creating delicious yet serious Pet Nat. Their Pet Nats are not an afterthought or something to do with odd ends or under ripe grapes. Vineyards are selected pre harvest to be dedicated to making full, rich, ultra premium sparkling wine.
The real secret to their success in making exhilarating natural sparkling wine is, in truth, not a secret but just the fortunes of climate and cellar. When the Joussets pick their grapes, it is often late September and the mornings are cold. By the time their slow natural fermentations begin to make any serious inroads into the grape sugars, it is December or January. It is now really cold, all day ! A perfect opportunity to bottle unfinished wine, naturally cold settled, calm, precise, complex, and let it become fine sparkling wine in the bottle. They disgorge their sparkling wines in order to favour precision and the wines’ vinous qualities.
Their Pet Nats are thus pure expressions of a single vineyard, nothing added, nothing taken away, with no SO2, pure and precise, chalky and mineral.
The Outsiders - Exilé
Exilé is the Jousset’s answer to a real climate problem. If you’ve followed the vineyard news over the past decade, you would know that different parts of the north of France have suffered tragic crippling spring frost more than every second vintage. Montlouis-sur-Loire is the Gold Prize Winner on this less than honourable leader board. I have had many low moments speaking with Lise & Bertrand in April, as they begin to digest the reality that their year’s work ahead will be for little to no fruit.
Friends to the rescue ! Lise & Bertrand never dropped their shovels (almost, but never entirely). With the help of like minded organic/biodynamic growers in France, near and far, they developed a micro-negotiant arm as a complement to their vineyards, especially for the frosty years - Exilé was born. Here, the Jousset team do all the same work, from late season decisions, to harvesting and wine making. They are always super excited to do this work, as it provides the social connection sometimes lacking in a lonely Montlouis vineyard, but also the challenge to find grapes that will deliver the Jousset style, but from sometimes less familiar grape varieties and climates.
So, here’s to Chn’in, the greatest grape variety in the world !