Damien Courbet lives in the small village of Nevy-sur-Seille just a few kilometers up the valley from the famed village of Château-Chalon. In this section of the Jura, known as the Upper Seille, you’ll find vineyards classified as AOC Château-Chalon and AOC Côtes du Jura. Domaine Courbet farms 7.5 hectares of vineyards in these two AOCs. Approximately three hectares each are dedicated to Chardonnay and Savagnin, one hectare to Trousseau and the balance a mix of Ploussard and a tiny amount of Pinot Noir. Over half of the domaine’s vineyards have been converted to biodynamic and the others are farmed in an agriculturally sustainable fashion as Damien works to convert these vineyards where possible, always ensuring quality first.
Damien has spent time working in California with Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat, in France with Olivier Zind Humbrecht in Alsace, Olivier Merlin in the Macôn and Nicolas Potel in Burgundy and in South Africa. In 2003 Damien returned to the family domaine to join his father full--time bringing his broader winemaking field of vision to this area of the Jura which, even today, remains steeped in tradition. In 2011 Damien took complete charge of the domaine upon his father’s retirement, although it’s not surprising on a visit to Domaine Courbet to see Damien’s father, Jean-Marie, helping out around the cellar or in the vineyards. Damien’s mother was also close to the business handling administrative matters until last year when Damien’s wife took over that role, along with handling their two young daughters and teaching school. This is truly a family operation.
While still small on the international wine scene in terms of overall output and geographic scope, the wines of the Jura have reached a level of fashion among sommeliers and “wine geeks” alike. But the word is starting to get out on a broader scale. This is in no small part because of the uniqueness of the local varieties grown in the Jura – Trousseau, Savagnin and Ploussard – as well as the versatility that the multiple varieties, both red and white, offer as well as the styles in which the white varieties of Savagnin and Chardonnay are made -- topped up or under veil.
I’ve had the good fortune to be in the Jura several times in the last few years and it’s a region that keeps calling me back. Both in terms of its food, Poulet de Bresse, Coq au Vin, Comté and Mont d’Or cheeses and Saucisse de Morteau, and its sheer bucolic beauty. And there are few experiences I enjoy more than eating these foods, in the small villages of the Jura, together with the beautiful wines that are being made there today.
And while we can’t necessarily bring you the pastoral countryside or the local delicacies (other than by way of our prose), we can help grace your table with two exceptional wines from a traditional, forward-thinking, energetic, vigneron by the name of Damien Courbet. This is the first time these wines have made it to the United States, but Domaine Courbet has seen good success exporting their wines in Germany, Switzerland and Japan. Our quantities are limited but we’re hoping to be able to secure more in future vintages.
In the words of David Schildknecht from Vinous, “Austria’s 2013 Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners display exceptionally bright acidity, clear flavor definition and uncanny complexity.” 2013 has given us the stunning combination of healthy, ripe grapes that remain light on their feet as the alcohol levels stayed in check, married with focused, tense acidity.
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