Return to the Vineyard – Domaine Rolet Jura Vintage 2020 with Cédric Ducoté

Domaine Rolet, 
August 25, 2020

It’s harvest time at Domaine Rolet and it goes without saying that this is going to be unlike any harvest that the Estate has ever experienced before!

Arriving at the Estate’s winery in Arbois, the team is in full operation mode – crates of just-picked grapes are heading to the sorting table, freshly pressed Poulsard juices are flowing to their fermentation tanks, and music is blaring throughout the cellar.  

The team is already very happy with the results of 2020’s harvest!

Vineyard Manager Louis Morel & Director Cédric Ducoté

In this report you will find:

  • Following to the vegetative cycle from autumn 2019 and work in the vineyard 
  • HR Management & Hand Harvesters in a time of COVID
  • Spring Planting Developments
  • Cellar Visit & Wines Available

Autumn 2019 to Present

Compared to Harvest 2018 (5 weeks of picking), Harvest 2019 was decidedly much shorter with only two weeks of hand harvesting required due to the Spring 2019 frosts that took out much of the Poulsard grapes.

Despite the quick harvest, there was still just as much work to do for the 65 ha of vines – both for the vines that produced berries, and for those whose buds were burnt by the frost.

The usual winter season that often brings temperatures below zero degrees Celsius, and a dusting of snow, never arrived during the Months of January until March 2020.  It rained.  It rained a LOT.  Winter was humid, damp, moist, and without much sun.  

By mid-March when France’s strict quarantine was implemented (from mid-March to Mid-May), the Sun decided to come out, and the grapes were already two weeks ahead of schedule.  

Flowering was very early – mid June – and the Estate was predicting a harvest start date of April 17th, now even earlier at three weeks ahead of the usual schedule.

The red grapes began to change colour during veraison end of July/Early Agusut, and thus here we are – August 19th, 2020 – Harvest begins at Domaine Rolet.

Above: Video from the vineyards
Below: Table is set daily to receive 70 or more employees for lunch each day – and of course there is wine with every meal!

2020 Pandemic Harvest & HR Management

While the Spring season brought plenty of sunshine, the Jura itself (and greater France) was suffering from a lack of water.  As the town of Arbois and its surrounding vineyards are normally well-stocked with lot of water (streams and rivers), the grapes in the neighbouring plots of Montigny les Arsures were already ripening quite quickly.  However, the Chardonnay vines for the Crémant in the Cotes du Jura began shutting down during France’s heatwaves in late summer, thus prolonging their ripening season.  

The Domaine Rolet began with the reds of Arbois on the parcel of Montesserin then on that of Passenans while waiting for the maturity of the whites (Chardonnay and Savagnin). 

As no Rolet grape is machine harvested, Rolet’s Vineyard Manager Louis Morel leads a team of 70 hand-harvesters to pick, load, and drive all the many crates back to the winery, where a cellar team led by Jocelyn Broncard unloads, sorts, presses, and then ferments the incoming grape harvest.

This is no easy task. Aside from the usual administrative paperwork and transport/logistic coordination necessary to get the employees in the vines for a 7am start, Domaine Rolet offers a 4 course lunch comprised of entree, main, cheese, and dessert – for every single Harvest worker. This is a welcome moment of conviviality among the team.

The team has been very efficient, averaging 3-4 ha of harvested parcels per day, and Vintage 2020 should wrap up by the second week of September with Savagnin – normally when the Jura harvest begins!

Harvest of Trousseau & Poulsard in Montigny les Arsures
Photo 1 Poulsard & Photo 2 Trousseau
Photo 3 Savagnin & Photo 4 Chardonnay

Planting Vines while the Sun Shines

An additional project for the Spring was the annual planting of vines to replenish the vineyards.

Despite these strict COVID restrictions in France, the team rallied and it was all hands in the vines – cellar employees and office employees joined their colleagues in the fields preparing the vines for flowering, and assisting with the new plantings, all while bathed in the gorgeous sunshine that continued throughout the Spring.

Renewing the vineyard is a HUGE effort.  All the unsuitable and unproductive root-stocks had to be out of the plot, then the parcel had to be prepared for matching the best plants (Poulsard) to the rich “marne rouge” clay soil.  Now in August, we can see the young vines survived the heatwaves of the summer and are already sprouting young shoots.  Note that this new planting keeps with Rolet’s historical 5-row-planting formation, keeping the 6th row open for tractors to pass to avoid soil compaction.

From the date of this planting, this parcel will henceforth be forever and always under organics.  Already 6 Ha are under organic conversion at Domaine Rolet.  Over the next 2-3 years, the Estate has a very big project to have 20 ha in organic conversion.

Spring Time planting of vines – Poulsard & Chardonnay this year.

New Crémant on the Horizon

One of the joys at Domaine Rolet is their abundance of parcels throughout the Jura from the south in Le Vernois, all the way North to Arbois.  For winemakers, this is the dream to fantasise and experiment with new projects and wines for the future.

Cédric & Jocelyn have always like the idea of expanding the crémant portfolio, to make a “Sommelier’s Crémant”.  Of course, the Rolet sparkling wines (Brut, Rosé and Coeur de Chardonnay blanc de blancs) have quite a cult following already so it was impossible to think about changing their current styles – that was not their objective.  

When the decision was made to no longer make a mono-variety Pinot Noir wine in the Rolet portfolio, the logical conclusion was to use these Pinot Noir grapes in a blend with Poulsard to expand the sparkling wine range, and add a Crémant Blanc de Noir to the portfolio.

This November 2020, after 18 months in bottle, the new Cuvée will be finally ready to make its debut.  We cannot wait to taste it!


Domaine Rolet Wines available:

Domaine Rolet has a cellar of Magnums for sale – starting from 1979!  Don’t hesitate to inquire.

It’s not just the vines that needed attention during these past few months in preparation for Vintage 2020, but so did the wines in tanks and barrels at the Cellar!

Lots of new releases have been issued over the summer from Domaine Rolet:

  • Rouge Tradition 2018 (40% Poulsard 30% Trousseau 30% Pinot noir)
  • Trousseau 2018
  • Cotes du Jura Expression 2014 (75% Chardonnay et 25% Savagnin (Savagnin was aged 3 years in barrels not topped up)
  • Cotes du Jura Tradition 2013 (50% Chardonnay et 50% Savagnin (Savagnin aged 4 years in barrels not topped up)
  • Arbois Vin Jaune 2012 (aged 6 years 3 months 100% Savagnin non-ouillé – sous voile)
Photo Top left: A trio of Rolet’s rouge wines: Rouge Tradition, Poulsard and Trousseau all with their new 2018 labels

Photo Top Right: Trio of Rolet’s Oxidative white Trio: Arbois Tradition 2013, Cotes du Jura Tradition 2014 and Cotes du Jura Expression 2014

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