When people in London bars talk about the trending Jura domaines, you rarely hear La Pinte mentioned. This is a shame. They have a good UK importer (Liberty), yet one which has specialisations in countries like Italy and Australia, and no other Jura producers on their list. It’s also a domaine with a long history, founded in 1952, and has been selling wine from its tasting room and shop in Central Arbois for longer than some of the new kids have been out of High School, let alone viticultural college.
It’s a large domaine, with over 30 hectares planted, including 17ha of Savagnin, which Wink Lorch (Jura Wine 2014, p185) says incorporates the largest single plot of Savagnin in the world. They are fully biodynamic (both Ecocert and Demeter Certification). La Pinte, under the guidance of Pierre Martin, a member of the owning family, has been one of the prime supporters of young biodynamic and natural winemakers in the region, with former vineyard manager Bruno Ciofi having spent several years helping to organise the regional organic wine producers’ tasting, Le Nez dans le Vert (held several times at La Pinte).
Emmanuel Perraut is in charge of winemaking, and he is taking La Pinte to another level in terms of both developing the biodynamic aspects of viticulture, and experimentation in the cellar, so that today there seems to be a more dynamic approach to their range, as well as improvements already identified by Wink Lorch in their red wines. Accompanied on this occasion by some friends from Switzerland, we spent a good hour tasting with Laura Seibel, with whom I found a couple of brief connections – we’d said hello at Raw Wine in London earlier this year, and she also knows Severine Perru, Wine Director and sommelier at Ten Bells NYC.
Laura instructing her audience on La Capitaine
We decided mainly to taste some of the more unusual wines from the range, starting with La Capitaine. This is a single site field blend of Pinot Noir, Poulsard and Trousseau. It’s not an expensive wine, but in 2015 it’s on excellent form (as indeed was every 2015 we tasted in our week in the region). There’s still the tannin of youth, but it’s packed with concentrated fruit which makes it so drinkable, hard to resist. One of those wines where you find yourself reaching for an adjective like vivid.
Melon à Queue Rouge is a natural mutation of Chardonnay which, around harvest time, has a propensity to develop bright red stalks. A handful of Jura producers bottle this old variety, found as far as I am aware only in the region, and although it shows a profile obviously connected to that of straight Chardonnay, it does come up with some lovely flavours of its own. We tasted La Pinte’s 2014. It lives up to the special billing by demonstrating a mix of yellow stone fruits with something extra, and exciting, almost tropical like guava or mango. It’s very hard to resist drinking the 2014 right now.
The next wine was a blind test. Definitely a little orange and a little cloudy, this appears to be a skin contact wine, and I’d have guessed, judging by the experiments going on around the region (you may have seen my photos of amphorae at A&M Tissot and L’Octavin from my 2015 Jura visit) that it had been made in terracotta. It was highly perfumed, and had quite a lick of acidity at the moment, which led me to suppose it was early bottled. I was only partially correct. Savagnin “Pourquoi Pas?” 2015 has had just three weeks of skin contact, and in concrete, not terracotta. It’s a wine with a wonderful bouquet, but I think I’ll leave mine to mellow a little, that is unless I can’t resist letting others taste it sooner. It’s an example of the experimentation going on here, and I think Laura had a hand in its conception. She’s had a little experience making wine in Georgia, so I can see what she’s plotting to persuade Emmanuel to get into. Really interesting wine.
This contrasted nicely with the 2011 and 2008 Savagnin cuvées, which show why La Pinte has always been famed mainly for their white wines made from this variety. At five years old, the 2011 could still be described as young, yet there are clear signs of an evolutionary arc of development. The 2008, still not quite fully mature, is nevertheless a lot more complex, very different. Throughout the region you’ll see even relatively inexpensive and unknown producers suggesting their €10 Savagnins should be kept for fifteen or twenty years. It’s unlikely these wines are kept even a fraction of that time, and I doubt it’s any different for La Pinte’s. But they do have a great capacity to age, not just those created sous voile, but the ouillé (topped-up) wines as well. Some of the Savagnins made under flor are, after all, merely wines which didn’t make the cut for Vin Jaune. If you are in Arbois, do remember that Domaine de la Pinte will likely have a few older wines to try, and they won’t break the bank to purchase (the 2008 is €19.50).
Cuvée d’Automne is a complex blend of 80% Savagnin from 2007 and 20% Chardonnay from 2009. The Savagnin is a mix of both ouillé and oxidative (ie under flor/sous voile) Savagnin, and it all makes for a complex wine with magnificent aromatics. I’ll put myself on the line here and say that it is the development of the bouquet in the Domaine de la Pinte range which I find the most impressive thing since I last tasted there in 2014. Although Chardonnay/Savagnin blends are surprisingly common (and delicious) in the region, this wine is an innovative blend. The Chardonnay does flesh it out a bit, but the limestone soils for this cuvée help it retain a nice freshness (much of the domaine’s production is on classic Jura grey marl, confusingly called Marne Bleu locally).
We ended the tasting with the 2006 Vin Jaune, a wine with a little more age than the current vintage offered at most addresses (La Pinte do have some much older VJs on their list if you have the money, though when you come to think of it, a hundred Euros or so for a wine several decades old is actually remarkable value). The 2006 is fresh and, perhaps, even on the lighter side for a Vin Jaune, which is actually how I like it. Complexity doesn’t have to be accompanied by weight. It’s the kind of Vin Jaune which you can easily contemplate drinking at this age, although it’s always a shame to deprive these wines of the opportunity to show their full potential. So often I see the current vintage of Vin Jaune or Château-Chalon being served in London. You wouldn’t do that with a top Burgundy or Bordeaux, and I think the fact that it’s released over six years after the vintage fools consumers, some of whom must wonder what all the fuss is about over this tight and acidic wine in a funny bottle, made from grapes with a yield of 20hl/ha.
There are two wines we didn’t taste. One is the once famous Côtes du Jura white field blend which Wink Lorch mentions in her book. It came from vineyards right up in the north of the region, near Port Lesney. The tiny vineyard was just too far away and too low yielding and was rented under a fermage agreement, not owned by La Pinte. So, I discovered, they gave it up. But one wine they still make is their Arbois Poulsard “L’Ami Karl“. It’s a pale red, almost a rosé, with reds fruits predominating over spice and liquorice. This is another wine which in the past I’ve bought older bottles of from the domaine’s Arbois shop. It’s a good example of how well Poulsard does age, most people supposing a wine made of thin skinned grapes and looking like a rosé requires drinking within a year. Rosé des Riceys, from the Aube, confounds expectations in the same way.
Domaine de la Pinte now provides an extra level of excitement in their range of wines, and after this visit I sense an extra level of dynamism here. As I said above, La Pinte is imported into the UK by agent Liberty Wines, although they only appear to list three wines at present. I think they would find a market for a good few more, and I hope that La Pinte don’t become lost as a peripheral addition to the Liberty portfolio. You will find La Pinte at a good number of independents who Liberty sell to.
The Domaine is situated on the Route de Lyon, just outside of Arbois, not far from Pupillin, but you can taste their wines in their Arbois shop, which is a matter of seconds away from Arbois’ central Place de la Liberté, more or less opposite Rolet’s shop, on the Rue de L’Hôtel de Ville.
If you are in Paris on 7 November you can taste their wines at the Parisian version of Le Nez dans le Vert, or for Australian readers, at Rootstock Sydney on 26/27 November. If you go to the latter, say hi to Laura.