Continuing the Jura series, we visited Domaine des Bodines again in December, after a stimulating first visit in 2017 (see here). Emilie and Alexis Porteret have been making wine from a small plot on the very edge of Arbois, off the road to Dôle, since 2010. Alexis cut his teeth with the Clairets at Domaine de la Tournelle, and after his wine diploma, for a while moonlighting at Domaine de la Pinte. In a short space of time he has converted most of their three hectares or so of vines in Arbois to biodynamics, and has managed to purchase another parcel on the way to Poligny, where conversion is coming along nicely.
I first came across the Bodines wines maybe four years ago, initially via their brilliant petnat Red Bulles, followed by their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Both are impressive, and I think even more so if given some time in bottle. There’s a feeling you get with some wines that they have a soul. Knowing the Jura reasonably well, and for so long, I have become quite attuned to the terroir differences, and some wines are truly able to express their terroir, if often fairly subtly. The Bodines wines fall into this category.
Another thing I perhaps fancifully feel I can sometimes do is paint a reasonably accurate picture of the winemaker through their wines. Not always, by any means, but I think I’d built up an image of this young couple as being quiet and thoughtful, but also warm people. We tasted with Emilie on our visit in 2017, but she now works in Hirsinger, the famous chocolatier in town, so 2018 we tasted with husband Alexis.
Anyway, I won’t repeat any more of what I wrote about the domaine last year as you can easily follow that link in the top paragraph, so let’s get on with the tasting. First, after the required walk in the vines, we tasted some 2018s. The vintage is a welcome change from the previous few years. It is plentiful but not over productive. Having a reasonable amount of wine in the cellar certainly makes the artisan vignerons more relaxed. Alexis estimates he may be able to sell around 60,000 bottles from 2018, a big leap from their first harvest (around 8,000 bottles) and the restricted 15,000 or so bottles of the recent, frost struck, harvests.
The reds from 2018 had finished fermenting, but not yet the whites, so we didn’t try those. The 2018 Poulsard was lovely and fresh and Alexis said that the grapes were very clean, with no hint of rot in any of them. The Pinot Noir, harvested in September, had more depth, adding spice and tannin to its pure fruit. It was good to taste such freshness and good, clean, juice, a very good pointer for the vintage.
Next, we adjourned into the barrel cellar for a look at some 2017s. The first wine was the 2017 Côtes du Jura Savagnin from the Poligny parcel, which was a gorgeous, rounded out, wine already. Nutty, but with almost tropical fruit as well. It is the first vintage that these vines have been farmed fully biodynamically, and there is an additional mineral charge. The juice seems very much vivant. Alexis said that he has noticed the biodynamic regime forces the roots to go a lot deeper than they were when he bought the vineyard, which had previously been sprayed with synthetic treatments.
The vineyard is on the region’s traditional marnes bleue soils, whereas the home plot at Arbois is argilo-calcaire. The Arbois Savagnin from the same vintage is markedly different. The first thing you notice is its saline character, and greater mineral bite. There’s also more pronounced citrus, a twist of lemon on the finish. I always argue that tasting wines like this side by side is the biggest argument in favour of “terroir” that you will find. Two wines, same viticulture, same vinification and ageing, totally different flavour profile. My preference? Perhaps the Arbois, although I’d buy both.
All of the domaine’s vines are farmed biodynamically, and some are worked by horse. I think Alexis would like them to own a horse of their own (they have a number of animals, which their children adore). He was at pains to point out that they cost a fraction of what a tractor costs, but he did acknowledge that they are a lot of work, requiring care and attention every day (as Emilie also pointed out when I’d chatted with her two days before).
Frosty vines sloping gently to the crest of the hill called “Bodines”, on the argilo-calcaire soils of the home vineyard
Onto Chardonnay 2017. The Bodines Chardonnay has been brilliant every time I taste one, and it does seem to me that even though the terroir on this side of Arbois is not uniform, it does produce immaculate Chardonnays (as any connoisseur of Domaine A&M Tissot will attest). 2017 was a fairly cold vintage all round and it has produced a wine here that is clean and fresh. It shows lovely balanced acidity, even at this stage as it sits in older oak. It also has a mineral touch, and just 12% abv.
The 2016 Chardonnay we tasted was from new oak. The vanilla oak is still evident on the bouquet and the wine has more spice, but again, the acidity is nice and fresh. You don’t often get much buttery fat over this way, except perhaps in some of Stéphane Tissot’s top of the range Chardonnays. Arbois Savagnin 2016 is really good. I’m less au fait with the Bodines Savagnins, but this is potentially pretty special, very grapefruity with amazingly lively, fresh and refreshing, acidity.
I mentioned that the best wines at this domaine appreciate time, and the 2015 Chardonnay is definitely a vin de garde. It has had three years in oak and now deserves a few years in bottle – how long I can resist is a moot point. Acidity is lower than in all the wines previously tasted, but it still has that Bodines freshness I love so much. It was aged under a tiny bit of a voile, so it has a slightly nutty Savagnin character, which could often be found in Jura Chardonnays in the past.
Next from bottle we tried the Pinot Noir 2017. Alexis bottles each wine when he feels it is ready to be bottled, there is no formula. This wine saw a semi-carbonic maceration, with two-thirds of the fruit destemmed and a third not. This was followed by eight months élèvage and then it was bottled in August. The stems enable the wine to age, through the added structure, and like the Chardonnay, I think this wine could easily age for ten years. However, Alexis surprised me by saying that whilst he acknowledges this potential, he prefers them young.
Finally we tried a wine which I think has the potential to confer star status on this Domaine, their 2011 Vin Jaune. It comes from the first proper vintage at Bodines, but it is not currently made every year. Thus far, there will be a 2011, a 2014 and a 2017, but Alexis did express the hope that with the new Poligny vineyard a Vin Jaune might be possible every year. For 2011 there is a mere 600 bottles.
Some Vin Jaune requires long ageing in bottle, and I would guess that at least 95% of it gets consumed way too young. This is probably because when it appears on a restaurant wine list its prolonged pre-release ageing period makes it look old. That said, some VJ is nice in its youth (Domaine de la Tournelle’s is a good example). This one is still a baby, very discreet on the nose but fresh on the palate. There’s a lovely elegance, which just expresses the domaine so well. Everything at Bodines is just ever so slightly understated…I mean that in a really positive way. As a first attempt this was exceptional, and it will become a wine which people might come to see as one of the town’s most beautifully judged yellow wines in years to come.
The young couple who run Domaine des Bodines, Alexis and Emilie, are not people who shout and jump about over their wines, but in their kind and gentle way they make wines which are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. These wines, for me, express a quiet passion through a sophisticated if understated elegance, with just that sprinkling of electrifying vivacity which makes me love them more and more with every vintage.
Domaine des Bodines sells a little wine through Les Caves de Pyrene in the UK, and via Selection Massale (Oakland, California) in the USA. I hope that with more wine to sell, they will become more widely available, and more widely appreciated too. They are already firm favourites of those in the trade with Arbois connections.