Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Michel Gahier Arbois Trousseau "Grands Vergers" 2009

Michel Gahier lives in the center of the commune of Montigny-les-Arsures, just north of the central town of Arbois, which is in turn the northernmost of the Jura appellations. Montigny’s marl (crumbly, pebble-y Jurassic limestone and clay) is a medium in which the Trousseau grape thrives. M. Gahier tends 15 acres, of which a bit less than half are planted to 80-year-old Trousseau vines. The remainder is planted with Chardonnay and Savagnin. “Grands Vergers” is the name of the parcel of land (lieu dit) where they’re grown. Although Trousseau is not as widely planted as Poulsard, it is considered by some to be the "main" red grape of the Jura,  as it has a bit more heft and color than it's thinner-skinned rival.  It is obvious that Gahier has benefited from having Jacques Puffeney (aka The Pope Of Jura) as a next-door neighbor. He’s not certified, but he is an organic producer. He picks by hand, one parcel at a time. He gives the grapes a period of cold maceration, then lets the wine ferment unaided for about a month. His wines are bottled unfiltered with minimal addition of sulfites. The wine is aged in old foudres and barrels.

Michel Gahier Arbois Trousseau “Grands Vergers” 2009: 
I don’t know about you, but I get nervous in the presence of a vin de garde with minimal sulfites added. Even more nervous when I know the wine made a bumpy transition from Asheville up to Northampton. So when the cork came out, and the wine shimmered in the glass, smelling of roses, alpine herbs, and a bit of orange peel, the relief was palpable. On first sip, it was earthy, with stemmy black fruit--yes, even though the grapes were destemmed--with astringent tannins, some sherry-like tang from deliberate oxidation, and a mineralic, bitter finish. After some time in the glass, the tannins soften, the oxidative quality recedes, and the fruit just blooms: pretty cherry and berry flavors with notes of forest floor. We drank it alongside some very fresh codfish and it showed like a Cote d’Or country cousin, true to its alpine terroir. Imported by Neal Rosenthal.

The experience was bittersweet, in that this was the last of the bottles purchased at the now long-defunct Vinsite, a brief, brave experiment in retailing only “natural” wines.