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Purveyor of uncommon wine, spirits & beer.

Best Wine You've Never Heard of #002

scott

Domaine de la Tournelle | Fleur de Savagnin Jura, France.

This is hill country. Not the hill country of blues fame and not Texas hill country, although those are lovely places in their own right. This is hill country à la Française. Here the towering spine of the Alps comes tumbling down into a collar of Jurassic-era limestone and marl ridges. Here the cheese is made in the same rustic methods that were established by the medieval serfs who first created Comté, Morbier and Bleu de Gex. Here the hilltops are capped by cliffside chateaux and sprawling forest, and the southerly slopes are zippered with vines yielding ancient grape varietals that make some of the world's most austere, most authentic wines.

Of the wine appellations within Côtes de Jura, Arbois is the most important. And here we find Domaine de la Tournelle. Husband/wife vignerons duo Evelyne and Pascal Clairet started working their six hectares in 1991, and have since gained recognition as one of the most celebrated producers in the region. And the Fleur de Savagnin is one of their best.

Tournelle

Savagnin (not Sauvignon) is a white grape known for its thick skins as well as its concentration of sugars and its high retention of acidity. The sugars in this case don't translate to sweetness in the wine, au contraire, this wine is anything but sweet. They do give the wine a certain heft, a fullness of body, to which the acidity plays counterpoint. In the case of Tournelle, the acidity wins the day. Theirs is made in a brisk and refreshing style that pairs perfectly with warm evenings, saffron-inflected mussels and of course, Morbier cheese.

If it's true you've never heard of it, that's likely because there simply isn't much of it made. The Savagnin grape is little worked with outside of the Jura (in Germany it's known as Traminer, also rare), and the production levels inside this region is as low as any major wine region on Earth. It's old school, all picked by hand and selected for quality at the vine. All non-interventionalist in the cellar. All natural in the bottle. All good going down.