Lise et Bertrand Jousset: Vineyards
Today the Jousset vineyards amount to 10.3 hectares, split between the Montlouis and Touraine appellations (mostly the former) and planted not only with their desired Chenin Blanc (about 8 hectares, so about 80% of the domaine) but also Chardonnay, Gamay and Grolleau. The vineyard is divided between 26 parcels, with the principal section just across the road from the winery in Husseau eligible for the Montlouis appellation, just upstream of Montlouis itself, although about one-fifth lie in nearby St Martin le Beau. The vines are planted at a density of 6000 per hectare, have between 30 and 130 years of age (the average is close to 70 years), and some of the very oldest are planted ungrafted. The soils include the classic Touraine types of perruches, a mix of clay and flint, which characterises the lieux-dits Maison Marchandelle and Volagré, and aubuis, a soil rich in clay which is much less common in Montlouis but which can be found in Clos aux Renards.
The vines are mostly rented although Lise and Bertrand have been able to buy some of those that they tended, after the owner - about whose identity the ever-discreet Lise remained tight-lipped - experienced some financial difficulties, and Lise and Bertrand were able to step in with an offer. The work in the vines focuses on organic methods, and has done since the outset. The vines thus see no herbicide, fungicide or pesticide, and they avoid the use of artificial fertiliser. They do allow themselves some sulphur and copper in the vineyard, both permissible within the realm of organic viticulture, and also organic manure. Weed control is ensured by working the soil which also takes off surface roots encouraging the vines to dig deeper. The manual work continues through harvest time, when the fruit is picked in tries into buckets and then small baskets, a process which facilitates some sorting of the fruit (rather than use a sorting table) and which minimises harm, before the process of pressing and fermentation begins. The white and rosé cuvées see a gentle pressing and cold settling, with no addition of enzymes, while the reds undergo carbonic maceration.
Lise et Bertrand Jousset: Wines
The fermentations take place in cellars which sit on the edge of the Husseau plateau, just around the corner (literally, in both cases) from François Chidaine and Jacky Blot. The ground falls away behind the property, a few trees and a little pasture and arable land all that separates the Husseau property and vineyards from the course of the Loire. This position on the edge of the slope facilitates work on several levels within the winery, allowing for the wine to be moved from one process to the next using gravity rather than pumping. The fermentations and élevage are carried out using an assembly of wooden vessels, of varying ages ranging from brand new to seven years old, and of varying sizes, including 225-litre barriques, 400-litre casks and 600-litre demi-muids. Every parcel is vinified separately, and only indigenous yeasts are employed. The length of time for fermentation depends very much on the individual cuvée - some can soldier on for months and months.
The sec cuvées open with Premier Rendez-vous, Montlouis and therefore 100% Chenin Blanc, a blend sourced from several plots, the vines ranging from 40- to 70-years old, but unified by a common terroir, which is a mix of sand and flint over a deeper limestone. This wine is the product of a single pass through the vines picked at about 30 hl/ha; the freshly picked fruit is fermented in 400-litre barrels aged between four and seven years, and the two plots are kept separate throughout the process until the final blending, one month before bottling. It is a wine intended for drinking in its youth, a first meeting with any given vintage for Lise and Bertrand, hence the name of the cuvée.
A superior single-site Montlouis cuvée is Singulier, which during the course of the 2012 and 2013 releases will gradually (initially placing both names on the label) be rebranded Clos Renard, the name of the lieu-dit of origin. This is a wine intended for drinking later than the Premier Rendez-vous. This comes from 60 to 80-year old vines planted on clay and limestone soils, harvested in a single tri, giving a yield of about 25 hl/ha. Again fermented in barrels, here both 400- and 600-litres, the wood here is newer, typically one to three years of age. The finished wine is dry, with less than 5 g/l of residual sugar being the norm.
There is also a dry cuvée made purely from Chardonnay, Les Audouines, a vin de pays intended for no-fuss early drinking. Unlike the Montlouis wines which are managed in wood throughout, this cuvée is fermented en cuve.
I think for Lise and Bertrand their sec cuvées - wines made in a very natural manner, and which can be easily enjoyed at table - are where their hearts lie. Nevertheless there are also demi-sec and moelleux cuvées made here. The lone example of the former style is Trait d'Union, a Montlouis and thus pure Chenin Blanc, from sandy-flinty soils. This is handled in very much the same manner as the Singulier/Clos Renard cuvée, fermented in newer wood, the eventual residual sugar in the order of 25 g/l.
There are two moelleux cuvées, starting with Sur le fil, a wine sourced from vines planted franc de pied in 1873. These elderly vines yield about 15 hl/ha and the fruit is fermented en barrique, barrels typically one or two years old, the finished product boasting in the order of 60 g/l sugar. En aparté, the second moelleux cuvée, goes one step further, and manages in the 2009 vintage to achieve 140 g/l residual sugar.
You're a nobody in Montlouis or Vouvray if you aren't knocking out some sparkling wine these days, and Lise and Bertrand seal their status within the Montlouis appellation with no less than three sparkling cuvées. These include an méthode traditionelle wine, L'appétillant, and a pétillant natural (or pét' nat' if you're trendy) cuvée made using the ancestrale method called Bubulle. There is also a pétillant naturel rosé called Rose à Lies which is made using 60% Gamay and 40% Grolleau. A similar Gamay-Grolleau blend is bottled as the vin tranquille P'tit Sans Gêne, a Touraine rosé with a bit of residual sugar. Finally the Gamay (70%) and Cabernet Franc (30%) blend Y a rien qui presse is intended for unfussy drinking; I thought it a pretty good charcuterie wine, although I see from the Jousset website that Bertrand prefers pot au feu. (27/9/11, updated 7/11/12)