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Master of Wine Alsace and Jura trip (14-20 April)

Master of Wine Alsace and Jura trip (14-20 April)

Like all the best ideas in life, this trip was dreamed up over a glass of wine (well, sherry actually) during the MW Jerez trip – when I asked Olivier Humbrecht MW if he would help me organise a trip to Alsace. Olivier also suggested the idea that the tiny Jura region nearby could be combined as an interesting extension in a week’s tour.

So my challenge began – working with two small French regions with very limited budgets. I am extremely grateful to all our four hosts (CIVA and ACT in Alsace and CIVJ and Stephane Tissot in Jura) and all the winegrowers in both regions who made it all possible and their generosity with hospitality.

In Alsace, the generic body CIVA (Comite Interprofessionnel des Vins d’Alsace) hosted our first two and a half days with a programme expertly organised and immaculately executed by CIVA’s Foulques Aulagnon and Lena Martin. On the itinerary were also superb masterclasses on the potential of Sylvaner, Cremant d’Alsace and Pinot Noir led by Anne Krebiehl MW alongside leading wine producers. Evening dinners with Julian Schaal Wines at La Nouvelle Auberge and with Christian and Valerie Beyer of Domaine Emile Beyer at L’Epicurien were highlights – as well as a late-harvest focus at Hugel (members of Primum Familiae Vini), a vertical of Schlossberg Grand Cru from different growers hosted in Domaine Weinbach’s C17 kitchen and a delve into history at the enchanting Confrerie de St-Etienne providing unique insights into the region.

ACT (Alsace Crus & Terroirs) hosted our final day and evening in Alsace. Nineteen member estates of this dynamic private association, who constitute many of the top producers in the region, entertained us royally with a fascinating series of events focused on terroir-driven wines – again executed with Germanic-style precision. Highlights included an epic masterclass on Dry Riesling from Lieux-dits and Grands Crus hosted by Olivier Humbrecht MW (which we all wished we had recorded as it was so good), an exposé of top Pinot Noirs with Jacky Barthelme of Domaine Albert Mann and growers’ dinner at La Taverne Alsacienne.  Although the weather throughout our week’s visit was unseasonably cold, the sun shone at just the right time for our vineyard walk through Grand Cru Hengst with ACT members.

Anticipation was high as we set off to remote Jura – a region which many MWs on the trip had never visited before. In Jura the style of tasting moved to the more relaxed pace of rural French life. In the impressive Chateau Pecauld headquarters of CIVJ (Comite Interprofessionnel des Vins du Jura) we were welcomed by vinegrowers from across the region, enjoyed an overview of current statistics and challenges in Jura with director Olivier Badoreaux – and compared Chardonnay & Savagnin ‘Ouille v Sous Voille’ around the region with a group of growers.

One of the highlights of our Jura trip was the visit to the beautiful hill-top village of Château Chalon, home of Vin Jaune, where the Savagnin grape and oxidative wines reign supreme. In the historic Maison de la Haute Seille on this rocky mountain spur, we compared Vin Jaune styles of Ch Chalon and its surrounding villages – alongside Arbois and Côtes du Jura.

The second Jura highlight was our visit to Domaine A&M Tissot in Montigny-les-Arsures. Owner Stephane Tissot gave us an incredible amount of knowledge, foresight and wine in an action-packed morning of vineyard walk, cellar tour and intensive mature vintage tasting showing the unique diversity of Jura, alongside other organic/biodynamic growers Jean-Etienne Pignier of Domaine Pignier and Marin Fumey of Domaine Fumey-Chatelain.

Just a few days after our visit to Jura, we heard news from Stephane Tissot that the region had been badly affected by a devastatingly cold snap frost with losses of about 50% in his vineyards – and with other growers up to 80-100% loss. This is the fourth bad frost in just eight years in this region – and our thoughts are with all the vine growers and their families in Jura.

I would like to thank all our hosts in Alsace & Jura for making this such a memorable week offering us a deep dive into two small contrasting regional French gems. Thank you also to Olivier Humbrecht MW for helping me make it all happen.

Rose Murray Brown MW