Aout 2017 In the Jura with Domaine Rolet

Preparing vintage 2017 at domaine Rolet

In this report from our recent vineyard visit you will find :
  • A description of the Domaine’s location and parcels
  • A note on the 2017 vintage – black frost in spring
  • Typicity of the terroir and soils
  • Tasting notes on wines available today

Tasting : Domaine Rolet
3 August, 2017

The beauty of the Jura is something that is hard to describe to people that have never been here before.  Historical medieval chateaus and buildings dot the vineyard landscape – a small reminder when the region was covered with nearly 20,000 HA of vines.  Wild forests have encroached upon the former vineyards, with ancient crumbling trellises hidden yet still visible, if you know where to look for them.

The air is humid and heavy – it is the peak of summertime in the Jura. It is a welcome relief to enter the climate-controlled winery.  Mr. Rolet greets me at his Domaine, perched just above the Route de Dole, almost like a watchful neighbour looking on the comings and goings to and from the local city of Arbois.

The building has been located on Rolet property since 1978, with the decision to be built there a result of the proximity to a neighbouring parcel of land.  Today, Domain Rolet owns 65 ha of land in the Jura region and on 3 appellations : Arbois, Côtes du Jura and l’Etoile. Their vineyard covers part of best slopes in Jura, and a big effort is made to select the best exposure and soil since for them, only best grapes will produce great wines.

Walking through the cellars, your senses are affronted by the wonders of Domaine Rolet:  the air is perfumed with heady scents of ageing Macvin, a cave of “baby” vin jaune is nestled just next door, stacks of cremant in gyro pallets are ready and waiting for their next spin, and then finally the cellar of sleeping clavelin and vintage magnum bottles, dating back to 1979 and full of all styles of wine: Trousseau, Pinot Noir, Savagnin, Vin Jaune or Vin de Paille.  I am grinning ear-to-ear like a young child in a candy shop – a Jura lover’s paradise !


Photo 1 : Pierre going in for a sniff of Vin Jaune in cask
Photo 2 : Stocks of vintage magnums dating back to 1979 (and all for sale!)

2017 Vintage – A tale of frost, wood disease and Comté

As one of the regions hardest hit from the frost of late April 2017, Domaine Rolet experienced a loss of about 50-60% of their grapes in their vineyards.  Touring a particular 7 Ha parcel of chardonnay and poulsard vines with Mr. Rolet, it was shocking to admire the beautiful views, but also be told that there is not one grape growing there.

All is not without hope however.  From parcels that did brave the sub-zero temperatures (a succession of three days from -2°C to -6°C), there is much to look forward to for what is turning out to be an otherwise excellent vintage.  Poulsard and Pinot Noir are mid-veraison, with late-ripener Trousseau just starting to show shades of purple in the grape-skins.

Walking up and down the vineyards, there is an occasional branch of extremely dried out leaves.  It looks almost sunburnt, and when Mr. Rolet points out the problem to me on a few other neighbouring vines, he shakes his head and utters one word “ESCA”.

In what he refers to as the 21st century phylloxera, this wood-born fungal disease is starting to creep into his plantings of Trousseau and Savagnin.  What appears as one dried out cane this vintage, he assures me the following season, the other canes will also be affected, and then the vine will die soon after.  This disease is without a known treatment, with exception of replanting the dead vine.

Happily, it appears that none of Mr. Rolet’s other vineyards have been touched by the other immediate threat that is currently plaguing neighbouring vineyards – flavescence dorée transmitted throughout the vines by leafhopper.  Routinely he sends teams of his employees to search the vineyards for any hints that the disease has arrived, but so far, he is clear.

Another threat to future plantings in the region – Cows.  One cannot help but to be charmed by the local Montbéliarde, fattening up on the summer blossoms to enrich their milk for the local AOC Comté cheese production.  A competitor for vineyard space, the AOC law regulates that each cow must have 1HA of space in a pasture just for grazing.


Photo 1 : Poulsard has nearly completed veraison
Photo 2 : 7HA parcel Les Grandvaux in Cotes du Jura – not one grape on the vines due to frost

Sustainability, Soil Management, and Terroir

It was just recently in 2015 that Domaine Rolet obtained their Terra Vitis certification – a certification recognized by the French government for sustainable wine production.

Domaine Rolet has long been concerned with soil erosion and compaction in the vineyards. This is why you will always see his vines planed by rows of 5, with the 6th left unplanted – a trend that he pointed out many of his neighbours are now adopting.

A light caterpillar tractor, which won’t compact soil during treatments, will pass over these rows. In-between the rows the soil is ploughed, and there is no use of herbicides neither insecticides in the whole Rolet vineyard. Priority goes to quality with an average yield of 40 hl/ha. All harvests are made by hand with a team of 80 people harvesting during 3 to 4 weeks.

Of his 65 Ha, vineyards are planted on soils rich in both red and blue clay, and some littered with pockets of limestone and stony gravels for the Trousseau, which needs a soil that can warm up rapidly. The benefit of these soil types is that a lack of water is never a problem, even during this mini heat wave of 30°C+ weather in the Jura.


Photo 1 : Cotes du Jura Chardonnay – soil has grey and blue marl throughout
Photo 2 : Esca affected vine in Arbois, planted in red clay soils (Keuper marls)

Wines Currently Available

Red Wines

Cotes du Jura 2015 Rouge
(Poulsard 50% and Pinot Noir 50%)
Nicely structured tannins derived from red clay terroir.  Red raspberries and red plums.

Arbois 2012 Rouge Tradition
(40% Poulsard, 30% Trousseau, 30% Pinot Noir)
Raspberries, fruit forward, some savoury Pinot tannins.  A little meaty on the palate, with a touch of spice from Pinot noir.

Arbois 2011 Pinot Noir
Delicate colour with a slight rust rim beginning to appear.  Very light Pinot, with savoury meaty notes, and classic structure with notes of smoke and cured sausages.

Arbois 2012 Trousseau
Late ripening varietal, with a scent of anise that escapes the glass.  Raspberry, liquorice, herbs and dried flowers with smokey hints of BBQ meats and mossy underbrush.

Arbois 2015 Poulsard
Light bodied rust-red colour, nearly rose-like.  Nose is fresh-picked field strawberries, just mashed.  Fruity and fresh, with a hint of cured meats.

White Wines

Arbois Chardonnay 2014
Incredibly elegant, well-integrated reduction.  Yellow apple skin, brioche, ripe green apples, and extended length.  Creamy texture from vines on red clay soil.

Cotes du Jura Chardonnay 2013
Wet stones, chalky nose, citrus zest.  Very fresh and precise, crispy and crunchy acid. Textured tannins and lots of minerality and salinity.

L’Etoile 2015 Chardonnay
Blooming white flowers and green pears, very pretty and elegant. Salinity present with , a touch of vanilla; great length, long mouth.

Naturé du Jura 2016 Savagnin Ouillé
Pale straw-white colour. Lemoney nose, with a touch of lactic notes from lees contact. Yeasty, but full of biscuits, white peaches, and light toast.

Aperitif and Dessert Wines

2010 Arbois Vin Jaune
Nutty, toasted hazelnuts, almonds and slight smoky scent.  Mouth has flavours of yeast, lemon and grapefruit zest.

2009 Arbois Vin Jaune
Very similar to 2010, but flavours in the mouth are longer and the tannins are a little rounder.  Nutty with classic notes of yeast, curry to finish.

2009 Cotes du Jura Vin Jaune
Fresher than Arbois, but much more salinity and minerality.  Crisp acidity, with a smoky palate of morels and hazelnuts.

Macvin Blanc
Honeyed raisins on toast, cereal, infused chamomile tea, candied fruits and clean freshness.

Macvin Rouge
Cherries, wild forest berries, dates, prunes, raisins, Christmas cake, baking spices, ginger and Earl Grey tea.

2013 Vin de Paille
Well-balanced and long length in the mouth, full of notes of dried mango, figs, apricots, peaches.

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