There is a big Jura wine tasting today in Manhattan, the second such event. I learned a tremendous amount at last year's event and I'm excited to take part in today's event. A steady flow of Jura wine makers has descended upon NYC for this tasting, and yesterday, completely by chance, I had the opportunity to observe one of them on a "work-with," that thing wine makers do with their importers when they're in town - going to various retail shops together to show the wines.
On my late lunch break I was at an established and well respected upper-west-side wine retailer (when searching for specific Santorini wines, one must be willing to travel from Brooklyn) and a man and woman walked in. They both looked a bit weary, they had shoulder bags with them, and they stood and waited patiently near a little table with empty glasses on it.
I understood that they were waiting to show their wines to the buyer at the store. When the buyer came over, the woman introduced the man (didn't hear his name) as a wine maker from the Jura. My ears perked up - of course! They're in town, I thought, and they're probably spending their days working the retail circuit with their "handlers," the people who represent their wines in NYC. I buried my nose in the Greek wine section which was conveniently located near the tasting table, but I kept my ears open. I wanted to hear this conversation.
The wine maker, in perfect English, politely asked the buyer, a handsome young fellow, if he was familiar with Jura wines. "Yeah,sure," he said. "Okay," said the wine maker, " We have a Chardonnay, a Savagnin, and a Pinot Noir for tasting," and he began to pour wine. The buyer took out a little notebook and pen. He swirled his glass, sniffed, tasted, aerated loudly, spat, made a few notes, looked up at the wine maker and said "Yeah, the Jura, stars of the southwest in France," and smiled.
The wine maker looked confused, as if he thought his English might be failing him. "Again?" he said. "Stars of the southwest in France, the Jura!" The buyer repeated. The woman, the wine maker's handler, also looked confused. The whole thing made me feel so sad for everyone present that I couldn't help myself. I turned from the Greek wines and I said to the buyer "You're thinking of Jurançon. This guy is from the Jura, in the north east near Switzerland."
"Yes, yes, the Jura," the wine maker said. The buyer just put his nose back in his glass and kept writing in his notebook.
Imagine my delight when later that same evening at a Jura dinner put on by the folks at Chambers Street Wines, this very same wine maker walked in. I recognized him instantly and told him the story of what I had seen. The saddest part is that although Jean-Michel remembered what had happened at that store, it clearly was not the most annoying or hopeless moment of his day.
I'm happy to tell you that Jean-Michel Petit's wines are excellent. Chardonnays from marl and limestone soils are expressive of their respective terroirs (and the plots are merely 400 meters from one another), but my favorite is probably the structured, balanced, and utterly delicious Poulsard. Domaine de la Renardière's wines are imported by Willette Wines, and they are worth seeking out if you like Jura wine.
But c'mon, what's going on out there, retailers? Balls are being dropped. In fact, I've seen several odd happenings at retail shops recently, and I'll share them in another post. Several of them coincidentally involve Jura wines too.