The Domaine Pecheur began producing wine in 1976 from a single hectare of vineyards. Located in Darbonnay, in the Cotes du Jura appellation, the domaine is owned by Christian and Patricia Pêcheur who, since its inception, have worked diligently to improve and expand production of classic Jura wines. Now, the domaine extends over eight hectares with vineyards primarily situated on the hillside slopes of the villages of Darbonnay and Passenans with an extension into the fabled town of Voiteur for the production of Chateau Chalon.
Christian was schooled at the Lycée Viticole in Beaune after which he returned to the domaine in 1992 to produce the family wines.
The vineyards are planted to the classic Jura mix of grape types: Chardonnay, Savagnin, Ploussard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir. The average age of the vineyards varies from between 35 to 50 years, which is to say, the Pêcheur family is working almost exclusively with old vines. The grapes destined to produce the Crémant and the still white wines, aside from the Vin Jaune and the Chateau Chalon, are planted to rocky, pebbly soil rich in dolomite. The red grape varieties are planted on soil of “marne rouges” (red marlstone). The Savagnin harvested for purposes of production of Vin Jaune and Chateau-Chalon is planted to the classic and required “marne bleu”.
The vineyard work is conducted according to organic principles but the domaine is not certified organic. Neither pesticides nor herbicides are utilized. Grapes are hand-harvested. The harvest begins with the gathering of a small lot of each of Savagnin, Chardonnay and Ploussard to create the Vin de Paille; these grapes are left to dry naturally for several months before pressing. This is followed then by harvesting Chardonnay destined to become the bone-dry, sparkling Crémant du Jura. Then, in succession, additional Chardonnay is harvested to make the various still cuvées, followed by the harvest of the red grapes. Finally, the Savagnin is collected to produce the Vin Jaune and the Chateau-Chalon.
The whites are all barrel-fermented and barrel-aged. The Chardonnay spends two years in barrel without topping up (“non-ouillé”); the reds are generally aged in small, older barrels for at least one year. The Savagnin is aged for 3 to 6 years before bottling; the Vin Jaune undergoes an “elevage” of six years and three months … the Chatea-Chalon even longer.
|Crémant du Jura White: Made from 100% Chardonnay, the Cremant du Jura is aged on the lees for three years before disgorgement. Clean and mineral, this wine is bone dry, with slight tart apple fruit. There is no dosage applied, shaping a pure sparkling wine that clearly expresses the profound terroir of this remarkable region.
|Crémant du Jura Rosé: a sparkling wine made of 2/3 Poulsard and 1/3 Trousseau that carries the structural elements of these red varieties. It spends 30 to 36 months “sur lattes” before disgorgement and has a vinous character on the palate. While appropriate as an aperitif, it has the ability to pair well with a range of cuisine.|
|Cotes du Jura Blanc Chardonnay: fermentation and one year of elevage are both hosted in large, 600L barrels. An intensely mineral wine with bright acidity.|
|Cotes du Jura Blanc « Cuvée Spéciale »: the wine follows the typical « Speciale » approach of a Chardonnay / Savagnin blend, in equal parts for this cuvee. The Savagnin passes through barrels “sous voile”, while the Chardonnay is in barrel that is not topped-up, but does not have a veil formed at the surface. Chiseled minerality radiates through the typical Jurassien nutty, oxidative aromas in this very classic wine.|
|Cotes du Jura Rouge Poulsard: the Poulsard is a delicate wine that would not perform well in small barrel, so part is vinified in 600L demi-muid with the balance in steel tank. Wild red berries, pale color and a pleasant airiness make this wine a delight to drink.|
|Cotes du Jura Rouge Trousseau: made exclusively in neutral oak barrels, the wine carries moderate tannin, minerality and darker fruit hinting at brambly sous-bois notes.|
|Cotes du Jura Rouge « Cuvée des Trois Cépages »: a wine made from the three red grapes of the Jura (Ploussard, Trousseau, Pinot Noir) in equal proportions, all of which are fermented together and then aged in barrel for at least one year.|
|Pecheur Savagnin: Classic Savagnin from the Jura, this wine is aged at least 3 years “sous voile” in barrel before being bottled. Compared to other sectors of the Jura, the Savagnin is more airy and tame, with a atrractive fresh minerality underscored by exotic notes of curry and roasted nuts. Limited in production, we only receive a handful of cases a year.|
|Macvin du Jura: made in classic fashion, where 1/3 of the wine is distilled Marc and 2/3 is unfermented Chardonnay juice. It spends four years in barrel prior to bottling. A surprising and unusual treat for the uninitiated.|
|Vin Jaune Cotes du Jura: the Jurassien classic, with aged Savagnin that rests sous-voile for at least seven years.|
|Chateau-Chalon: A more intense version of Vin Jaune, thanks to the combination of steeper slopes, southern exposure and blue marlstone soil in this iconic appellation.|
|Vin de Paille Cotes du Jura: the majority of the blend is Chardonnay (70%), along with 15% Savagnin and 15% Poulsard. A miniscule amount of concentrated juice is pressed from the grapes that have dried for several weeks after harvest. A rich wine, yet not heavy or tiring, as the acidity provides lift on the palate and leaves a pleasantly complex finish of orchard fruit.|
Comfortable In Their Own Voile
The Charming Jura Wines of Domaine Pêcheur
It’s tempting to exoticize the wines of the Jura: a land that time forgot, planted to idiosyncratic varieties, aged in offbeat ways, and so forth. (I’ve certainly put forth such notions in my proselytizing efforts over the years!) But, to those rooted here, the wines of the Jura are simply… wines. To be sure, non-stringent appellation controls and an overriding outsider spirit make the Jura a hotbed of experimentation, but plenty of talented growers here produce lovely wines which convey their unique terroir without attendant renegade flair.
Christian and Patricia Pêcheur exude an infectious warmth each time we visit them in their sleepily picturesque home village of Darbonnay, serving their wines and showing off their magnificent Château-Chalon cellar with a combination of refreshing frankness and joy. Christian’s parents established Domaine Pêcheur in 1976 with just two hectares in Passenans, in the Côtes du Jura, and Christian and Patricia have expanded to just shy of eight hectares since assuming control of the domaine in 1992. If their wines lack the auteur-like majesty of Puffeney’s or the brazen wildness of Gahier’s, they compensate with directness and accessibility; these are lovable wines that provide ample pleasure and constitute easy entry-points into the region’s vinous treasure.
Christian and Patricia farm without the use of chemical herbicides or pesticides, and their cellar work is unglamorously straightforward: natural fermentations in steel, and aging in well-used but sound oak barrels. The Pêcheurs’ vines are between 35 and 50 years old on average, with the Chardonnay and most of the Savagnin planted in pebbly dolomitic limestone, and the Poulsard, Trousseau, and Pinot Noir planted in red marlstone soils; the Savagnin destined for the fabled Château-Chalon is planted in the distinctive blue-grey marlstone of that appellation. Their gentle hand in the cellar produces wines of elegance, transparency, and digestibility, and even their long-aged sous-voile wines convey an appealing lightness of touch.
2020 Côtes du Jura Poulsard
The Pêcheurs’ limpid, delicious Poulsard verges on rosé in color, yet delivers plenty of jammy strawberry and cherry, underpinned by a tender minerality. From 25-year-old vines in the Champs Rouge vineyard in Passenans, it is destemmed entirely and spends a year aging in a combination of stainless steel and used 600-liter oak casks.
2020 Côtes du Jura Trousseau
Displaying a variety-typical greater depth of fruit and breadth of structure compared to the Poulsard above, Pêcheur’s Trousseau nonetheless offers easy drinkability and effortless balance, its cherry and plum fruit augmented by a hint of licorice. This is aged entirely in used demi-muids after a spontaneous fermentation in stainless steel, and bottled just before the following harvest.
2020 Côtes du Jura Pinot Noir
Fermented in steel and aged entirely in used barrels like the Trousseau above, the Pêcheurs’ Pinot Noir combines varietal silkiness and delicacy with a hint of the Jura’s telltale mineral twang; and, as with all the domaine’s red wines, it impresses with balance and freshness rather than depth of color or richness of structure.
2019 Côtes du Jura “Cuvée des Trois Cépages”
As its name implies, this wine combines the Jura’s three main red varieties Poulsard, Pinot Noir, and Trousseau in roughly equal proportions. Tactile, scrumptious red fruit gets a bit of punch from the Trousseau and a bit of suaveness from the Pinot Noir, offering an excellent sense of tension on the palate.
2018 Côtes du Jura Chardonnay
From 35-year-old vines in Mont Royal, Grand Vaux, and Chanet planted in dolomitic limestone, Pêcheur’s Chardonnay spends two full years in used barrels with no topping up after a spontaneous fermentation in stainless steel. Gently oxidative without displaying the full thrust of the voile, this maintains a vibrant sense of acidity and a well-articulated minerality.
2017 Côtes du Jura Blanc “Cuvée Spéciale”
A step up in oxidative complexity from the Chardonnay above, the Pêcheurs’ “Cuvée Speciale” combines roughly equal parts Savagnin and Chardonnay, neither of which are topped up during their three-year stint in well-used barrels. Despite its wealth of sea-salt minerality and marzipan-like voile character, this maintains a sense of poise and prettiness—very much in the overall style of the house.
Also available: 2012 “Cuvée Spéciale” library release (highly limited)
2016 Côtes du Jura Savagnin
The domaine’s pure Savagnin, from the dolomitic blue limestone soils of the Mont Royal, Grand Vaux, and Chanet vineyards, offers a gentler take on the sous-voile version of this legendary variety than those of Arbois or L’Étoile. Aged three years in old barrels with no topping up, it presents flavors of Indian curry and yellow fruits on an airy, breezily mineral frame, finishing with impressive length but without undue weight.
The Vin-Jaune-only appellation of Château-Chalon is the Jura’s grand cru in all but name, its ultra-steep slopes of grey marl producing wines of greater finesse and more pronounced minerality than its peers in Arbois. Aged in a rustic above-ground barrel cellar with wide temperature fluctuations, Pêcheur’s Château-Chalon—from 50-year-old Savagnin in the south-facing Gaillardon vineyard—is a wine of deft precision, with a smoky mezcal-like note emerging from beneath its intensely saline minerality and taut green fruits.
2009 Côtes du Jura Vin de Paille
Comprised of 70% Chardonnay with 15% each Savagnin and Poulsard, the Pêcheurs’ lovely version of this traditional Jura sweet wine is dried for several months on straw mats and aged two years in neutral oak after the meager amount of juice wrested from the raisins finishes fermenting. With its bristling acidity and its layered flavors of orchard fruits, honey, and brown sugar, this somehow remains fresh, drinkable, and digestible amidst all that residual sugar.
The Glories of Sweetness
Long ago, sweetness in any form was far rarer than today, and it was prized thusly. In our era of ubiquitous corn syrup, junk food, and soda, it is difficult to imagine a world in which sugar was special, and the overall difficulty in selling sweet wines across all markets testifies to that. Still, sweetness in wine—real wine whose sweetness has not been coerced—remains one of nature’s rare gifts. Producing sweet wines requires a grower to be courageous, as she must wait to harvest and risk late-season vagaries of weather, or, in passito-style wines, assume the risk of air-drying fruit for upwards of half a year in her cellar. Sweet wine production requires prodigious effort for feeble yields, which generally then take longer to produce and longer to sell than their dry counterparts.
An Ode to Vin Jaune
… A hunched figure, barely visible in the twilight, barred the great subterranean cellar’s modest entrance. Ragged and weary from their journey, the five sommeliers looked at one another with surprise; the old book had mentioned nothing of a gatekeeper. They had followed the map with great care, the promise of long-buried vinous spoils, theirs for the taking, having sustained them through the endless Krug-less days—but it seemed a final challenge awaited. The sentinel scowled at them from beneath his large hood.