One of the most exciting visits on my November trip to Burgundy was the Saturday tasting at Maison des Joncs at the Château de Bligny-les-Beaune.
Maison des Joncs is the brainchild of Jae Chu, aka Jaeok Chu Cramette, who is now the winemaker at Château Grillet in the Rhone valley, where she has taken on the exciting assignment of leading this legendary white Rhone.
Château Grillet! One of France’s legendary whites! First of all, I would like to congratulate Jae for her tremendously exciting new assignment at this legendary place. This is a truly amazing achievement.
This article, however, is about the beginning (and end) of Maison des Joncs, Jae Chu’s Burgundy endeavour – a project that so far has yielded some tremendously delicate and refined Burgundies. Maison des Joncs is a very small estate that has now reached a momentary impasse de Joncs (or if you like a cul-de-sac), as the career of Jae has turned to the Rhone valley.
Maison des Joncs – a recent endeavour
Jae Chu is originally from South Korea, but has been a resident in Burgundy since 2008. She worked in the vineyards for some years before deciding to throw herself on the mercy of wine drinkers.
Check out the excellent Paul Wasserman article about Maison des Joncs to get the full story of Jae. Here is a very short recap:
“In 2009, Jae decided to start the BTS viti-oeno training at the Lycée Viticole in Beaune, a two-year work-study course in viticulture and enology. She did, however, need to secure an apprenticeship – and in the nick of time Michel Mallard of Domaine d’Eugenie gave her the opportunity to start at the estate.
After graduation she decided to continue her studies in Burgundy. She obtained her master’s degree in viticulture and enology in 2012, and furthermore her National Diploma of Enology in 2014.”
And in 2016-2017 she decided to pursue the dream of making her own wines at Maison des Joncs. And so she did, showing quite some determination and firmness of purpose.
Grillet – OK. What about des Joncs?
Maison des Joncs made wines in 2017 and 2018, but at the same time an offer no one could refuse was on the table: the opportunity to make the wines at Château Grillet. That estate is also part of Artemis, François Pinault’s holding company which is the owner of Domaine d’Eugenie and other top end-brands.
The Maison des Joncs project has therefore been put on hold for now, while Jae focuses all on the magnificent challenge at Chateau Grillet.
Perhaps one day there will be time to again explore pinot and gamay adventures further. But for now the exploration is paused, just as the 2018s at Maison des Joncs are getting finished and preparing to leave the cellar.
One could say that Burgundy was blessed with the fine talents of Jae for only two vintages. But I have a feeling that we will hear and taste more from this brilliant winemaker; I will certainly try to get some Chateau Grillet 2019 when it is released.
Maison des Joncs: a few magical casks from Château de Bligny
The Burgundy wines from Maison des Joncs somehow represent a new type of airy Burgundian truth – to me at least.
These are light-footed yet intense wines which leave a beautiful emotional imprint. They have a unique, energetic airiness and lightness – delicately extracted – with a vivid and energetic fruity side. They have some of the best qualities of what some would call natural wines – but without the somewhat crude expression of terroir found in many of those wines. Instead, they have a finely detailed expression of terroir – they are feminine wines (the 2017s more so than the 2018s) – having delicate but first and foremost finely grained tannins.
They are lighter than the Nicolas Faure wines – aside from the 2012 Herbues perhaps – and they have the same natural link to the terroir: transparent and elegant.
In 2017, Jae made two barrels of each of the two wines: a sensual Hautes Côtes de Nuits and a delightful Aloxe-Corton, which I tasted in May at the Maison de Colombier (see photo below).
In 2018, production was larger … a bit. The Hautes Côtes de Nuits, the Aloxe-Corton, a Savigny-les-Beaune 1er cru and a white Beaune Longbois which came from the very top of the Beaune slope.
But let’s taste …
Tasting Maison des Joncs
I will start with the 2018s and then end with the beginning – the two delightful 2017s, which have tremendous purity and filigreed lightfootedness. These wines evoke for me a special feeling of elegance. The 2018s are bigger wines.
Maison des Joncs Hautes Côte de Nuits 2018
First up is the Hautes Côte de Nuits from the area above Vosne-Romanée – Concœur or the Hameau de Concœur to be more precise. This is quite a cool wine for the vintage – delicate, elegant, vivid, floral fruit, full of red berries. It has a very refined, perfumed, airy note – a sort of hallmark of these wines. No sulphur during vinification; only 10-15 mg/L at bottling, and no new oak to spoil the delicate fun. Adorable.
(Drink from 2020) – Very Good (88 – 89p) – Tasted 09/11/2019
Maison des Joncs Aloxe-Corton 2018
The Aloxe-Corton is from the village vineyard Boutiéres at the southern end of the Aloxe appellation, and was vinified with 60% whole clusters. This is a weightier wine – more generous than the 2017 version – yet it is still both vivid and organic. The fruit is deeper, more spicy and somewhat darker than the Hautes Côte de Nuits, yet still with an intriguingly sensual perfumed note. This will haunt me … in the best possible way.
(Drink from 2027) – Fine (90 – 91p) – Tasted 09/11/2019
Maison des Joncs Savigny-les-Beaune Les Vergelesses 1er cru 2018
The Savingny Les Vergelesses 1er cru is a darker and more substantial wine with truly delightful fruit. It gives a weighty impression with a deep, yet effortless – or perhaps more precisely weightless – expression. Not quite as sensually perfumed currently, yet lovely fruit and energy.
(Drink from 2027) – Fine (89 – 91p) – Tasted 09/11/2019
Maison des Joncs Beaune Longbois 2018
For something completely different – also-label wise; see below – this is a white Beaune from the very top of the Beaune hill. This is a no-sulphur cuvée, hence very organic fruit from 45-year-old vines. It is vivid with – for an old Winehog – an almost orange tone. The tone and mineral feel are refined and quite interesting. I could have a fling with these white Beaunes. Bottled in August 2019.
(Drink from 2025) – Very Good (89p) – Tasted 09/11/2019
And now to the delicate and exciting 2017s.
Maison des Joncs Hautes Côte de Nuits 2017
The Hautes Côte de Nuits 2017 is perhaps lacking a bit of the 2018’s generosity (higher yields presumably, although just guessing). This uses 40% whole clusters, yielding elegant and beautifully perfumed fruit. Refined and fine tannins give the wine an elegant, airy feel. What can I say: quite enchanting.
(Drink from 2020) – Very Good (87 – 88p) – Tasted 09/11/2019
Maison des Joncs Aloxe-Corton 2017
The Aloxe-Corton 2017 was enchanting to revisit, as this was the first Maison de Joncs wine I tasted back in May. It has all the adorable sides of the 2017 vintage; gorgeously perfumed with delicate, airy and vivid organic fruit showing sensual red forest strawberries and hints of pomegranate. A truly seductive hedonistic treat. Points? Who cares. Just bring me the bottles.
(Drink from 2025) – Fine (90 – 91p) – Tasted 09/11/2019
Hedonistic journeys – the Vins d’émotion
As I try to find the words to describe the Maison des Joncs wines, I’m painfully aware that this is a case where I will run into the issues and limitations of the rating scale.
I know. “A score can never fully reflect the quality of a wine, and regardless of the poetic qualities of the tasting notes, they are only a simple reviewer striving to express the delicacy and sensuality of these wines.”
They are however for me archetypical vins d’émotion – regardless of ratings and my humble notes.
Read more about vins d’émotion here.