Jean-François Ganevat is looking back to move forward. Like many of the world’s best vignerons, he has re-discovered techniques and grape varieties from the past to make cutting edge wines. After training in Beaune and 9 years as Maître de Chai at Jean-Marc Morey in Chassagne-Montrachet (Jean-Marc’s father, Albert, taught him the importance of perfect hygiene in the cellar), “Fanfan”, as he is known, returned to make wines at his family domaine in 1998, the 14th generation of his family to do so since 1650. His objective was to make wines in Jura with the same philosophy as the best wines of Burgundy. He and his sidekick, a Weimaraner named Schiste, can be found in the sleepy hamlet of La Combe, below the main village of Rotalier. He owns 13 hectares of vines and was fortunate that his father had preserved the ancient, yet outlawed, Jura varieties including Petit Béclan, Gros Béclan, Gueuche (white and red), Seyve-Villard, Corbeau, Portugais Bleu, Enfariné, Argant, Poulsard Blanc. Ganevat finds these varieties interesting because they are easily drinkable with a low alcohol content. They are all inter-planted, like in other ancient vineyard sites across France. As they are not allowed in AOC Côtes du Jura, they go to the Vin de France cuvées.
Since 2013, Jean-François also buys fruit from a total of 10 trusted growers, all of them friends, including two ex-employees who worked for him for many years. The “négoce” was started with his sister Anne to respond to lower yields and increasing climate events (hail among others). Fanfan visits the vineyards, participates to the harvest, and his growers all share his philosophy and farming practices. Jean-François likes to keep things interesting: he crafts an astonishing number of cuvées, over a hundred of them; Anne helps keeping track of them all. The quality is extremely high across the board: all cuvées are unique, yet they all reveal Jean-François obsessive attention to details and his talent. His wines are generous and powerfully expressive, at once accessible and profound. The total production is around 65,000 to 70,000 bottles.
Farming/vinification practices: in 1999, Ganevat converted his property to biodynamic viticulture. In 2006 he completely eliminated the use of sulfur. He says the resulting wines are much better and fresher (no mushroom or buttery notes), lighter on their feet and more expressive. This achievement is only possible with clean fruit and proper vineyard management (15 people work full time the 13 hectares of vine) and spotless clean equipment, from the tubes to the pumps – no cleaning products are used, only water. His crew destems the bunches by hand with a reed tool then the vinification and elevage takes place in a variety of containers: demi-muids (600 liter casks), larger tronconic casks, and since 2014, unlined clay amphoras from Italy. Jean-François very much likes the freshness, salinity and purity they bring to the wines. There is no new oak in his cellar – the older oak, the better. He only uses indigenous yeasts for the fermentation, which lasts a few weeks – he ferments his wines in large volume containers, as the bigger the volume, the slower the fermentation, the best it is for the wine. The wines are then left for a month plus before racking. The whites get a minimum of 2 years of elevage – they come from great terroirs and need time, the reds one year.