Domaine Labet – a Jura-producer with some Chablis-like Chardonnays

Domaine Labet is a producer located in the Jura region of eastern France. I recently tasted some of their wines chez Caviste, a (French-)Swedish importer who launched some of their Chardonnays.

I have the impression that Jura wines have been receiving a bit more attention from faraway in recent years. This is likely due to their idiosyncratic wines, produced by a combination of unusual grape varieties and odd (or at least unfashionable) winemaking techniques, often including an element of oxidation. The presence of some natural wine producers probably also add to the interest. When I tasted some Jura wines about half a year ago, I wrote a somewhat longer profile on the Jura wines in general, and those that are interested should click their way to that blog post.

However, the selection of wines from Domaine Labet presented by Caviste wasn’t really in the typical “odd” Jura style, although the domaine does produce these traditional wines as well. Instead, the wines tasted represented a classical cool climate style of Chardonnay that reminded me quite a lot of Chablis. They are of course still typical of Jura in the sense that they are produced from soils suitable Chardonnay in a cool, higher altitude climate that results in wines of high acidity. The crisp acidity is present in practically all Jura wines, although in the traditional wines, this aspect of them is perhaps less often remembered than e.g. the notes of oxidation.

Domaine Labet owns 13.5 hectares (33.5 acres) of vineyards in which Chardonnay dominates greatly with 8.7 ha or 66%. 3 ha of these vineyards are certified organically since 2013, and the rest is on the way to certification. As mentioned, they produce both white wines without oxidation (vins blancs ouillés) and white wines produced under a yeast cover with some oxidation (vins de voile). The wines tasted here are all part of the vins blancs ouillés. The term ouillé simply means “topped up” and refers to the fill level of the oak barrels in which the wines are raised. In the case of Domaine Labet these barrels are 4-12 years old and are kept completely topped-up. Alain Labet started to produce wines in this style in 1992, and since 2012 his children Julien, Charline and Romain are running the domaine.

Domaine Labet 20140312

2012 Cuvée Fleurs
Côtes du Jura, grape variety Chardonnay, 15 months in old oak barrels.

Nose with apples – yellow and green, a hint of peach, some perfume, hardly any oak detectable. Medium bodied, palate with green apple, citrus (in particular lemon), noticeable acidity with some mineral going in the steely direction, and a very fresh aftertaste. Young and fresh, could develop, 88(+) p.

“General cool climate Chardonnay” in style, with very well hidden oak. We also got to taste the same wine from a bottle opened 24 hours earlier. That bottle showed some more yellow apple in the nose and a bit more rounded palate, and to me it came across as more Chablis-like than the one that had just been opened. The difference was very small, though, and I scored that one 88(+) p as well.

I’d use this wine the way I’d use a Chablis at the village level, for example as aperitif or with seafood.

2011 Cuvée Fleurs
Côtes du Jura, grape variety Chardonnay, 15 months in old oak barrels.

Nose with light-coloured fruit including white peach, green and yellow apples, mineral, a hint of developed notes with clay and almond. The palate is medium bodied with quite a bit of green apple, mineral, and a high acidity. Still rather young, 88 p.

Here, there is less ripe fruit notes in the nose compared to the 2012, it is more firm and Chablis-like, in particular on the palate, and there are some developed notes. The 2011 gives a cooler impression compared to the 2012.

2011 Fleur de Chardonnay
Côtes du Jura, grape variety Chardonnay, 12 months in old oak barrels.

Nose with ripe yellow apple, a hint of honey, very discrete notes of maturity; a classical Chardonnay nose. The palate is medium bodied(+) with yellow apple, high acidity, mineral, and a hint of spice. Good body, foody wine, could develop more, 89(+) p.

Of the wines tasted, I’d say this comes closest to a mainstream Chardonnay style. Stylistically, I’d compare to a Chablis Premier Cru from a producer that uses some oak and likes to make wines with a bit more body than average. It could be put to same use as a rather powerful Chablis Premier Cru, with fish or seafood with sauce, with white meat or with cheese. Or on its own.

2010 Les Varrons
Côtes du Jura, grape variety Chardonnay, 22 months in old oak barrels.

Nose with ripe yellow apple and some winter apple and hazelnuts, some citrus, some perfume notes and elegance. Noticeably developed notes, not unlike a mature Chablis or a mature blanc de blancs Champagne. The palate is medium bodied(+) with green and some yellow apple, high acidity and mineral, as well as grapefruit that lingers in the aftertaste. The palate is younger than the nose, 89(+) p.

Here we had a discrete reminder of the oxidation notes found in more traditional Jura wines, but I could only find it in the nose. The palate shows the crisp acidity found in many French 2010s, and it gives a cooler impression than the 2011 Fleur de Chardonnay. Considering that Jura wines can take much more oxidation than this and taking the level of acidity into account, this small oxidation note should not be a problem. I’d consider cellaring this wine for a while, in order to give it more roundness and spicy notes, but it is likely to develop slowly. It can be used in the same way as the previous wine, but with its hints of old apples and nuts, it will probably be even better with aged cheese or with dishes (fish, white meat) where some mushroom is included.

I suppose I could have tried to vary my scores somewhat more than I did, but the differed more in style than in quality.

Swedish version here.

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2 Responses to Domaine Labet – a Jura-producer with some Chablis-like Chardonnays

  1. Pingback: Jura Chardonnay from Domaine Labet | Tomas's wine blog

  2. Pingback: Chardonnay from Domaine Labet in Jura | Tomas's wine blog

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