As far as crémants are concerned, Champ Divin's Crémant du Jura has been the undisputed team favorite for about 3 years. So it was really time to finally visit the winemaker couple Valérie and Fabrice Closset on site.
After we got in the mood for sparkling wines with the Buxeuil Boys , we drove to Meursault in the hilly landscape of the Jura after a short detour, more precisely to Gevingey, located at the foot of the Premier Plateau du Jura and Sud-Revermont.
Valérie Closset welcomed us in a good mood and with a big smile and immediately led us into the sacred halls of the wine cellar. Although basement is not the right word. The Clossets didn't take over an old existing domaine with beautiful, venerable walls - they bought seven hectares in 2008 and built a new building on it, which exactly meets their ideas and needs.
What is striking: Although we move through very high, rather empty storage rooms, our footsteps do not echo. This is due to the special material that was used: lava rock, which is rather porous in consistency and thus absorbs all noise. In addition, these stones regulate the humidity in the halls, provide excellent insulation and are easy to clean.
Before settling in the Jura, the Clossets worked for a few years in Africa and then in France as advisors to winegrowers in the process of converting to organic viticulture. And now they work according to Demeter guidelines themselves. "I can't remember the names of the pesticides anyway." says Valerie. But the various herbal decoctions and tinctures that they use in the vineyard to keep the plants healthy. When bad hailstorms destroyed much of the budding vines, she recalled what people use to heal injuries: calendula and arnica. She treated the vines with it, and lo and behold, the injuries healed and the Clossets, unlike their neighbors, hardly had any crop failures.
It was and is important to them that they can do all the work on the winery themselves, because only then can they know all their vineyards well. “We want to do everything ourselves. Vineyards and vinification are our passion. 7 hectares is doable on a human scale for 2 people, even with a certain serenity.” Only at the time of the harvest do they let friends help them, then the team grows to 10 people for a period of two weeks.
Valérie leads us through the rooms and spreads such a positive atmosphere that you can immediately see the joy and passion she has in her job.
“Me, I have the memory for flavors, smells and atmosphere… but for the rest? No!" In this respect, the division of labor is quite clear: Fabrice, whom we unfortunately did not see that day, is responsible for all the technology in the wine cellar.
Valérie is incredibly humorous and entertaining. As she explains a bit about winemaking to us, she adds with a laugh: “It takes a liter of water to make a liter of wine. And also a liter of beer, in the fridge. Belgian beer, nothing else works.” Valérie and Fabrice are originally from Belgium, did I mention that?! ...
And then she showed us the room where the vin jaunes and vin voiles mature. Over time, a layer of yeast (French: voile) forms on these very special Jura wines, which taste like sherry, under which the wine matures in the absence of oxygen. The “normal” vins tradition sous voile matures under the veil of yeast for 24 to 36 months before being bottled.
The Vin Jaune, on the other hand, matures for almost 7 years in the barrique. Incidentally, on each barrique it is noted which wine matured in it when and for how long, because all this is important for the aroma that the wine will ultimately have. "Each barrique has a different life than its neighbor barrique, that's the way it is." says Valerie.
Incidentally, very special climatic conditions are required for the yeast to form. In winter it must be very cold in the room where the barrels are stored, sometimes even freezing. In summer, on the other hand, it must be very, very hot. These temperature fluctuations used to be accidental when the wine barrels were stored in the attic above the cowsheds.
Today the room for the “vins de voile” is less isolated than the others in the building, there are ventilation hatches through which there is always an exchange of air with the outside air, so that it is very hot or very cold there depending on the season. This veil of yeast cannot be created artificially, only nature and chance do that. Valérie says: “It's a bit like a casino here. You play poker."
Incidentally, the vin jaune is bottled in the typical bulbous Jura bottles, but these then have a capacity of 0.62 litres. This is to remind you that 38% of the wine evaporates during the almost 7 years of aging - 1 liter of wine minus 38% results in 0.62 l. This is also one of the reasons why the vin jaune is relatively expensive.
Of course, Valérie is a fan of Savagnin, this very special Jura grape variety. What she appreciates about the Savagnin is its versatility coupled with its unmistakable character. “The Savagnin is like a mannequin. You can dress him up however you want: sometimes in a bikini, sometimes in a fancy suit. But you can always recognize him, his skeleton, his structure.”
Regarding the Crémant du Jura, the wine that ultimately brought us to the Domaine du Champ Divin, she says: “In the beginning I didn’t want to produce any crémants at all. I didn't believe that you could put your soul in "bulles" (=sparkling wines)." Luckily for all of us, she decided FOR the Crémant back then and proved to herself and to us that Crémant can very well have a soul!
Finally, we wanted to know why there are so many organic winegrowers in the Jura compared to the rest of France. Valérie says it's somehow natural and self-evident because: "As far as work in the vineyard is concerned, that was never forgotten in the Jura." And that is ultimately what sets the organic winegrowers apart from the conventional ones: do as much work as possible preventively and naturally so that you don't have to counteract or correct it artificially later on.