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Alain, Romain, Charline and Julien Labet

Domaine Labet

VigneronCharline, Julien and Romain Labet
LocationRotalier (Jura)
Size of Domaine13 ha
TerroirContinental climate. Marls from Lias and Trias on Bajocian limestone subsoil. Mostly south and west facing. 250-320m altitude.
ViticultureCertified organic (Ecocert), practising biodynamic.
View Domaine Labet wines ↓

Located in Rotalier in the Sud-Revermont, in the late 1970s Alain Labet was probably the first vigneron in the Jura to make and bottle wines from individual terroirs separately. And in the 1990s when he started making topped-up whites, there were only one or two winemakers making wines this way elsewhere in the Jura (Pierre Overnoy in Arbois being foremost).

The tradition in Rotalier and the rest of the Sud-Revermont was to age wine under flor, but Alain found that oxidative ageing of chardonnay masked the subtle terroir nuances present after fermentation and decided to top-up his barrels regularly, thus preventing the formation of ‘voile' (layer of yeast forming on the surface of a wine when left in contact with oxygen) which tends to dominate the aromatic profile. His wines became much more precise as a result and showed an ability to express the subtlest variations in exposition and soil composition, revealing in the process one of France's finest terroirs.

“This family forces me to mix metaphors and pile on accolades. If one can say that salt was once the Jura’s white gold, these wonderful people and their wines are the salt of the earth in the Jura and pure gold too.” Wink Lorch

Located close to the limestone cliff that forms the eastern edge of the region, the soil in the Sud-Revermont is quite different from the north around Arbois, as it’s rich in Bajocian limestone eroded from the cliff, imparting the wines with a mineral bite and acidic backbone that sets them apart. Although hard to sell at first, especially locally, these wines quickly gained international recognition and inspired a host of young vignerons (such as Marnes Blanches, Les Dolomies, Ludwig Bindernagel) to start working in the area, slowly turning it into one of the most dynamic parts of the Jura and a hotbed for new talents.

Julien, the eldest of Alain’s three children, came back to the family domaine in 1997 with the idea of instilling even more precision and terroir definition into their wines. Inspired by his time working at prestigious domaines Ramonet in Burgundy and Hamilton Russell in South Africa, he introduced the use of second-hand Burgundy barrels rather than foudres, progressively lowered sulphur levels while also pushing for a move towards organic viticulture.

Julien’s vision was at times too radical for his father, so Alain decided to hand down a few hectares over which Julien had full control and from which he made his ‘Parcelles Rares’ (now all produced under the family label), while still working full time at the estate, and it was then, in 2000, that the first savagnin ouillé (topped-up) was produced at the domaine.

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Charline
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After qualifying as an oenologist and working in Chile, Charline joined the team a few years later, helping out in the vineyard and sharing winemaking duties with Julien (she’s taken over making their wines under flor, check out the incredible ‘Cuvée du Hasard’), with their brother Romain in his element when working out in the vines. The three siblings took over the reins when Alain ‘retired’ in 2012 (he still loves to help out with ploughing etc), working hand in hand and making every important decision as a team.

They have also attracted some of the brightest talents in the world to help them with their incredibly detailed and fastidious work in the vineyards and back in the cave. Locally they have employed Christian Boulanger for the last 15 years (in his spare time Christian makes wine with friend Matthieu Allante – we have just started to work with their wines) with other émigrés from Canada and Denmark sure to make their mark in the world of wine in the future.

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Terroir study with Julien
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While viticulture has always been very respectful in the family – Alain never used fertilisers or insecticides and would only resort to herbicides in the wettest years – the Labets are now fully certified organic and also use biodynamic preparations.

The whites are vinified and aged in old Burgundy barrels, demi-muids etc for 18 months or longer if needs be (for example in a concentrated dense vintage like 2015), the reds either fully or partially destemmed and aged for a shorter time, in barrels for pinot and trousseau and in foudres for ploussard. Sulphur is never used except on rare occasions in which case only the tiniest of doses are added, as documented in precise detail on the informative back labels. Total transparency has always been at the heart of all the family’s work.

It’s a joy to work with Romain, Charline and Julien, there’s a restless energy about them, a desire to progress and a passion for life which is contagious. Tasting the whole range of wines with the family and their team is a highlight for us every year. If you want to learn about the nuances of terroir and their impact on wines this is the place to be - last year we tasted 26 wines (from 2015 and 2016) and 18 different terroirs!

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Marathon tasting with the dynamo Julien

Domaine Labet Wines

Domaine Labet

CÔTES-DU-JURA 2016
La Bardette
100% Chardonnay (13.5% alc.)

Before you hit limestone, where you find lots of fossils and seashells, there’s only 40 to 60cm of clay here, and this together with old vines planted in 1947 has helped to give a chiselled, beautifully balanced wine, a little reduced on the nose when tasted after a year in barrel, which has many of the qualities you would expect in a good Puligny. A very digestible wine with menthol hints that make you salivate. This is one of the Labet family’s finest terroirs. VLQ.

Domaine Labet

CÔTES-DU-JURA 2016
Champs Rouges
100% Chardonnay (13% alc.)

This is one of the family’s larger parcels of 1.2 ha of 45yo vines, planted in a red clay soil overlying a layer of Bajocian limestone on a west-facing hillside. It was aged 70% in old fûts and 30% in demi-muids with a minute 6 mg/l of SO2 added. The old vines convey real energy to this wine, there are a good drive and tension on the palate, and the finish is sustained and mineral. VLQ.

Domaine Labet

CÔTES-DU-JURA 2016
En Chalasse
100% Chardonnay (13.2% alc.)

This wine comes from three tiny parcels in marl with a Lias blue clay base, on a south-facing slope. The most recent plantation was in 2006, together with 0.18 ha planted in 1985 and 0.05 ha in 1950. This is quintessential Jura chardonnay, given 16 months of élevage in fûts with 6mg/l of added sulphur. It is quite structured in this vintage and will age well, with an intensity to the fruit that gives energy on the attack, good depth of citrus fruits on the mid-palate and both lift and length on the finish. VLQ.

Domaine Labet

CÔTES-DU-JURA 2016
Les Varrons
100% Chardonnay (13.5% alc.)

The Labet’s Varrons is made from an ancient selection massale of vines (including some melon à queue rouge) planted in 1932 and 1940 in decalcified, ochre-coloured clay over Bajocien limestone on a mid-slope facing east. The wine was given an extended élevage of 21 months in old demi-muids and was bottled in August 2018 with less than 6 mg/l of sulphur added at bottling. Tasted in late October 2018 it had a very fine reduction on the nose, a mineral vibration on the attack, pithy, pingy citrus fruits on the palate, and the finish is sustained and intensifies. VLQ.

Domaine Labet

CÔTES-DU-JURA 2016
La Reine
100% Chardonnay (13% alc.)

La Reine is a tiny parcel of 0.16 ha of massal selected vines planted in 1947 in a red clay soil overlying Bajocien limestone on a gentle, north-facing slope. It's often one of the leading wines made by the domaine, and in 2016 it is stunning, with a lot of class, thanks partly to very low yields of just 20hh. It has a hint of reduction on the nose that soon wafts off, very composed succulent fruit with a fantastic, almost electric play on the palate, and is markedly saline on the finish. VLQ.

Domaine Labet

CÔTES-DU-JURA 2017
Fleur de Savagnin
53% Savagnin Jaune, 47% Savagnin Vert (13.6% alc.)

The 2017 savagnin crop was dramatically reduced by frost, and the Labet family decided to blend all their holdings from eight lieu-dits into one cuvée, and age the wine in a mix of foudre, demi-muid and fûts. Very intense nose of hazelnut and warm stone with a hint of lemon. The mouth is lively, with very good acidity, hint of saffron and a little creaminess on the palate which brings even more volume to the wine. The finish is very long, dry with a salty and stewed lemon character. VLQ.

Domaine Labet

VIN DE FRANCE 2018
Métis
45% Pinot Noir, 23% Gamay, 16% Enfariné, 16% Vieux cépages (13% alc.)

Métis, meaning mixed race, is a cuvée that has hit new levels of quality over the last couple of years. It's always a wine whose components will vary from year to year and includes a handful of forgotten old Jura varieties such as enfariné and petit béclan. Aged in 228ltr barrels for nine months and bottled off in July with less than 6mg/l sulphur added at bottling, extraction as with all the Labet reds is incredibly delicate. The fruit feels very detailed and precise, with a sappy ‘acidulé’ quality, and the mix of grapes brings complexity, leaving a gorgeous impression of fresh fruit on the finish. VLQ.

Domaine Labet

CÔTES-DU-JURA 2018
Les Varrons
100% Pinot Noir (12% alc.)

Made from a Bajocian limestone base and low yields from a tiny parcel of 35yo massale selected vines, it was aged in old barrels for seven months with less than 6mg/l of sulphur added at bottling, the fruit has a sculpted quality, it’s quite floral with zesty cherries and salinity with incredible finesse. VLQ.

Domaine Labet

CÔTES-DU-JURA 2018
En Billat
100% Poulsard (12.5% alc.)

Labet’s rarest and most haunting expression of poulsard, this comes from a 0.31 ha parcel called Le Pré du Bief planted in 1988 that has an eastern exposure and Lias clay and schist soils. Destemmed but not crushed, the grapes are vinified very gently, with very little pigeage, to respect poulsard’s delicate structure. Ageing takes place in old foudres and no sulphur was added at any stage. The nose is bright and expressive, showing none of reductive notes that plague so many poulsards, it’s finely nuanced on the palate, showing a beautiful interplay between fruit, spice and savoury notes. Simply one of the finest examples in the region. VLQ.

Domaine Labet

PAILLE PERDUE 2011
One third each Chardonnay, Savagnin and Poulsard (10% alc, 215g/l of rs)

The Labet family make this unique cuvée from a selection of old vines, leaving the bunches of grapes on a straw bed in wooden boxes to shrivel up to a raisin-like intensity. Pressed in late February it was then aged in old barrels for six years (three more than the legal minimum for vin de paille). Julien pointed out that due to using natural yeasts that only gave 10% natural alcohol and a much greater concentration of sugars than the norm, this wine did not fulfil the AOC criteria for a vin de paille (eg minimum 14% alc). The colour is reminiscent of toffee, it has sumptuous fruit – hints of passion fruit, walnuts, straw with a very long finish sustained by a precious and well-integrated VA. VLQ.

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