Thursday, June 04, 2009

Wine of the Week - Tissot Arbois Poulsard

2006 Domaine Tissot Arbois Poulsard Vieille Vignes, $18, Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons. Poulsard grapes are large in size - think of those rubber super-balls that you can buy from quarter machines in front of the supermarket. And because they have such thin skin, the juice to solid matter ratio is the opposite of what wine makers look for in, say, Burgundy. The resulting wines can be light in color, although they typically have the fruit character, texture, and tannic structure of red wine.

The Jura, in eastern France right near Switzerland, is only place I know of where Poulsard is grown. Although the region is better known for its unique white wines, there are some great Jura reds too, and retail prices are still reasonable. Red wine grapes cultivated in the region include Pinot Noir, Trousseau, and Poulsard, and although I've had lovely examples of Jura Pinot and Trousseau, my favorite Jura reds are Poulsards. They combine the fruit forward spicy charm of a good cru Beaujolais with the complex woodsy perfume of red Burgundy, and the tannic structure of Nebbiolo. Okay, maybe not quite Nebbiolo, but the wines are tannic. My personal favorite thing about Poulsard is the certain something about the nose, something fruity and savory at the same time, something like a ripe blood orange.

I am just beginning to scratch the surface of Poulsard. I've never had an aged example, and I have been assured that the wines can age beautifully - the tannins and the high acidity allow for that. And although I'm making my way through most of the wines available in NYC, there are plenty of quality Poulsards that don't make it here because they are not imported. Crazy as it might seem, the American wine market has not yet found its Poulsard voice.

Anyway, I want to talk about Tissot's Poulsard because it is an excellent wine that in a hypothetical blind tasting of Poulsards would show in the same class as wines by Overnoy/Houillon, Puffeney, and the other big shots, but Tissot's wine is half the price of Overnoy/Houillon's, and much less than Puffeney's too. In other words, it's serious and delicious wine and it is inexpensive.

Bénédicte and Stéphane Tissot run an estate of about 35 hectares with vineyards in Arbois and the Côtes du Jura, and they recently acquired land in Château-Chalon. The entire estate is biodynamically farmed with Demeter certification. Yields are kept at rigorously low levels, grapes are harvested by hand in small baskets, indigenous yeasts do the work of fermentation, and very little sulfur is used. There are over 25 different wines produced, as the Tissots believe in expressing as best they can the diverse terroir of the Jura.

The 2006 Poulsard Vieille Vignes is made without sulfur, and the wine smells and tastes incredible clean, and all of the smells and flavors have great clarity. This makes for an interesting contrast in this case, because the nose is full of underbrush and dried leaves, almost mushroomy. So this is a crystal clear dried leaf and underbrush wine we're talking about. There is lovely fruit also, bright red currant and dark plum fruit, and there is a touch of brown sugar. The wine is deeply colored and the fruit is ripe and rich, with that blood orange nuance that I love in these wines. The tannins are smooth but quite prominent right now, and there is a definite sense of gravelly rock on the finish. Not as delicate as Houillon, not as focused as Puffeney, but this is a beautiful and complete wine. It is open and joyous and it is elegant too. And it is an incredible value at about $18.


Do Bianchi said...

That wine is so crazy good... great post... you really should write a book, BrooklynGuy... you need an agent!

Anonymous said...

The tissot is excellent stuff, and their whites are fantastic too. The three producers you mentioned are a perfect primer course in poulsard, with the tissot being the middle ground between the clean puffeney wines, and the wilder overnoy. Check out tournelle for an even more extreme example of the grape done naturally.

RougeAndBlanc said...

quick question - what food would be best to compliment this interesting grape?

Cliff said...

I like this wine quite a lot, but I don't think it's as good as Tissot's "Singulier" bottling, which runs more in the Houillon/Puffeney price range. I'd put the Singulier in the same league as the other two. A few years ago, Dressner brought in the 1993 Houillon Poulsards, my first exposure to the variety. It was quite a revelation, but, at the time, they were pretty stinky. The most recent release is more cleaner without any sacrifice in character.

Cliff said...

arghh, "much cleaner...."

Samantha Dugan said...

I always find the wines from Tissot, interactive in that they don't really allow you to just quaff them, you have to think about them, I dig that. There are plenty "yummy" wines out there so I find it nice to be challenged once in a while. The sparkling wine on the other hand, pretty damn easy to drink.

Brooklynguy said...

Dr J - I don;t know what to say to that, except thank you for your exuberance. I think once you've calmed down, that you;ll see that actually I should do no such thing. But I love your posts too and sometimes the feeling is exuberant. You;d be the only reader, my friend.

Hey Cory - never seen this Tournelle, but will keep my eyes open for it.

Hey Andrew! Good to see you round here again. hought maybe yo got lost in Philly. They drink this wine before the oxidative whites in the Jura. I don;t know the classic pairings, but I want to say ham, sauteed mushrooms and herbs, hard cheeses. You could always keep it simple and do roast chicken. Also, call me crazy, but...oysters...raw.

Hi Cliff - never had the Singulier, but sounds like a must-try. I agree - the 07 Houillons are beautiful and super clean in their wildness. And please, never feel the need to correct your own grammar here again!

Hi Samantha - interactive is such a great way to describe it, I know exactly what you mean.

RougeAndBlanc said...

I got it. I found the best match is to pair it with Japanese pickled cucumbers.

The slight sweetness and saltiness of the pickles really bring out the character of the Poulsard.

Neil, your suggestion of raw oyster and ham are definitely good choices too.