Tissot: A Poetic Lens into Jura
While many winemakers create wine with a sense of place, there is no one else making wine to the degree of Benedicte and Stephane Tissot. That is the absolute beauty of their wines. Not only are they difficult to come by, they have generated themselves into an elite category that the wine world has dubbed “unicorn” wines.
Like many winemaking families, Stéphane took over for his father, André, as the face of the next generation. In fact, the business is still named for his parents—Domaine André & Mireille Tissot. Instead of picking up where his father left off, Stéphane decided to carve his own path with his wife Benedicte by his side. His wine studies in Beaune had greatly influenced his approach. Organic farming was put in practice, leading the winery to be certified organic in 1999, then certified biodynamic just five years later. He put a stop to their usage of conventional yeasts, and instead opted for the wine to ferment naturally. Many of the wines see little addition of sulphur, if any, intensifying their purity. Since they’ve put these efforts in place, the Tissot family has not looked back.
“The industrialization of wine is the end of its identities, its nuances, its characteristics which are part of the magic of a bottle.” - Benedicte and Stéphane Tissot
You can separate the life of a grape into two main parts: viticulture—what happens in the vineyard, and winemaking—what happens after the fruit leaves the vineyard. Jura has incorporated a pattern of winemaking into its repertoire with its practices of cellaring and oxidizing. Stéphane Tissot changed everything for which Jura is known, instead making enormous efforts to focus on what nature has given them, a rarity in Jura as the focus is on farming. No other winemaker is able to bring a lens directly to your eye that showcases its region so clearly.
Like many wine growing regions, Jura exists because of its terroir which is distinctively its own. You’ll find Jura nestled in between the region of Burgundy, the Swiss Alps, and the Jura Mountains.
The region is immensely small with its output of wine less than 1% compared to the rest of France. It is isolated, making it easier to comprehend how its wine style is unlike anywhere else. And that style dates back centuries. Since the climate is aggressively cold most of the year, achieving optimal ripeness is often a struggle. The growing season in Jura runs late with picking going on as late as November, sometimes December. In Jura, what sets this style even further apart, specifically the white wines, is the intentional oxidation. The region has been practicing this for decades.
With the aforementioned topographical wonders, the natural layers of this land over thousands of years have yielded a vast array of soils. Tissot continues to work with the gifts nature has given them, inspiring them to proudly create a diverse range of bottles. In just their own vineyard holdings are endless types of clay and limestone. Stéphane proudly shows off the diversity and purpose of those soils in each bottle. The uniqueness of the Tissot wines is their voice—the reason they are able to exhibit such passion for each bottle, creating a mere 28 wines!
Their approach is akin to many of the smaller Burgundy producers we love. The white wines which focus on Chardonnay from the Arbois region and Sauvignon, are precise, pure, and minerally, reminding us of the wines of Chablis. The reds are classic—Pinot Noir, Trousseau, and Poulsard—lighter, red-fruited, aromatic, and crave the need for food.
Jura, like every other region in France, has its own special cuisine culture. With its isolated location in the mountains, meat and cheese is the way of life here. The cooking is rustic and hearty, relying heavily on the dairy from the cattle that thrive in the mountains. Cheeses like Comte and Raclette grace most restaurants’ tables as do sausages, ham, and root vegetables. The regional cuisine matches the local wines perfectly.
The wines of Benedicte and Stéphane Tissot are undoubtedly alive; not one bottle is alike. They exude the essence of Jura like no other winemaker has been able to do in this region. The voice of Tissot will continue on as long as their passion for their obscure homeland remains.