Don’t look for Julien Labet wines on the shelves of our Crown corporation. They are now sold in lottery at, once a year, or they can be enjoyed in restaurants. That didn’t stop us from wanting to meet the Jura star during his visit to the last Montréal en lumière.

To think that seven or eight years ago, you could quite easily buy the “little” cuvée, Fleur, straight off the shelves, for $25. Today, it takes $47 and a subscription to the Oenopole agency newsletter to know the arrival dates. The other slightly more expensive labels (Fleur de savagnin, Les Varrons, etc.) sell out just as quickly.

But rest assured, even in France, you will find it difficult to buy the estate’s wines. The few times we came across his precious bottles in the City of Light, in May 2022, they were on the top shelf of the cellar, with the mention “reserved”.

What happened ? Admittedly, there is a widespread enthusiasm for the best wines of the Jura. Certainly, the fine reputation of the Labets — brother Romain and sister Charline are also part of the adventure — has spread with cannons of incredible finesse.

But what causes scarcity is also a matter of volumes and changing climate. The Jura may be a giant in terms of fame, but it is a very small department which represents only 0.2% of the French vineyard. What’s more, very frequent spring frosts can decimate up to 80% of the yield, as in 2021. The heat also gets involved, sometimes leading to over-ripeness which is more difficult to work with in this time when the taste for freshness is king.

“I think we’ll try to find some concrete vats. When you have warmer vintages, you don’t want to add even more wood. In the 2000s, we were looking for over-ripeness so we moved from casks [barrels with a very large capacity] to barrels [about 200 liters], to add fat. There, we are taking the opposite path, to redeem wrath. »

Already, the estate, which extends over 14 hectares, is made up of 45 plots. Each of them is pressed and matured individually in small containers to express the purest terroir.

“Even the larger cuvées, we separate them. That way, when it goes off the rails, it doesn’t go off the rails over the whole cuvée. We assemble later after several tastings. Lees are used a lot to treat wines. We will rack the wine that is not going so well [action of decanting to remove unwanted deposits — or lees —], then add healthy lees. We will also use time as a remedy. Time settles many things. And if it really goes off the rails, we put in a gram of sulfur, that’s all!

“There is also a very educational side to keeping our vintages separate,” continues Julien Labet. Maybe we would make a great chardonnay by assembling all the chardos. But I would lose this educational side and this more intimate knowledge of each plot. »

In short, to make a wine with as few chemical additions as possible, but aiming for straightness and precision, you should not just “let the wine go”. Observation, tasting, questions, creativity, adaptation at all times are part of the game.

Three weeks ago, the restaurant Vin Mon Lapin held a “savagnin” evening, a grape variety that could not be more Jura. It is with this grape that we make the emblematic yellow wine, aged under a veil of yeast, which gives it notes of nuts and toast. But it can also produce wines with a slightly less marked character. Savagnin is related to the Traminer family, but its aromas are elsewhere, except when it has been macerated with its skins, “orange wine” style. Then, its floral side is revealed and you almost think you’re drinking gewurztraminer.

At least that’s what this evening at Vin Mon Rabbit revealed to us, where a good dozen cuvées from different producers were expressed. To begin with, there were those of the Vignoble La Bauge, Les beaux jus collection. Ça va gnin 2020 is a white produced in a rather classic way, aged in barrels. “We waited a long time for it,” says winemaker Steve Beauséjour, who seems very proud of this beautiful cuvée with a nose and mouthfeel that are both rich in butterscotch and fresh with vegetal notes.

It was Simon Naud, owner of La Bauge and principal winemaker, who planted Savagnin vines in 2013, after returning from a trip to Valais, Switzerland. “There they call it heida,” he tells us. With the 2021 harvest, Steve and Simon attempted a 10-day maceration on the skins. They initially wanted to try an oxidative method, but backed off when volatile acidity presented itself. The result is very aromatic, not quite set yet, but with a bit of time, who knows! In both cases, these are very promising savagnins from here.

In Quebec, Pinard et filles has Savagnin vines planted in 2011 in its Magog vineyard. The grapes are found in increasing proportion (blended with Chardonnay) in the Chardonneret cuvée. Le Clos de l’orme blanc, in Saint-Armand, produced its Plume 2021 with 100% savagnin. Keep an eye on the province’s wine lists!

You can buy Ça va gnin 2020 at Pascal le Boucher, in Montreal, and at Les Minettes, in Laval, and drink it in several restaurants such as Vin monrabbit, Lundis au soleil, Côté Est (Kamouraska) and Battuto (Quebec), between others. But hurry, because only one barrel (17 cases of 12 bottles) was produced. When we say it’s rare!