The Jura’s meteoric rise among American wine drinkers over the past decade has been well documented, but the wines from the tiny appellation of L’Étoile remain somewhat less known. Perhaps that’s due to its comparatively diminutive size, or perhaps to its lack of appellation-status red wines—much initial fervor over the Jura in the US was driven by the region’s light, irresistible indigenous Poulsard and Trousseau—but L’Étoile, with its exceptionally rocky and limestone-dense soil, quietly produces among the Jura’s most profoundly mineral-driven white wines.
The appellation’s undisputed leader is Domaine de Montbourgeau, a nine-hectare estate founded in 1920 with whom Rosenthal Wine Merchant has been working for two decades now. The infectiously warm Nicole Deriaux, for many years the only woman to head a domaine in the Jura, inherited Montbourgeau from her father Jean with the 1986 vintage (still drinking like a dream!), and today Nicole’s sons Baptiste and César are gradually learning the ropes under Nicole’s careful guidance. Nicole farms without chemical treatments, and raises her wines according to the Jura’s distinctive and proud traditions, eschewing the currently fashionable ouillé (topped-up) style and fully embracing the power of the local yeasts (the voile) to engender a complexity and a specificity of character unique to the region.
Nicole is justly famous locally for her dazzling collection of still white wines—no less an authority than Michel Gahier remarked years back, “Nicole makes the greatest Vin Jaune in the region”—but she has also long been a master of sparkling wine, a category for which L’Étoile is highly regarded historically. Her rigorous zero-dosage Crémant du Jura offers chiseled calcareous essence atop a fine, subtle mousse and an underlay of taut orchard fruit, and it has long been the most successful sparkling wine we import from the region.
With the 2013 vintage, after a particularly successful harvest of vibrant fruit with crackling acidity, Nicole decided to try something new: a téte du cuvée (first pressing) of Crémant-destined Chardonnay, which she fermented and aged for six months in used barrels, then subjected to an extra-lengthy secondary fermentation of 48 months on the lees. The 2013 Crémant du Jura Réserve “Brut Zero” is spellbinding, and the finest example of the category we have ever encountered. Few pitches in sparkling wine sales are as hackneyed as the “Champagne substitute” angle, but in a very few instances such a bold comparison is justifiable; this is one such instance. A detailed, refined nose driven by pure limestone exudes the poise of a top-flight Côte des Blancs, framed by wisps of fresh vanilla bean and deeper brioche-like autolytic notes. On entry, the mousse is subtle and caressing—a world away from the bluntly foamy assault of many a lesser Crémant—and distributes the precise, pointillistic mineral flavors across the entire palate. This swells markedly on the finish, with flavors of greengage plum and apple clinging for dear life and prompting salivation in their wake, and many a producer of expensive Champagne Blanc des Blancs would be left blushing in embarrassment in the face of Nicole’s achievement here.
Only 1000 bottles were produced of this stunning Crémant, and only 600 were imported into the US. We are proud to offer a Crémant from an established maestro pushing the form to its outer limits, and we hope you will join us in exploring the pleasures of such a singular wine.