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'Unicorns of the Jura' Wine event at L'Atitude 51, Cork

'Unicorns of the Jura' Wine event at L'Atitude 51, Cork

Thursday 23rd May, 2024

This evening we had the pleasure of introducing some very rare gems from the Jura to L'Atitude 51 customers. A mix of people from the Trade and regular L'Atitude events followers; it was an ideal audience and the best opportunity to open these wines which are so difficult to get, due to tiny production and very high demand. Sharing them with a maximum of interested people is Beverley and Davide's motto (Owner and Manager of L'Atitude)

The Jura, the tiniest of all French Appellation, producing between 0.2 to 0.5% of the country's production has had a revival of late, thanks to some of the very best Natural wine producers who hailed from this region. Long are gone the rustic, oxydative style of late, now the wines are 'ouillé' (barrels are constantly topped up to avoid the said oxydative style); they boast incredible precision, intensity and all sorts of minerals seem to make their way into these wines. When they hit right, they are unreal.

Average holdings for these growers are between 4.5 to 7 ha, and with the rude climate - late frost, heavy rain during flowering period, mildew, odium and hail storms, it is very rare indeed for them to ever have a full harvest. Combine this with tiny yields, very long elevages to see the fermentation through, and for most, a total dedication to only releasing the wines when perfectly ready; it is easy to imagine how tiny is their production.

On top of this, most of these growers have reached cult status in the World of Natural wines and beyond, their wines being in very high demand.

In this context, we opened and showcased 5 bottles, plus a mise-en-bouche from Les Cavarodes, a tiny production Mousseux 'La Bulette' (Sparkling, made from Chardonnay) to wet the palate.

In pure Jura style, we tasted the reds, then the whites.

Wine 1 came from Les Cavarodes also, a tiny estate located at the border between Jura and Doubs departments. The 4.5-ha farm is owned and run by Etienne Thiebaud, a disciple of late Pascal Clairet of La Tournelle.

Les Cavarodes, Pinot Noir 'Lumachelles' from the cool and austere 2021 vintage, was light, nervous and zesty. Beautiful Pinot character shines through, the finish was clean and long.

Wine 2 from one of the appellation's tenor, Jean-François Ganevat. JF or Fanfan needs very little introduction, he represents the 14th generation of this Jura vigneron family (since 1650!). He learned his trade in Burgundy, at Domaine Morey and returned to take over the family estate with his sister Anne in 1998. Today Ganevat is making some of the most exhilarating and sought-after wines in France, so much so, he was only the second Natural wine grower to be made 'Vigneron of the Year' by Revue des Vins de France. The estate is located in Rotalier, Southern Jura.

Domaine Jean-François Ganevat, Plein Sud 'Trousseau' from the solar and hot 2020 vintage, showed a lot of freshness and low alcohol (12%). The nose was enticing, a basket-full of red fruit, with almond and seeds, the palate was tightly knit and firm initially, it opened up with airing to a beautiful mouthful of ripe red fruit with perfect acidity and minerals.

In came the whites, with Wine 3 - whites are arguably, the real stars of the Jura. Domaine Bruyère-Houillon, from the village of Pupillin is a tiny 5-ha farm, owned and run by Renaud Bruyère and Adeline Houillon, who worked with Pierre Overnoy. They started in 2011, following the same ethics as legendary Pierre Overnoy. The wines quickly were recognised as some of the very best of the appellation.

Bruyère-Houillon Chardonnay 'La Croix Rouge' 2018 probably needed more time to open up (all bottles were opened 3 hours before kick-off and this one was double-decanted). Nevertheless, the wine was crisp, well delineated and impressive. The clean fruit with its backbone of minerals, were dancing on the tongue. From this wine onwards we started counting minutes, rather than seconds, when measuring its length. A beautiful bottle of wine, 6 years-old and with an ageing potential of double this.

Wine 4 was from the father of Natural wine, Pierre Overnoy. An immensely modest and humble 87-year old, semi-retired farmer and vigneron, who passed on his estate, his know-how and his beautiful approach to life, farming and winemaking to Emmanuel Houillon in 2001. Emmanuel came to work as an apprentice, more than a decade earlier, when he was a teenager and never left.

Pierre took over the vines side of the family farm in 1964, and decided then he would farm the traditional way. At the time, this meant without the newly 'discovered' and heavily promoted chemicals - herbicides, insecticides and whatever other cides. In the 80's he met Jacques Neauport (Jules Chauvet's aide), who was assisting vignerons to make great wines without the addition of SO2. Pierre never looked back, and despite extreme difficulty to sell his wines, the breakthrough came in the 90's when Japan and US importers discovered his wines. The sales before that were mostly directed towards the Paris natural wine scene, Alain Chapel's restaurant and some early private customers, found of Pierre's style.

Today, Pierre and Emmanuel could sell their entire harvest 3/4 times over, they apply the longest elevage ever seen anywhere, three weeks ago we received our yearly allocation, 6 half bottles of 1998 Savagnin ouillé were part of it. The wine remained and aged slowly in a large barrel for more than 20 years followed by 2 or 3 more years in these half bottles before release. This is an example which shows how far these two are prepared to go in order to obtain the best wine possible. Mind blowing.

Overnoy-Houillon, Chardonnay 2017 was monumental, a magical mix of subtlety and power, finesse and intensity. It is sometimes hard to describe certain wines with words, via tasting notes when what they trigger is emotion rather than just taste and smell. This was one such wine. Perfectly aired, served at the right temperature and shared with the perfect audience, it sang and danced on our palates for several minutes. 

Wine 5: Where to go from there, I hear you ask - well we had a bit of a dilemna, sometimes the wines of Overnoy-Houillon can show a little shy and austere, and are rarely the wines that shout the loudest. And sometimes they explode in something grandiose, like the above. At the opening of the wine, it is difficult to see which way they will go.

With this in mind, and knowing the true explosive potential of the wines of Master Kenjiro Kagami of Domaine des Miroirs, we decided his Savagnin 2019 had the right pedigree to finished such a wonderful tasting.

Kenjiro always loved natural wines, so much so he decided one day to leave his well-paid job as engineer at Hitachi Corp. in Japan to pursue what seemd like the craziest dream of all, learning how to make wine and set up an estate in far-away France. After completing an oenology course, he worked for Comte de Vögue in Chambolle-Musigny (Burgundy), then three natural wine growers, Thierry Allemand, Bruno Schuller and finally JF Ganevat. Making Jura-style wines was Kenjiro's dream, so he was going to settle in Jura. Jean-François Ganevat helped him to find a vineyard and chai in Grusses, a nearby village to Rotalier, in Southern Jura.

A 5-ha garden as Kenjiro refers to it, where cover crop and surrounding trees and bushes are left to grow wild. His yields are tiny at best of time, and almost inexistant when the elements work against him (as it has been the case for the last few years). From his first vintage in 2011, the wines captured the imagination, they have become some of the most sought-after anywhere in the World.

Domaine des Miroirs, Entre-Deux-Bleus Savagnin 2019: From the deep, almost amber colour of the wine to its purely scented nose of yellow fruit, fruit stones and crushed rocks, we knew we had something very special in our glasses. An exceptional presence on the palate, deeply mineral, 'stone juice' came to mind, intense fruit flavours mingling with clear-cut fruit acidity. The wine breathe freedom, it danced its way through the multiple layers of flavours. Complex, lengthy, balanced, precise, unique.

Thank you to L'Atitude Team for organising this beautiful event and for gathering such a lovely group of people.






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One for the books as Colm put it.

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Note Bar. Bistro. Bureau - Fenian Street, Dublin 2

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L’Atitude 51 - Union Quay, Cork City

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The Universal - William Street, Galway

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See you all there!


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