Domaine Jean-Luc Mouillard, Jura

Domaine Jean-Luc Mouillard label

Country & RegionFrance, Jura
Appellation(s)Côtes du Jura, L'Etoile, and Château-Chalon
Producerthe Mouillard family
FoundedJean-Luc Mouillard established the domain in 1991.

Another producer whose wines were most impressive was Jean-Luc Mouillard.
        —John Gilman, View from the Cellar, June 2021

Jean-Luc Mouillard was born in Nevy-sur-Seille at the foot of the oft-photographed Château-Chalon. The château has morphed into a village as well as into Jura’s most respected appellation for vin jaune, and it occupies the top of a huge limestone outcropping. Nevy-sur-Seille, as the name suggests, sits far below on the valley floor along side of the small Seille River. An old stone bridge crosses the Seille at Nevy, and it’s this bridge that graces the labels of Jean-Luc’s wines.

Harvest 2021 at Domaine Jean-Luc Mouillard

Jean-Luc grew up on the family’s dairy farm, which happened to have a few vineyard parcels on the side whose harvest was sold to the local co-op. After enology school, he established Domaine Jean-Luc Mouillard in 1991, renting several parcels and planting several others. Today he farms twenty-five acres of vines in three appellations: Côtes du Jura, L’Etoile, and Château-Chalon. The bulk of the vines are in the AOC of Côtes du Jura for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Poulsard and Trousseau, and all of his vines grow right around 1,000 feet in elevation. The farming ethic is one of lutte raisonnée, or pragmatically sustainable. The use of herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers was abandoned many years ago. More recently, the domaine has embarked on a three-year transition into organic viticulture, and it’s looking forward to being certified in time for the 2023 harvest.

In 1997 Jean-Luc moved north from Nevy-sur-Seille to the village of Mantry upon buying a sixteenth-century house that originally served as a stagecoach stop. The motivation was the building’s stone cellar, an arched underground affair that became a place of beauty once Jean-Luc stripped off all of the stucco that had been applied to the stone at a later date. Here is where he ages wine in barrel. In 2005 he constructed a one-story building across the street for his fermentations, and in 2014 he built a facility to house a bottling line and to store bottled wine.

Cellar of Domaine Jean-Luc Mouillard

Thus, through dint of focus and hard work, Jean-Luc has created a serious artisan domain that produces up to 35,000 bottles per year. His wife Annie helps him and their son Mathieu recently completed his enology studies. He worked at his father’s side for the 2016 season, did an internship at Pierre Gaillard’s domain in Faugères in 2017, and in 2018 returned to the family domain to work full-time with his parents.

Father and son of Domaine Jean-Luc Mouillard

The Jura is sandwiched between Switzerland and Burgundy, and its vineyard area is the first upland between the Bresse Plain and the Jura Mountains. The lower slopes have more clay to go with marl; the higher slopes have more limestone, much like Burgundy’s Côte d’Or on the other side of the vast plain (unlike Burgundy, however, the Jura’s vineyards have a treasure trove of tiny star-shaped fossils, scattered like star dust upon the ground.). The influence of the Alps ensures that Jura’s climate is decidedly more continental than Burgundy’s, and winters can be quite cold. Vines are trained high for added protection against frost. Harvest typically runs well into October.

tiny star-shaped fossils at Domaine Jean-Luc Mouillard

This is an ancient grape-growing region whose wine was referenced in 80 AD by Pliny the Younger. The early 19th century supported close to 50,000 acres of vines. Largely because of the phylloxera epidemic, the total today is around 4,000 acres. The earlier century supported a far greater diversity of vines too—42 different kinds, according to one count—whereas today five varieties dominate. Chardonnay is the most important at 43% of the total vineyard surface, and came from Burgundy with its sibling Pinot Noir as long ago as the 10th century. Savagnin, a distinctive wine prized for vin jaune, accounts for 22% of the vineyards; Poulsard, aka Ploussard, adds up to 14%; Pinot Noir for 13%; and Trousseau for 8% (figures come from a census taken in 2000).

Thanks to Jeff Bramwell for the fossil shot and the photo of Jean-Luc and Mathieu.

The Wines

Côtes du Jura Bas de la Chaux
ChardonnayYears back Jean-Luc used three parcels to make this wine, but now it comes from a single parcel named La Chaux. The parcel totals three acres, and much of it is on a steep hillside that must be worked by hand. The initial fermentation takes place in steel with the malo taking place during aging in older barrels, and both fermentations are normally spontaneous (as with all their still wines). The wine is a product of Jura’s alpine foothills—their elevation and their limestone—making for a delicious combination of elegance and minerality. Production averages around 600 cases (but frost, as in 2017, can take it down to 375 cases).

Côtes du Jura Savagnin “L’Ouillé”SavagninOuillé, from oeil, French for eye, refers to wines that during élevage are topped off up to the eye of the barrel to be protected from oxidation—standard just about everywhere except in Jura, where the tradition has been to work with oxidative wines. The grape is Jura’s own distinctive Savagnin, commonly used to make the Sherry-like Vin Jaune and the sweet, concentrated Vin de Paille. This version is one of the new wave of wines coming out of these Alpine foothills. Production is limited to a couple hundred cases.
Côtes du Jura Trousseau Sur La CourTrousseau One parcel of nearly 3 acres in their commune of Mantry, where you can find the star fossils that are in the photo in the profile above. Trousseau is a Jura native and at some point in its history migrated to Portugal, where it is known as Bastardo. The Mouillard rendition is a lightly-colored wine of notably full, limestony flavors. Lighter years see this wine aged entirely in tank while riper years can see barrel ageing. Low yielding years can result in this being blended with Poulsard and Pinot Noir to make a red in sufficient volume named Rubis. In abundant years, production of Trousseau can reach 375 cases.
Côtes du Jura Pinot Noir
Pinot NoirTwo parcels, 2.69 acres, raised in older barrels. Lightly colored and easily--painfully easily-- underestimated by the uninitiated. Production averages 125 cases.
L'Etoile Sélection
60% Savagnin, 40% ChardonnayThis is a traditional Jura wine, made with Savagnin and Chardonnay, both made sous voile, or under the veil of yeast that forms across wine in a barrel that intentionally is not topped off, and then blended and bottled.
Crémant du Jura

Chardonnay This is now entirely made in house at the domain (rather than, as is commonly done, at a facility specializing in sparkling wine production). Minimum ageing on the lees is two and a half years, and the wine is subsequently disgorged upon order. Dosage is in the range of 6 grams per liter. Production averages 750 cases of 6-packs.