Meet the Winemaker: Cédric Ducoté, Vigneron at Domaine Rolet, Jura

Bonjour Cédric, from where do you come?   I come from the South of Burgundy, a gateway to the sun where the architecture of the Mâconnais calls for you to enjoy the outdoors. A small village called Prissé at the foot of the Grand Site Solutré/Vergisson. My parents are vignerons.

What do you enjoy in life? To be outside above all else, and preferably far from the crowds, to enjoy nature which offers us unique moments of communion each time. Each season has its own activity and wide open spaces. I am a passionate hunter and also a mycologist (studying mushrooms), a winning combo for cooking and gourmet food! 

For me, when you say hunter, you also say hunter’s horn. A very difficult instrument to master… I like to rehearse in the evenings on the estate before going home. The resonance is interesting and allows me to refine my notes. It’s an instrument that allows us to progress each time but can be cruel if we stop making the effort… The trumpet fanfares are my daily musical life in the car!

I’m a big fan of mountains all year round. Each summer season I complete my book of ascents 
a little more. I love spending time in the Mont-Blanc Massif and the highest summit of Europe has been one of my greatest personal challenges. For the little anecdote, the last ascent of Mont-Blanc dates back to 2016 with my father and brother.

BUT I am not a hermit who doesn’t want to see anyone… I have spent the last 12 years travelling the globe to share the good word of our unique terroirs! I reached the moon in the distance travelled by plane, which is already quite a feat at a time when ecological consciousness is reminding us of our obligations to preserve our planet. This is why we initiated the conversion of our work philosophy in 2018. I enjoyed discovering all those corners of the world where wine is called fraternity. I am lucky to have a job that combines history, terroir, traditions and travel!

What don’t you enjoy?
I am quite resistant to “un-questioning”, whether personal or professional, that wants us to settle into a kind of immutable daily routine, considering that we are right. To live on our achievements is a choice but to be open to changes, and therefore to risks, is the future.
I don’t like rap music either, which doesn’t mix well with wine – but I respect its amateurs.


Which vintage did you like to vinify?
2019 was the real first vintage since the beginning of this Jura adventure! A vintage which suffered severely from the May frost (-90% on some plots) but which paved the way for a rebirth of our working philosophy.

When did you decide to work in wine production?
Since always that would be “réponse de Normand”...  I can say oui and non... I’ve been cradled in the vines since I can remember, yes ! And as many teenagers don’t want to live the same life as their parents, I haven’t escaped it. So I followed a general curriculum (Bac S Spé Mathematics then Faculty of Biology option Chemistry-Biochemistry in Dijon). I then went to Paris to study genetics and it was at this very moment, after a semester far from the vines and the winegrowing environment, that it all clicked.
So I joined a winery to work there before joining the IUVV in Dijon and graduated as an oenologist in 2007. 


What do you like about the Jura region? How does it compare to Burgundy?    
The Jura offers everything within easy reach for those who love nature: wine, gastronomy, agriculture, lakes, forests and mountains. In addition to this, there is a rich cultural heritage and history: we could quote the famous motto of the Franche-Comté region: ‘Comtois rendez vous nenni ma foi’, a brevity that reflects the personality of the Jura people: passionate and determined!
It is a region also called ‘Le Petit Québec’ which resonates with my heart, having lived for two years in the Belle Province!

If we compare it to Burgundy by means of a few similarities, I would say that it is a mirror image of a vineyard, offering however more geological diversity and exposure thanks to the remoteness of the Jura landscape. Mirror also because the two face each other, separated by the Saône (Bresse) plain which helped to create the hillsides when it collapsed. We work with 2 common grape varieties: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which show themselves very differently in their expressions.

What makes the plots in Rolet’s vineyard so special?
What makes the parcels of the estate special is their geographical and therefore geological diversity where the emphasis on parcels makes sense. Patience!

What work are you currently doing in the vineyards?  Does the estate wish to convert to organic viticulture?  Does the climate make it easy to implement?
 We finished the vine training work just in time for the first budburst and are now starting the transplanting (replacement) and planting work. 

We are increasing (by nearly double) the areas worked in organic viticulture this year with 15 ha of herbicide-free vines!  We are doing this work with Louis Morel, our passionate and resilient vineyard manager! We have already applied for certification for our first plots started last year. The weather in 2019 has been kind to this long term work project, and has allowed us to progress faster than expected. The climate is changing again this year, with a winter of 2020 that was non-existent. Let’s not forget that it is the weather that decides and guides our choices!


What makes the local grape varieties so interesting?

C : A domain is also a team of passionate people who are proud to work on a daily basis for this project. I will now hand over to Jocelyn Broncard, cellar master of Domaine Rolet.

J : The particularity of the Poulsard, Savagnin and Trousseau grape varieties is first of all that they are endemic (indigenous) varieties that can only be found in the Jura, apart from a few vines in Switzerland (Heida = Savagnin), in the Bugey (Poulsard) or in Portugal (Trousseau = Bastardo)…

Poulsard is a red grape variety with a very thin skin, bringing very little tannin to the wine. It is complicated in the vineyard and requires a lot of lifting because of its predisposition to “fall over”, and in vinification as it tends to reduce. It is a fragile grape variety that cannot be crushed, so we at Domaine Rolet do not crush it, we do not crush it and we do not sulphite it either to limit the reduction in vinification. We will try to vinify it at a rather low temperature for a red wine, around 25°C, in order to preserve all the fruit. The vinification lasted almost 1 month in 2019, a first!

Trousseau is a red grape variety with a thicker skin giving more structure to the wine.  I tend to work it more in vinification – cold pre-fermentation maceration, daily pumping over during fermentation and hot post-fermentation phase – for a total tank time of almost a month.

These red grape varieties are more and more appreciated and sought after, firstly for their originality but above all for their pleasurable drinkability and accessibility (supple tannins, fresh aromas).

Savagnin is a grape variety which has the particularity of having both a good acid potential and a high potential degree of alcohol when it is ripe, which is why it is adapted to the vinification of Vin Jaune.
It belongs to the Traminer grape family and when it is vinified “ouillé” (topped-up barrels), we find aromas close to those of Alsace wines, with exotic fruits, citrus fruits and even sometimes petrol notes. Try our Savagnin ouillé (also called Naturé)!

But it is best known, above all, because it is the only grape variety authorized for making vin jaune.

Can you tell us about the particular vinification of Vin Jaune? 

J : To make vin jaune, the Savagnin is pressed, then after a light settling, a classic white wine making process is carried out, i.e. an alcoholic then malolactic fermentation in tank.  It will then be racked, and put into barrel, and then aged for 6 years and 3 months minimum, without topping up, thanks to the appearance of a veil of yeasts on the surface (sous voile). We can only follow its evolution by sampling and analysing each barrel twice a year. The key words will therefore be surveillance and patience! Beforehand, it will be necessary to make sure that the base wine meets all the physical and chemical conditions to be in the best possible condition. The barrels will also have to undergo a drastic cleaning in order to avoid potential problems of acetic contamination.

We have 2 complementary maturing cellars for our Savagnin de voile:One is cool and humid and was built in the 14th century with Romanesque architecture, which will tend to reinforce the delicate/mineral and alcoholic characteristics of the Savagnin.The other is rather dry and temperate under the roof, in the old style, which will on the contrary assert the typicality and produce more heady wines.It is the blend of these two atmospheres that gives our Vins Jaunes all their identity and complexity. Proof of this is the awards that we win every year!

What is the Jura profile of wines made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes?
J: With Pinot Noir, the idea is not to compete with the Pinot Noir of Burgundy.  Our climatology and soils being our own, are different from those of our colleagues. We no longer work with Pinot Noir as a single grape variety since 2018; however, it is very interesting in blending with the other red grape varieties of the Jura in order to bring structure and colour. It is also remarkable in direct pressing for the production of juicy and fruity sparkling wines. It is traditionally vinified as in Burgundy, with punching down of the cap and maturing in barrels, but I think it would be more interesting to vinify it whole bunches with maturing in tanks in order to preserve its fruity and easy to drink character as much as possible. This is the aim of the next trials.
With Chardonnay, the big difference between Burgundy and Jura Chardonnays is the difference in acidity: Jura Chardonnays are much more acidic, giving the whites an enormous ageing potential. The differences that can be found between the different Jura appellations are mainly due to the differences in soils; clay and limestone in L’Étoile and Côtes du Jura, where the Chardonnays bring a lot of minerality, whereas the marly soils in Arboisproduce more powerful and richer Chardonnays.

What you like in a wine: a wine that you can age? A wine that you can drink right away? 
C: I am both a person in a hurry and a patient person: I never buy a bottle by the single unit, but always by three bottles, or even three boxes: 1 nearby to treat myself immediately, 1 at the bottom of the stairs and 1 at the back of the cellar to give it time. I always regret having waited too long rather than not enough.

The key is to be able to offer a wine that can be enjoyed young, while retaining its ageing potential: let’s not forget that a wine is an ode to time. In a world that is going faster and faster we often forget this, and our magnum library is there to remind us of it!

However, not everyone would appreciate a well-aged bottle of wine.  Tertiary notes have to be understood!

Domaine Rolet has a wine library that could make collectors green with envy, what is the oldest vintage available?
1979! There is something for everyone. We have superb verticals of single grape varieties or white and red blends, and Vin Jaune of course !

What food/wine pairings do you like the most?
I consider that there are no ideal food and wine combinations. Each element will meet our expectations and will be sufficient as long as we share a good time. The moment counts as much as the association.

BUT being a lover of hunting girolles (chanterelles), I like to prepare them most of the time with garlic/parsley or in cream which will likely pair perfectly with an oxidative Arbois Blanc Tradition.

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