On a recent evening, while sipping the distinctive “Patchwork” Arbois Chardonnay from Bénédicte and Stéphane Tissot, I set aside my notes and tried to open my mind. The only reason to write about something — wine or otherwise — is to have it read. And if its going to get read, it ought to convey something notable.
“Aromas strongly suggest tart lemon zest, toasted coconut, roasted almonds, sour green olives, cardamom, yellow flowers and sweet marzipan,” I had written, mostly for myself. I’ve always approached this aspect of wine description by simply asking myself: where else have I experienced these kinds of aromas? And for the most part, I was finding some ways to relate to the wild spectrum of aromas present in this glass. “Patchwork” has a lot going on within it, and it wouldn’t stop moving.
But spinning the aroma wheel in your head can only get you so far in describing why a wine matters. After all, who out there says to themself I’m in the mood for a wine that reminds me of toasted coconut and green olives?
Great wines tend to demonstrate a personality, and it is in the realm of personification that you can sometimes — sometimes — get close to an adequate description. And so, opening my mind, I tried to decipher what that was. (Yes, I was now eight sips into the wine. This was taking some time, and I was already drinking more than I planned).
“Determined mellow,” I thought. “This wine is determined yet mellow.”
It was never going to shout to convey its point, but it sure as hell didn’t have any self-doubt. I started to think of people who embodied determined mellow with a hint of eccentricity (because Jura wines, including “Patchwork,” always have a little eccentricity in them. That “sour olive” note was not an ordinary accent within Chardonnay). The best I could do was liken it to Christopher Walken. But then I saw an image of him tap-dancing, and that didn’t seem quite so right.
So, I guess we’ll go back to the standard wine description for now. But I will say this: “Patchwork” is magnificent. Chardonnay lovers should seek it out.
2018 Bénédicte et Stéphane Tissot “Patchwork” Arbois Chardonnay
This wine comes from the Arbois appellation within the greater Jura wine region of France — a mere 30 miles west of the Swiss border. Arbois was one of France’s “original six” protected appellations for wine production in France (1936). It has developed a sterling reputation for red and rosé wines (Pinot Noir, Poulsard and Trousseau) as well as white wines (Savagnin and Chardonnay). Jura wines offer a wide spectrum, including deliberately oxidized styles. They’re not for everyone. But winemaker Stéphane Tissot is a clear leader from the area. The estate was certified organic in 1999 and biodynamic in 2004. The wines are meticulous made and tend not to be in the oxidative style, making them — I feel — more accessible to a broader variety of wine drinkers. Also look for their “En Barberon” Côte du Jura Pinot Noir (★★★★ 3/4).
Grapes: Chardonnay (100%)
Opinion: ★★★★ 3/4 (out of five)
• Food-friendliness: Selective
• Value: Very good
A beginner might like … Suspending all expectations of “Chardonnay-ness.” The startling bouquet of tropical, spicy and savory tones — as well as the interplay of zestiness and creaminess on the palate — makes this is a multidimensional wine that is many things at once, yet not quite typical either.
A wine obsessive might like … The joyride of acidity from this wine. Like a rollercoaster, it twists and turns with each sip, and best of all, leaves you salivating for another sip on the finish.
Note: This wine was purchased with funds raised from our virtual tasting series, which combines wine education with vivid professional photography, maps and in-depth insights … all from the comforts of home.
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