In my experience, a lot of highly-wrought (and often expensive) wines don't leave me with lasting sensory impressions, and I'm left wondering what I missed. My theory is that while many great wines taste exactly way they should, truly memorable wines have beauty marks.
I'll never forget my first taste of Philippe Jouan’s Coteaux Bourguignon. I was struck dumb, though initially more surprised than satisfied. It smelled like a microbial funk growing in the corner of a musty cellar. As the wine bloomed — eventually lush beyond belief, vibrant, dense in a way I've rarely experienced — the funk faded, but the sense of an unpolished edge remained integral to the complexity. It's one of the most memorable reds I’ve ever opened, but years later I'm not sure why. Maybe it was my first taste of traditional, old-school Burgundy, or perhaps it was the rustic honesty I don't usually associate with the region. More pure than polished, it settled my soul like homemade bread.
I write this email with a mix of excitement and trepidation: the secret on Jouan's wines is halfway out of the bag. Farming less than four hectares in the Cotes de Nuits and selling most of his grapes, he doesn't produce much. We have small quantities of the Village and Grand Cru bottlings, and while they aren't cheap, they're the most beguiling and compelling Burgundies I've tried at this price point. The 2017 Coteaux Bourguignon is under $30 dollars, but due to scarcity we have to limit purchases of that wine to one bottle per person. Give it a try, but be forewarned: the memory of these wines is hard to shake, and there won't be more until next year.
Philippe Jouan's wines taste of an earlier age. A contemporary of legendary winemaker Jackie Truchot, Henri Jouan adopted the same production style and eventually passed it along to his son Philippe. Burgundy geeks consider the now-retired Truchot one of the the Holy Grail producers of traditional Burgundy, and the ones who know about Philippe admit, "If you can't drink Truchot, you drink Jouan."
So what's the secret? It's simple. The grapes are destemmed before a cool, natural fermentation in old oak, manually pressed in wooden basket presses — a labor intensive method that hasn't changed for over 100 years — then spilled into barrels (mostly old). Does part of the uncommon complexity come from the traditional method of the winemaking? Is there a slight oxidation because the barrels aren't topped-off? A taste of the old barrels that no one's cleaned in a while? I'm not sure, but I'm tempted to chalk it up to the joy and thrill of rustic winemaking.
Across cuvees there is consistent tension between the silken and the sappy, between density and delicacy. The way that these wines change in the glass reminds me that terroir isn't a quantifiable set of characteristics and flavors; it's the energy of the place. If these are terroir wines, and I think they are, it's because they are unadorned. The 2017's show the joy of an easy growing season: they are plush, fruit-forward and approachable at a young age in a way that 2015 and 2016 were not. Still they have the hallmark Jouan minerality and soaring aromatic profile, and while some producers struggled to make serious wines in such an pleasant vintage, these have haunting concentration and mysterious lift.
Drinking Jouan is like picking up someone else’s personal journal, expecting to laugh at the sincerity...and despite what some might call sloppy penmanship, you're engrossed, drinking the pages like water. Call them honest, call them soulful. Whatever they are, they're damn hard to forget.
Philippe Jouan Coteaux Bourguignon "Cuvee Thomas" 2017
The 2017 “Cuvee Thomas” shows the plush, fruit-forward structure that we expect from a warm vintage, but it does so without sacrificing cut. While the wine feels rich and quite tannic at first taste, a powerful acidity and minerality bring everything into focus. The flavors are a little mind boggling. It moves from smokey, earthy notes of char-grilled plums, leathery cherries, mushrooms and pepper, to a delicate spice and floral experience of cinnamon sticks, spice cake and dried strawberries. It combines the earthiness of roasted beets and the acidity of fresh rhubarb, walking the line between the silken and the sappy without sacrificing weight or texture. It shows the complexity of a slightly older wine without sacrificing energy.
Harvested from 40 year old vines, fermented without stems, aged in old oak for a year. If you can keep yourself from finishing it on day one, you'll be overjoyed to see how it continues to evolves once open. In stock.
1x bottle max per person.