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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Domaine Lise et Bertrand Jousset Premier Rendez-vous

France (Loire)

chenin blanc

My introduction to this wine came ten months ago at great wine shop in the Loire town of Cholet — Les Compagnons Cavistes. David proved very helpful when I told him what I was looking for – chenin blanc, preferably from young winemakers with a strong passion for their vines, from a relatively new domaine perhaps, but one quickly making a name for itself. Among others I was led to this offering from Lise and Betrand Jousset in the Montlouis-sur-Loire appellation. A few days later I happened upon the exterior of the church in Candes-Saint-Martin — a perfect spot for the wine to have its picture taken.

Domaine Lise et Bertrand Jousset Premier Rendez-vous 2008

A light, airy straw colour, emitting delicate floral/mineral notes. Somewhat restrained but there’s a pleasant, almost green almond aroma to welcome the taste. Fresh, if, as yet, slightly tight. Dry and pleasantly austere, with very limited oak. Altogether good-natured, and nicely balanced. Fine structure. As an entry-level wine it indicates the focused frame of mind of this domaine. The bottle came from the hands of caring winemakers.  $

Their top chenin blanc is called Singulier, which I didn’t try, but all indications are it is exceptional. If I sample just one wine from a domaine I sometimes prefer the entry-level wine, for it can be a very strong indicator of the seriousness of the winemakers. Indeed Lise and Bertrand Jousset are out to impress, and that they have done in a few short years.

Their acquisition of the property dates to 2004. Lise was a sommelière in Paris and Bertrand, with six years in the French army and a number of peace-keeping tours, had recently emerged from formal viticulture studies and had worked vineyards in various parts of France. Their vision was to take over a domaine and make chenin blanc, a varietal Bertrand had come to especially appreciate for the way it responded to terroir.

Their vision materialized rather more quickly than they had expected. A friend told them of a small property (about 10 hectares) made up of mostly older vines on a plateau behind the village of Husseau, in Montlouis. It was then an appellation often bypassed in favour of its more worldly neighbour Vouvray. The opportunity proved too good to pass up. The first years were a tough financial challenge, especially since the couple made the decision to move the property immediately to organic producation. Older vines (most on the property are 40-70 years old) take longer to overcome the shock of such sudden change. Yields went down, costs went up. The hailstorms of 2005 didn’t help. But the Joussets perservered and the promise of the vines has emerged beautifully.

Here the soil is sandy, clay flint over a base of 100-million-year-old limestone. Bertrand’s true love is his work in the vineyards, making the most of the great potential of the soil. But another aspect of the estate that had attracted the couple was its multi-level chai overlooking the Valley. Once the very thorough hand-picking takes place in mid-October, the grapes are gently pressed horizontally, after which the full advantages of gravity come into play , avoiding the oxidation that accompanies pumping. The juice flows to another level for the settling of the lees, moving into 225 and 400-litre oak barrels (1-6 years old) for fermentation using only indigenous yeasts. There it remains on the lees for several months, before bottling at the end of May.

And into cases, now anticipating a very welcomed rendez-vous with wine lovers in several countries world-wide. (Including my own, although visiting Calgary this week all I had were the good memories and the wine’s label.)


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