Spirits / Vin de Liqueur / Macvin de Jura / Domaine Labet
Domaine Labet - Macvin de Jura
The colorful character Julien Labet studied as a young man at Domaine Ramonet in Chassagne-Montrachet and Hamilton Russell Winery in South Africa (both damn good references). He then came back to the family domaine to help make his father's wines, and was given 3 hectares of his own to play with and make wines with his own name on the label. It seems Alain was happy to let Julien exert some of his knowledge and passion on the family business, but not on all of the wines. After all, the local market was used to the taste and price of the wines they have produced for years, and the French market was and is essential for the domaine’s survival. In fact, the whole family depended on the income, as Julien's brother Romain (who has since been given full control of the vineyards) and sister Charlene (also a trained oenologist) were also employed by their parents.
Eventually his parents officially retired and fully gave the reins to their 3 children (with Julien at the winemaking helm). Now, as then, the family owns 13 hectares of vines in the small town of Rotalier, in the southern part of Jura not far from Lons le Saunier. It's an area more known for Chardonnay than Savagnin. The domaine is only 15 minutes south of Château Chalone (the small appellation known for its top-quality Vin Jaune). One-third of the Labet vines are over 60 years of age. The majority of the vines come from old massal selections. Depending upon the parcel and vintage, the yields vary between 20 and 40 hl/ha. The fruit is hand-harvested and there is a manual sorting before pressing.
Natural Principles of Viticulture
While the domaine’s vineyards were not originally certified organic, even the more traditional Alain had always worked them respectfully and with the minimum possible chemical intervention. Julien, being of the younger generation and wanting to take the organic concept even further, gradually converted the 3 hectares he had been given to organic farming, receiving Ecocert certification for that parcel in 2010. Now that he and his two siblings have taken over the entire family domaine, these 3 hectares are incorporated into it, and they are passionately pursuing the conversion (and eventual certification) of all the holdings to organic farming.
Meanwhile, Labet has always attempted and continues to attempt to work as naturally as possible. No chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used, and only organic compost is plowed into the soils. With the older vines, only a horse is used for this work. Most of the vines are from pre-clonal stock (sélections massales) and the yeasts are always indigenous. Julien makes Pinot Noir and Trousseau in the red wines, as well as various whites in either the topped up or the non-topped up style.
Labet also (following in his father’s footsteps) makes one of our favorite Vins de Liqueur, a Macvin du Jura, made in the traditional manner using the marc from his organic grapes. Marc (or Pomace), is the solid remains of grapes after pressing for juice. It contains the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of the grapes. In the Jura, the juice and must of Savagnin grapes are reduced in half by boiling, and the resulting liquid is then fortified with marc. Once it reaches 16% alcohol it is placed in oak casks to age for a minimum of 6 years.
Domaine Labet Marc du Jura NV
For his version, Julien uses a blend of 2/3 unfermented juice that is muted with a third Marc (the distilled lees and the French equivalent to grappa), which prevents the fermentation of the sugars and stabilizes the alcohol at 18%. It is aged in well-seasoned 228-liter casks. It is rich and textured, with an amber color and aromas and flavors of orange zest, quince, prunes and other dried fruits, and is most commonly drunk as an apéritif. This is extremely rare and should be tasted at least once in your lifetime!