David Brookes on Julien Labet from www.vinofreakism.com

2008 Julien LabetChardonnay “Les Varrons”

As a wine-drinker you’ll no doubt find wine styles, varieties andregions that strike a chord with you…..they resonate at the samefrequency…..for me it’s the Jura. It is a region a great scenic beauty and adiverse palate of wine styles from Pet-Nat to Vin Jaune; a region where thevignerons and locals are as down to earth as their wines, going about theirbusiness without concern for fad and fashion. The wines are eclectic and builtfor consuming with food…..low in alcohol, sapid and savoury with shimmeringacid lines. No doubt some people can struggle with the styles, some withoxidative and aldehydic tics but with the right company and food they seem tosoar.

The Labet family farm their 15 hectares of vines in the small village ofRotalier in the Southern Jura just south of Château Chalon …… a villagethat is also home to one of the regions great winemakers in Jean-FrançoisGanevat and I think you’ll find a distinct thread of connection between thesetwo winemakers stylistically. The Labet family have been making wine for fourgenerations and the current patriarch Alain Labet holds the reigns while hisson Julien has the winemaking duties.

The Jura has long had a reputation for its oxidative-style Chardonnay,but in 1992, Domaine Labet was one of the first estates to release the varietyfrom topped-up barrels in a Burgundian fashion. Burgundy in fact is only anhours drive away and the soils of the Jura contain a fair dose oflimestone….not the famous cap-rock style of their famous cousin to the East,more a mash-up with marls and clays.

Current winemaker Julien, who learnt his craft through time at DomaineRamonet, has access to 3 hectares of vines from the family estate to producewines under his own label. The land is farmed without the use of herbicides andpesticides……as a sobering aside, France is ranked #3 in the world for the useof herbicides and pesticides behind the U.S. and Japan. The “Les Varron” parcelis located at 280 metres above sea-level….the vines are 65 years old fromsèlection massale and the complex soils are a mix of Benthonien andBajocien limestone with 30-80 cms of yellow and ochre clays. In the winerythe grapes are harvested by hand and pressed in a pneumatic press, stems’n'allfor a 2 hour cycle before settling for 12 hours. Fermentation takes placeutilising natural yeasts and elevage takes place in 228 L, 1-5 year old barrelsfor a period of 18 months with no racking and occasional lees stirring. Thewines are bottle un-fined and un-filtered.

Mid-gold in colour with sultry fruit aromas of pithy lemon, whitepeach and apple washed over with the come-hither nuances of grilled hazelnuts,quince paste, marzipan, lemon curd, clotted cream and lighter notes of garammarsala, lemon verbana and an almost manzanilla-like sheen. There are savouryaromas in the mix here also…. a chickeny-stocky-like waft, a breeze of oystershell, ozone and wise old oak.

The palate crackles with energy….. fruit flavours of lemon, apple,quince and peach are shrouded in tubular web of minerally acidity. Seasoned oaknuance washes over the fruit like an incoming tide along with hints of lemonmyrtle, white flowers, marzipan, créme fraiche and grilled nuts. Lighter notesof complex curry spice, stock and lemon verbana float ghost-like across theback palate which shows an almost umami-like ache to its shape. The crystallineacid line powers the wine along to its complex end-point with perfect form andenergy. Beautiful, geeky drinking.

A beautiful screamer......