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The Rare Jura Wines of Michel Gahier!

Posted by Mark Grimaldi on Mar 31st 2020

"Amidst the lush, verdant, rolling hills of the Jura, surrounded by plentiful cattle, occasional vineyards, and little else, one can still profoundly feel the ancient agrarian heartbeat of old France. Here, unlike almost anywhere else in the Old World, persists an old and robust winemaking tradition of careful, intuitive vineyard management, confidently unobtrusive cellar work, and a pervasive spirit of experimentation that nonetheless prizes terroir over fashion."
- Importer Neal Rosenthal on the Jura
Michel Gahier remains relatively unknown to the masses, but he is revered among Jura insiders and experts. His wines are highly allocated, and over the past few years we've developed quite a following for them.

Today, we're pleased to offer Michel Gahier's stunning 2018s, plus a few long-aged treats.

My perspective on these wines, having drunk them over the past few vintages now, is that they are dripping with character. Gahier wines are classic Jura, light to medium-bodied but with a supple fruit fruit profile. Primary red fruits interplay with earthy notes. These are also made with absolute minimal intervention. Michel doesn't use yeast, and there is no sulfur added at bottling at all. Some say this is truly how terroir can come through in a wine. The ambient yeasts from the vineyard and cellar ferment the wine, and there is no SO2 to kill off the wild stuff. This also, as with any natural wine, allows a little "funk" to come through. The good funk though. These are not dirty wines, quite the contrary. The Gahier wines are very clean, and after some time with air, any funk dissipates even more and the wines really show their stuff. I would highly recommend letting these wines age for a while before opening, especially the old vines bottling "Les Grands Vergers".

The Jura lies in eastern France, bordering Switzerland, at the foot of the alps. It's relatively close to Burgundy, and the wines are reminiscent of them, although the winemaking styles differ often. In the Jura there's generally much less manipulation; whites are on left in the barrel to slowly oxidize, which in more extreme examples, makes the famous style of Jura wine, "Vin Jaune".

These wines are about as classic Jura as you can get.

Michel has a special gift for the variety his town Montigny-les-Arsures is known for, the Trousseau. It's worth a mention that Michel is close with the now-retired Jura superstar, Jacques Puffeney, and they both farm vines in the same village. Puffeney's Trousseaus are legendary, and he's passed his craft onto Michel. As a matter of fact, Gahier has taken over the used barrels from Puffeney's Vin Jaune wine, and uses them for his own, with the same 'mother" as Puffeney's wines. His whites are unbelievably mineral, and most certainly display the trademark nutty and salty aspect of these famous white wines, due to their time in the barrel where evaporation allows a slight oxidation to the wines.

Here is a write up from the importer with a little more background on the estate for you, followed by tasting notes.
When we hunker down with Michel Gahier in his modest cellar just off the main square of Montigny-les-Arsures (known locally as the “Capital of Trousseau”), we never quite know what he’ll unearth from his library. During our last visit, he blind-tasted us on an enchanting 1990 Chardonnay “La Fauquette”—made with no added sulfur, and as fresh as the day it was born. Michel is 53 years old, but he looks quite a bit younger, and it was incredible to realize through our ensuing chat that this 1990 was made by a 25-year-old who already had nine vintages under his belt. But that is how utterly steeped in the culture of the Jura Gahier is.

In fact, we initially met Michel eight years ago through his neighbor and mentor Jacques Puffeney (a man who truly needs no introduction), just as wider awareness in the region was beginning to crest. Gahier’s wines experienced immediate success, and enthusiasm has grown to the point where every bottle is sold before it even reaches our shores. And, despite Puffeney’s retirement and the oft-discussed takeover of his vineyards by the Marquis d’Angerville in Volnay, Michel has since acquired a dozen of the 100-year-old vin jaune barrels that used to belong to Jacques. These casks, of course, are never sterilized, and the same yeast mother which nourished so many vintages’ worth of monumental wines in Puffeney’s cellar now nourishes wines in Gahier’s. In a very real sense, then, Puffeney’s legacy lives on through Michel—a fitting and touching development in a region upon whose door the modern world seems to knock a little bit louder each year.

Gahier works his six and a half hectares in his own low-key, non-self-important way; i.e., completely organically, and he vinifies, ages, and bottles his wines without any additions whatsoever—no yeasts, no sulfur, no nothing. While his wines can be somewhat ornery soon after bottling (their wild spirits lashing out at the artificial prison of 750 milliliters, perhaps), they transform within a few months into some of the purest, most electrifying expressions of Jurassien soils as can be found.
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1) Michel Gahier Cremant du Jura 2017 750ml
Sale Price: $32.99/btl!
12 bottles available
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"Michel produces small quantities of a delicious and expressive Cremant du Jura, made entirely from Chardonnay and given no dosage whatsoever. Not your typical commercial sparkling wine, Gahier’s exuberant Cremant displays almond cream, brassy limestone twang, and salty citrus, offering a breadth of texture that is nonetheless reined in by vigorous acidity. It hails from a 1.2-hectare plot of gravel and limestone soil in the village of Cramans, eight kilometers from Michel’s home in Montigny-les-Arsures."

2) Michel Gahier Chardonnay "Les Follasses" 2018 750ml
Sale Price: $29.99/btl!
24 bottles available
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"From 45-year-old Chardonnay planted in marne blanche (white marl), “Les Follasses” is topped up in cask, but nonetheless delivers an unhinged expression of saline minerality. The marl here—a layer of decomposed limestone mixed with clay—pre-dates the limestone that dominates Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, and it is this marl (in varying iterations of color and mineral composition) that dominates the terroir of the Jura. The ample 2018 offers yellow fruits, intense minerality, and exceptional density."

3) Michel Gahier Chardonnay "Les Crets" 2016 750ml
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"From Chardonnay planted in soils of marne rouge (which contain more iron than marne blanche), “Les Crêts” possesses a deeper and more saline personality than “Les Follasses” above. Though it is also topped up during its two-year passage in 400-liter barrels, “Les Crêts” displays the layered character and the endlessly ringing finish more commonly associated with wines aged under veil. The 2016 is both concentrated and precise, with a subtle and appealing edge of volatility lifting up its mineral-inflected flavors of apples and quince."

4) Michel Gahier Melon "La Fauquettes" 2015 750ml
Sale Price: $45.99/btl!
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"Always the greatest of Michel’s white wines, “La Fauquette” (from soils of marne bleu) spends four years in 400-liter barrels without being topped up. Despite the marked influence of the voile, however, it is the most elegant of Gahier’s whites: viscerally salty and rich, but with the finesse of great Corton-Charlemagne. It is truly amazing that Michel can express such purity and laser-focus in a wine of such wildness, and the well-aged examples of “La Fauquette” he has poured us over the years have been outrageous. Michel remarks that he seeks a veil signature that is more spice-driven than overtly nutty, adding that the blatant, terroir-dwarfing nuttiness found in some of the region’s sous-voile wines is often an indication of yeast inoculation. The power of the 2015 vintage does nothing to mask this wine’s overriding sense of harmony and complexity, and this should cellar beautifully. [Note: Since the 2014 vintage, he has labeled this wine as “Melon”—a nod to the fact that his vines here are actually the local Jura mutation of Chardonnay known as “Melon à Queue Rouge.”]"

5) Michel Gahier Cote du Jura Rouge "La Vigne de Fort" 2018 750ml
Sale Price: $28.99/btl!
12 bottles available

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Gahier’s “La Vigne de Fort” comes from a minuscule 0.2-hectare parcel of 40-year-old vines in the same vineyard in Cramans as the Crémant du Jura above. A blend of 80% Trousseau and 20% Pinot Noir aged in a single 16-hectoliter foudre, the 2018 is exuberant and juicy—a bit more fruit-forward than the markedly stony Trousseau he produces from Montigny-lès-Arsures, but still with a core of snappy minerality.

5) Michel Gahier Trousseau "Le Clousot" 2017 750ml
Sale Price $31.99/btl!
6 bottles available
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"'Le Clousot' encompasses Michel’s youngest Trousseau vines (30 years old), and as such it offers perhaps the least concentration but the most lift of his three pure-Trousseau bottlings. The 2018 offers more weight than the past few vintages, with high-toned cherry fruit wed to a palate of gentle tannins and zesty energy. A hint of reduction and a trace of trapped carbon dioxide speak to the no-sulfur methodology in play here, and—as with all of Michel’s red wines—aerating before serving will bring everything into focus."

6) Michel Gahier Trousseau "La Vigne du Louis" 2018 750ml
Sale Price $37.99/btl!
12 bottles available
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"From 45-year-old vines with a warmer exposition than “Le Clousot” above, “La Vigne du Louis” offers greater fruit density and more notable tannins, revealing a substantial layer of savory funk beneath its core of mentholated cherries and white pepper. The 2018 is striking in its purity, simultaneously richer and silkier than the “Le Clousot,” and with a clean, driving finish and a marked retro-nasal impression."

7) Michel Gahier Trousseau "Les Grands Vergers" 2018 750ml
Sale Price $44.99/btl!
12 bottles available
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“Les Grands Vergers” represents Gahier’s oldest Trousseau: 80-year-old vines in a south-facing parcel contiguous with Puffeney’s legendary “Les Berangères” vineyard. Each vintage, it is the clear star among Michel’s reds, and this 2018 is no exception. With remarkable concentration, profound minerality, and a tight-grained, slightly savory palate, this promises a very long period of positive evolution. Gahier has opened many older bottles of this cuvée with us over the years, proving definitively that wines made without added sulfur can age effortlessly if they’re produced and stored responsibly."