Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Visit and Tasting at Champagne Jean Josselin, a Grower Champagne House in Gyé­ sur­ Seine – Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours, France

Pictures: Jean Pierre Josselin, Annette Schiller and Gisela Leon

The Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours ended in the Champagne Region, where we visited 3 Champagne Houses: (1) The family-run, small Grower Champagne House Jean Josselin, (2) the medium-size family owned and run Champagne House AR Lenoble in Epernay and (3) the large Champagne House Taittinger in Reims.

Coming from Chablis, Champagne Jean Josselin was the first champgane producer we visited. At Champagne Jean Josselin, we were hosted by Veronique and Jean Pierre Josselin and Sharona Tsubota, the Champagne Jean Josselin export manager.The visit started in the Champagne Jean Josselin production facilities, which is a modern building about a mile away from the old domaine. We then walked over to the old domaine and visited the impressive cellar where thousands of bottles are stored. The visit ended with a tasting in the modern tasting room in the domaine.

Pictures: Welcome - Veronique and Jean Pierre Josselin, Sharona Tsubota and Annette Schiller

Champagne Jean Josselin

The Josselin family has been growing grapes since 1854 in Gyé­sur­Seine in the Côte des Bar, located 150km south of Epernay and 200km south of Reims and crossed by two rivers: the Seine and the Aube. The Côte des Bar became part of the official Champagne region in the early 1900s. In 1957 Jean Josselin decided to create his own brand: ‘Champagne Jean Josselin’. Champagne Jean Josselin ist a typical so called ‘grower Champagne’. The entire operation is managed by the family. Jean Pierre Josselin and son Jean Félix tend to the vines and take care of the vinification and Veronique Josselin does sales and marketing. They hired an American Sharona Tsubota to get into the American market. The Champagne house Jean Josselin produce about 100,000 bottles per year depending on the vintage. We got a fabulous introduction to the steps it takes to produce a top notch Champagne.

Pictures: Annette Schiller and Christian Schiller with Jean Pierre Josselin at the Prowein Champagne Lounge in 2015

See also:
Prowein 2015 in Düsseldorf, Germany – Schiller’s Impressions

The Josselin family has been winegrowers since 1854 in Gyé-sur-Seine in the Côte des Bar, located 150km from Epernay and 200km from Reims and crossed by two rivers: the Seine and the Aube. The Côte des Bar became part of the official Champagne region in the early 1900s.

In 1957, Jean Josselin decided to create his own brand, Champagne Jean Josselin in Gyé sur Seine. Jean Pierre Josselin: Our region is characterized by its hills, steeper than those of our neighbors in the Marne. Their climate is oceanic, while ours is continental, our soil type is clay and limestone, while the soil of the Marne is quite chalky. Our vineyard consists of 14 parcels, for the most part in the communal territory of Gyé sur Seine and the neighboring commune of Neuville sur Seine.

Pictures: Introduction to Champagne

Visit of the Production Facility

The visit started in the modern production facility, which is about a mile away from the old estate. Jean Pierre Josselin and Sharona Tsubota took us through the various steps of making Champagne.

Pressing: After the delicate stage of the harvest comes the pressing, always respecting the traditions and rules of the champagne appellation. The grapes are pressed as soon as possible after collection, in order to avoid coloration of the juice from the skins. The choice of a traditional "cock" style winepress allows for a gentle and slow press. It treats the different areas of the grape berries with respect, and enables us to get more than one press: the "cuvée," fine and balanced, and the first "taille," fruitier and more supple.

The First Two Fermentations: The first fermentation is called alcoholic fermentation, which converts the wort (juice) into wine. It takes about one week.The wine is then racked several times to obtain complete clarification. The second is called malolactic fermentation, and takes a month and a half or more, depending on the year, until after the end of the harvest. This fermentation changes the harsh malic acid in the wine to softer lactic acid.

The Blending: It is an art of finesse, which requires know-how and talent, to marry together wines which have not yet matured, of different varietals and different years, in order to obtain a balanced and harmonious wine. This is because there is no single "champagne," but rather, many champagnes made according to each house's preferred style. After blending, the wines are filtered. Then comes the time of bottling called "tirage". At this point, we add a "liqueur de tirage" composed of sweet wine and yeast. Closed with a simple stainless steel cap, the bottle is laid on laths or in a pallet box, and placed in temperature-controlled storage or in our cool, dark caves.

Bottle Fermentation: The slow transformation of sugar under the effects of the yeast gives rise to bottle fermentation (sometimes referred to as "secondary fermentation"), which creates fine, persistent bubbles and light foam, the defining features of champagne. This fermentation causes the yeast to settle.

A Long Rest: When the fermentation is complete, the bottles stay in the cellar until the wine reaches its full maturity. Time plays an important role in the quality of the wine.

The Extraction: Champagne methods used to eliminate the deposits in the wine bottle include riddling and disgorging. Riddling consists of rotating the bottle a quarter turn every day for 3 to 5 weeks. We used to use traditional slanted boards. Today, these boards and the hand of the winemaker are replaced by gyropaletts. The disgorgement expels the deposits which have accumulated in the neck of the bottle. These are perhaps the most delicate steps of all.

Doasage: The last step is to integrate the "liqueur de dosage," made from cane sugar which the cellarman dissolves in a liter of older wine. The proportion of liquor added determines the final type of wine (brut, dry, semi-dry). The bottle finally receives the traditional cork, firmly held in place by the muzzle. The champagne has in fact a pressure of 5 atmospheres.

Pictures: Tour through the Production Facility of Champagne Jean Josselin

Cellar Visit

Following the tour of the new production facility, we visited the old cellar at the estate.

Pictures: In the Cellar

Interview with Jean-Pierre Josselin

The web site of Champagne Josselin contains an interview with Jean-Pierre Josselin. I am copying part of the interview.

The world of champagne is dominated by large groups, is this a danger to you? What is your position in relation to them? There are two ways to look at these things: On the one hand, we have our identity as winemaker, the authenticity of the product, good relation between quality and price, many assets which more and more consumers are looking to find. On the other hand, these houses push to make things better. Especially in conveying the image of champagne worldwide as a wine for grand occasions, and by developing the best techniques of cultivation and winemaking.

Do you think you work differently from the large groups of high reputation, and so is that two different approaches to a common passion for champagne? More specifically, what is the real difference in level to the final consumer? The work is certainly no different, but the means, yes. When the same man works from start to finish - from preparing the land, to planting, winemaking and marketing - then passion becomes an indispensable criterion.

Pictures: Jean Pierre Josselin and Annette Schiller

We talk so much of sustainable agriculture, of the environment and organic farming, what is your position on this question? What are the concrete measures that you have set up? What do they bring to you? The philosophy of sustainable agriculture is opposed to systematic practices in the market and has abolished a number of products (weed killers, pesticides, insecticides). We have applied this philosophy to our vineyards now for several years. We work in partnership with Jean Marie Balland, founder of the company ACTIVITUS, whose extensive experience with other French vineyards will help us in the choice of these new techniques. He follows the evolution of our parcels with fortnightly visits. His experience, his passion and knowledge within our group are very valuable and provide sound advice.

The objective in the more or less long term is to become closer to "organic" viticulture, and above all to treat the land with care.

We are engaged in a great adventure which will bear fruit only after a few years. A return to simple methods (such as those employed by "Interceps") and a greater respect of nature and plants must lead us to regain some typicity in our wines. The success of such an undertaking will require a lot of work and questioning of our practices. It is all above a team effort that requires thought and patience.

What are the European standards or other standards with which you must comply? More than European standards, Champagne has implemented its own standards and regulations for a long time. These include: AOC boundaries, spacing of vines, planting density, varietals, use of pressing centers, weight of the grapes in the wine press, pressing rules, inspection and certification of wines, legislation on trademark filing, label notations....

This operation was passed onto you by your father, and you will certainly transmit it to your son; what is the difference between the champagnes of yesterday and the ones of today and tomorrow? In the past, the Josselin champagnes were mostly made from Pinot Noir. We opened up our champagne range with the traditional blend of three varietals and the Blanc de Blancs, thus using varietials other than Pinot Noir.

In addition, our son Jean-Félix Josselin has recently completed his training and joined the family operation.

Nature changes, the climate changes, the years are different and yet the champagne seems always of equal quality; how do you manage this delicate equation? If our wines seem to you to be of equal quality, it is because Champagne has established a qualitative reserve system (blockage of wine stock) which, by blending the wines of different years, maintains the same style relatively easily.

But the job of winemaker does not stop there. Each year is a new challenge. The perfect wine does not exist; we must always seek excellence in meeting the basic principles of winemaking, combined with new techniques and the passion of the winemaker. We also strive for regularity of our cuvées.

Pictures: Champagne Tasting

The drinking habits and tastes of your customers, do they evolve over time? Do you try to adapt, and if so, how? The wine world is constantly evolving. The consideration of our techiques is perpetual. While respecting the traditions of champagne, we are interested in new techniques for the sole purpose of producing champagne that shows the image of our house, reflecting our family traditions. Then it is true that we must listen to our customers, the consumers, and respond if needed to their expectations.

This is actually what happened to our rosé champagne.

The popularity of this wine over several years has led us to produce more, but we have failed to satisfy all its fans, as we sadly sell out of it each year.

What future do you want for the region and especially for the champagnes? Globalization, the production of wines labeled "champagne" abroad, does it bring a dangerous competition or on the contrary is it driving innovation? With a production of 320 million bottles, the Champagne region covers a relatively small vineyard area (34,045 hectares). The originality and the specificity of this wine do not make this region an Eden. More and more winemakers around the world sparkle with imagination in the development of new wines. Champagne is not a closed region and the "family" of winemakers is a large family. There can be no competition for those persons who consider winemaking a true art and passion that drives us still further, in all humility.

Champagne Tasting

The visit ended with a tasting in the new tasting room.

Here are the Champagnes we tasted, including the comments of Champagne Jean Josselin. All Champagnes poured were around Euro 20 ex- winery.

Picture: The Champagnes we Tasted

Blanc de Blancs Millésimé

"White" in color and "whites" for Chardonnay, the white grape varietal of which it is exclusively composed. A champagne to keep cellared, it will seduce you with its elegance and finesse. Made from grapes of a single harvest year, it shows the unique particularities of that vintage.


Composition

Our newest release is unlike our other champagnes, composed of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Round and supple, it will surprise you with its spicy notes. A beautiful golden yellow color, this champagne is adorned with a fine and creamy mousse. It has mineral and spicy notes at the same time, as well as white flowers and red fruit. The palate is soft, while the evolution and finish are long, sustained and structured.


Alliance

A champagne for any moment, a marriage of Pinot Noir (70%) and Chardonnay (30%), of fruit and freshness.This is a wine that expresses the finesse of Chardonnay and the power of Pinot Noir. It is pale yellow in color. The nose is fresh with notes of acacia, quince and mint. The palate is marked by the freshness of Chardonnay. Pinot Noir provides a pleasing and elegant fruitiness with a lemony finish.


Cuvée des Jean

A champagne made only from black grapes: Pinot Noir, the most expressive varietal of our region. The blend is made up of two or even three harvests, which gives it the quality and consistency for which it is renowned. It is yellow gold in color. Its nose is seductive with hints of hawthorn, apple and strawberry compote. In the mouth it is a mixture of liveliness and vinosity, very fruity, with a finish of peaches.


Audace Rosé

Our roséChampagne, rich and fruity, astonishing and pleasurable. Its color and red fruit aromas evolve from the maceration of juice and skins of the Pinot Noir, for a few days. You are seduced by its beautiful color and frosted bottle? Then let yourself be surprised by pairing it, for example, with a raspberry tart.


Bye-bye

Thanks Veronique and Jean-Pierre Josselin and Sharona Tsubota for an outstanding tasting and tour at Champagne Jean Josselin.

Picture: Bye-bye

Lunch at Restaurant Les Berges de l’Ource in Essoyes, the Village of Renoir

Essoyes simply is the village of Renoir. August Renoir married Aline Victorine Charigot, who grew up in Essoyes. The Renoir family spent every summer here and many more months during the year. This village became so important to them that they wanted to get buried here. At every turn of the village we bump into sites that were important to the Renoir family: their family home, August Renor’s studio, their burial plot on the local cemetery. We will have time to visit some of the important Renoir sites.

Picture: Lunch at Restaurant Les Berges de l’Ource in Essoyes, the Village of Renoir

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Visit and Tasting at the Grower Champagne House Champagne Jean Josselin in Gyé­ sur ­Seine, Champagne, with Jean Pierre Josselin, his Wife and Sharona Tsubota

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