Q & A with Tim Gagnon (Partner, Selection Massale)
When did you first visit Pauline & Géraud? Have you been back? I first visited them in 2015 with Guilhaume. It was my first time in the Jura and I absolutely loved these wines (still do), so I was very excited. That's where that first Chambers email comes from. Since then, we try to go back at least once a year to check in, especially since they have such a wide range of different wines and we don't always get to taste every wine as they're so allocated here in the US. I still think they make some of the most compelling wines in the region.
What were your first impressions of the region and what do you think now after several years? Before visiting, I thought the area seemed rather pastoral and had a tight knit community of winemakers, especially since at the time the wines were still fairly culty. Visiting for the first time pretty much just confirmed this. Lots of rolling hills with cattle, almost like upstate NY actually, and you'd go to Bistrot Des Claquets or the Tournelle's wine bar and basically see everybody. Many vignerons even have little stalls in downtown Arbois to purchase wine from, and not just the bigger commercial names. I think it's still very much the same, though the area has fully come into its own as a destination, which always has its ups and downs associated with that.
From a broader perspective, what is happening in the region & how does MB fit into that story? Now that the spotlight has been on the area for a good while, there do seem to be some pretty enormous shifts underway. Obviously the wines have gotten very expensive due to this, as well as the continued pressure on yields from mother nature. Not that they were ever entry-level/cheap wines, but to think that even five years ago you could buy these wines for around $30 on the shelf, and now you see cuvees popping up that are $60+ and still being snapped up. The other thing that we're seeing is people selling their properties to outsiders who see them as niche additions to their holdings. The first one was when Marquis d'Angerville bought Domaine du Pélican. We've also heard that secret may have sold his domaine (local news/gossip since he's right down the street from MB) but that seems to be pretty under wraps. This happens for multiple reasons: not having kids to take over the estate when retiring, moving from the area, or just getting offered a deal that's too good to pass on. Whatever it is, I hope it doesn't alter the region too much. Marnes Blanches to me seems to be really cementing their reputation in the region for making some of the cleanest natural wines and they're the hometown success story, being born and raised there. They're also young, dedicated, and ambitious, which I think makes a very good case for them helping to shape the future of winemaking there in years to come.
Has anything changed in the way you approach, drink, or sell their wines as they become more allocated? Nothing much has changed except it gets hard to keep up with demand. To me they're still some of the most exciting wines we bring in. I savor every bottle I can get my hands on.
Marnes Blanches Bonanza
We have back vintage, large format, negoce, and one-off cuvees from both the current release and over three years of collecting and diligently cellaring. It even makes our heads a bit dizzy with excitement. Here are some of the highlights:
Reds: The current release only included one red (Trousseau in large format), but we cellared Pinot Noir, Trousseau, and Poulsard across multiple vintages just for this occasion. All whole-bunch fermentation in stainless steel (8 to 10 days) and 225 liter old oak barrels for aging. Zero sulfur. Shop here.
Two by Two: We still love, love this idea and have created a few very unique side by sides for vintage comparisons. Very limited, very special. Shop here.
Soil Content: The whites are direct press and aged in 225 liter old oak barrels with the main distinction being the soil type for each site.
Negoce: 2017 was an incredibly challenging vintage and MB created a negoce project that used purchased fruit from Southwest France called Coup de Jus. These are sneaky value wines that have the thumbprint of their winemaking with a riper, more casual approach.
Bubbles: There are three separate bubbles to pick from, all delicious for different occasions. Here is the simplest way to navigate the cuvees, in order of complexity: Bulle Ton (negoce, lots of fruit) > Cremant NV (elegant, orchard fruit) > Cremant Reserve NV (baller, complex, extra year of elevage).
Oxidative: There are multiple vintages of the Empreinte, Vin Jaune, and Vin de Paille. These are the crown jewels of the Jura and for the adventurous, curious, and cheese lovers.Outliers: Savagnin Aux Bois, a year longer in elevage and the newest planting (2012). En Jensillard, from the rare Savagnin Jaune (an old variety also known as ‘Red Savagnin’).