Is Trousseau not yet part of your weekly wine rotation? It should be. For centuries, this obscure gem of a variety didn’t travel very far from its native vineyards in the Jura, but today it’s gracing the pages of avant-garde wine lists all over the world.
Trousseau complexified my understanding of the wine-grape spectrum: structured but soft; age-worthy but easy-drinking; fruit-forward but savory; light on alcohol but big on personality. It’s the Goldilocks of the wine world, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to fall in love with its versatility and charm...once you manage to find a bottle. If this is your first tryst with Trousseau, there’s no better introduction than Frédéric Lornet’s 2016 Côtes de Jura. It’s varietally pure, cleanly made, and shows deep respect for the vine’s ancestral terroir. This is the third Lornet wine we’ve featured on SommSelect for the simple reason that everything Frédéric touches turns to gold. His wines are illuminating the path forward for a region in flux; each bottle a paragon of excellence balanced on the razor’s edge between tradition and modernity. And did I mention completely irresistible? So put on your thinking cap, pour a glass, and get ready to reevaluate your list of favorite grapes.
Frédéric is the third generation of the Lornet family to steward this domaine, which was originally founded in 1974 by his grandfather, Eugene. Located in the heart of Arbois in the hillside village of Montigny Les Arsures, the property centers around an enormous 13th-century abbey sandwiched between forest and vine. Eugene spent 20 years as a cooper and grape grower before assuming the role of winemaker himself. The Lornet name has become synonymous with Jura excellence, treading that fine line between the old ways and the new. They’ve taken great pains to preserve the Jura’s traditional varieties represented in their 16 different plots of grapes, originally delimited by the monks who founded the abbey. But once those grapes come into the winery, the Lornets are not shy about introducing a cleaner, more balanced style of winemaking that emphasizes terroir over the Jura’s traditional oxidative techniques.
The vines planted at the base of the creamy limestone walls are an average of 30 years old. The plots of Trousseau soak up warmth on a southern exposure, which is particularly important for the variety to reach maturity. Its small, compact bunches thrive in the red clay and limestone of the property so yields are kept very low in order to prioritize concentration of flavor. It’s a notoriously difficult grape to grow well, and only five percent of the Jura’s total vineyards are dedicated to the variety even though it’s indigenous to the region.
Frédéric’s Trousseau is hand-harvested and carefully destemmed before undergoing fermentation in French oak foudres big enough to stand in. A regimen of frequent “pump-overs” (pumping juice from the bottom of the tank and spraying it over the “cap” of skins floating on top) extracts moderate tannins from Trousseau’s thick-skinned (but lightly colored) berries. Fermentation generally lasts 10 days before the wine is moved into barriques for a full year of softening before bottling.
And the result is downright gorgeous. What an expressive, nimble wine. I mentioned at the beginning that this is a really versatile pour and I want to emphasize that here. No need for a decanter, just serve this wine from 55-60 degrees in Burgundy stems and appreciate how the light, ruby red color seems disproportionate to the amount of flavor and aroma in your glass. It’s redolent of wild strawberries but there’s a saline, slightly gamey undertone reminiscent of good prosciutto. The red fruit intensifies on the palate with Rainier cherries, light baking spice, and bright white pepper top-notes. Tannins are fine and firm and the overall impression is of a warming, medium-bodied wine with a lot of playfulness, acidity, and the barest touch of bitterness on the finish—absolutely mouthwatering. It’s the kind of wine that disappears before you’ve had a chance to wrap your mind around it. Slow your roll with a good meal: Try some sticky, orange-glazed chicken thighs and a pile of steaming white rice. It might sound like an unusual pairing but the Trousseau will cut through the sauciness and keep your taste buds tingling long after the last sip.
Côtes du Jura
Limestone & Clay