This easterly enclave of wine-making that lies between Burgundy and the Switzerland is the viticultural 'Land that Time Forgot' where traditional grape varieties are deployed to produce a diverse array of characterful wines. When we started our tentative reconnaissance of the region a few years ago, Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot in the hill village of Montigny-lès-Arsures was high on our short list of estates to visit as siblings Valérie and Jean-Christophe Tissot grow the full gamut of local grapes and produce a comprehensive range of wines. Happily, our inaugural tasting was a triumph and the Tissots' wines now command a loyal following on these shores.
Savagnin is the only grape permitted in the production of the region's celebrated 'Vin Jaune' which must be matured in open oak casks for a minimum of 6 years and 3 months before release. It is bottled in squat 62-centilitre clavelins and is traditionally served at cellar temperature. The Tissots' bottling is exemplary with a deep yellow robe, attractive sherry-like scents, a complex roast nut, smoked salt and mineral palate and a persistent very dry finish. It is frequently served as pre-prandial 'sharpener' but classic accompaniments include Comté cheese and chicken cooked in Vin Jaune. The Tissots also produce a pure Savagnin under the less stringent appellation of 'Arbois'. It is lighter and more forward drinking than the Vin Jaune but has bags of varietal character with yeasty top notes and an intense saline-edged dried fruit palate.
J.-C. and V. also make some commendable red wines. Their Poulsard has a deceptively pale red-brick colour, ripe cherry scents and a wonderfully smooth red fruit palate offset by delicate tannins. It is best served lightly-chilled and makes a fine foil for air-dried ham or the local speciality - 'Morteau' sausage with lentils. Their Trousseau is darker-hued, deeper and denser than its sibling, with briary hedgerow berry scents and flavours and peppery undertones.
Not to be overlooked is the Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot Crémant de Jura - a bottle-fermented sparkling Chardonnay that has uplifting apple blossom scents, a lively mousse and fresh orchard fruit palate. As if all that weren't enough to contend with, Jean-Christophe and Valérie also find time to make a sweet 'Vin de Paille' from whole bunches of Chardonnay and Poulsard that are air-dried on elevated beds of straw. The finished wine has dried fig scents and a diverse palate of honey, nuts and preserved peel. It makes a terrific bonne bouche or partner to fruit desserts and (like the Vin Jaune) will age almost indefinitely if well cellared.