Domaine Jacques Puffeney

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France, Jura

Many of you know already that Jacques Puffeney, the sage of Jura, has just completed his last vintage and is going to enjoy a well-earned retirement with his wife Monique.

Jacques is a gentle but incredibly determined and hard-working character who is so well respected amongst his peers, that during my first ever fact-finding excursion to Jura, other vignerons kept telling me unsolicited, that I must visit him! He is a legend, and I am pleased with the reverence that he is offered in the “sommelier circles” of Paris, Sydney, Melbourne and the like. Paris especially is abuzz with the news of his retirement and the mystery of what will happen next and if anyone will take over.

For those of you who are not familiar with this small 7.5ha estate, Jacques Puffeney’s parents owned a tiny vineyard in the village of Montigny Les Arsures (a small satellite village of Arbois). Jacques worked his first vintage at age 17, and he also worked simultaneously as a “saleur de Comté”, helping to make the fabled cheese of his region. The Puffeney domaine, slowly growing over Jacques’ 51 vintages, now has vineyards in Montigny and the surrounding villages and encompasses 7.5 hectares, all in the appellation of Arbois. His fame and respect from other vignerons has been recognized throughout France and has earned him the nickname among the wine trade “the Pope of Arbois”.

“Finesse and elegance characterize his wines…  Forced to reduce the size of the domain because of his age and working alone, Jacques Puffeney embodies to our eyes the great wine tradition of Jura: we have awarded his third star.” LRVF

Puffeneny’s proprietary white blend is a assemblage of savagnin [flor-yeast aged] and chardonnay [aged in the Burgundian way]. The result of this is an idiosyncratic blend that is somewhat reminiscent of fino sherry with its high-toned, delicately funky nose and nutty character, but it is rounded out a little by the chardonnay. Its explosive palate displays hints of white peach, walnut, flint and brown spices with a complexity that really is mind boggling.

The chardonnay is fermented and aged in the Burgundian fashion. Alpine fresh with a discernable Jurassic ‘nutty’ tang, It has a rugged, mountain-like quality allied to an amazing purity of flavour. This chardonnay is one of the most strikingly different examples of this ‘common’ variety we have tasted.

SAVAGNIN “…. This is the real thing, from the best producer in Arbois, in eastern France. It has a disarming but alluring fino sherry character when you smell it (some of the wine is aged in old barrels under a layer of flor yeast), but tastes wonderfully fresh, with chardonnay-like almond kernel and lemon-pith complexity. A stunning accompaniment to Comté cheese.” Max Allen Gourmet Wine Traveller.

This is a white from the savagnin varietal [no relation to sauvignon], that is matured “a la sherry style” in barrel, without topping, for 6 years! The resulting wine has heightened acidity, a reduction in volume due to evaporation of around 40%, increased concentration and amazing complexity due to ageing. The surface-growing ‘flor’ yeast adds its signature “nutty” [fino and amontillado] aromas and flavours while the savagnin’s naturally high acidity maintains freshness and tang. The end result is a truly unique wine with walnut, mushroom and dried orange peel nuances, together with melted butter, floral and stone-fruit notes.

Trousseau is one of the two principal dark grape varieties indigenous to the Jura, and is the more robust and deeply flavoured of the two, although it is in serious decline as Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, become ever more popular. This a travesty as the top examples, such as this 08 Puffeney bottling, are ultra-pure & aromatic with gamey notes allied with a redcurrant fruitiness; a lovely example of earth-to-glass purity. It is a consummate ‘chefs’ wine too; its understated character offers plenty of scope in the food matching arena.

Poulsard, the 2nd of Jura’s indigenous red grapes, is a large, thin-skinned and rather lightly coloured grape. This combination lends itself to long fermenting on the skins, a process that can yield the off-beat but intriguing combination of light body and flavours that are intriguingly both delicate and complex at the same time. Shrouded in beautiful decay, blood orange & tart cherries and white pepper meet crisp acidity and smooth but perceptible tannins on the palate. Its lighter, structured style, not unlike a Loire red, suggests pairing with poultry, pork or cheese.

This is a great, thought-provoking example of cool climate pinot noir; fully ripe, there is the Jurassic, jagged mountain-like quality to the fruit and structure with an underlay of fine crunchy acids. It’s lifted and fragrant with red fruits and high tones of herbs and mouth cleansing acid. On the palate you’ll find brilliant, pure dark cherry and rhubarb fruit nuances followed by a subtle mineral finish. The pinot character is perfectly preserved!

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