Domaine Les 5 Wy

7 ha
Johann Widmer

Many in the wine profession have been called rather unexpectedly to the metier, and that is certainly the case with Johann Widmer. While in medical school, Yohann took a summer job at the wine cooperative in Arbois where his parents had recently moved. The experience proved transformational and propelled Johann to leave medical school and get a degree in viticulture and oenology at Beaune. Afterwards, he worked for four years in Etoile at the Domaine Montbourgeau. In 2003, he began assembling his mosaic of small vineyard plots in and around Arbois and continued this for the next decade while working for the Arbois cooperative and selling his grapes to them. In 2018, it was time for Johann to produce his own wine and he created the Domaine 5WY. With only a few vintages behind him, Johann continues to evolve a winemaking style that is rooted in minimal intervention. He is filled with ideas and projects, and it is going to be a joy to watch this domain develop.

Arbois Chardonnay « Origine »

The cuvée “Origine” takes its name from the fact that the vineyard was the first that Yohann acquired. The Chardonnay has a “Jura typicity” that makes it an appealing alternative to white Burgundy.

Arbois Blanc « Le Desert »

The cuvée “Le Desert” takes its name from the “lieu dit” in the village of St. Cyr. The wine is a blend of Chardonnay and Savagnin. The fermentation is done in barrels of different ages and sizes, and the wine is allowed to mildly oxidize while maturing.

Arbois Savagnin « Prémices »

The cuvée “Prémices” is 100% Savagnin and made in a style that is called “Ouillé”, meaning, topped-up. While expressing the great complexity of this indigenous Jura varietal, the wine manages to stay light and fresh on the palate.

Arbois Savagnin « Signature »

The cuvée “Signature” is 100% Savagnin and made in a style that is called “Typé”, meaning oxidized. The wine is fermented and matured in barrel for over two years without being topped-up. The wine expresses the great complexity of earth and heaven.

Arbois Pinot Noir “Cassiopée”

The cuvée “Cassiopée” takes its name from the fact that the vineyard “La Pinte” is remarkable for star gazing and the constellation, Cassiopée, is a favorite of Yohann’s.

Macvin du Jura

Johann produces his Macvin from Savagnin and Chardonnay. The distillate is produced by a “distilleur a voiture” or a portable still. Once blended, the spirit and “mout” age for two years in barrel before bottling.

Region: Jura

One has to like a wine region where the traditional white wine is yellow, and the red wine is translucent and where conversation regularly turns to whether a wine was produced “sous voile” or “ouillés”. From Salins-Les-Bains in the north to Saint-Amour in the south, the Jura vineyards extend for 80 kilometers along a band of hills known as the Revermont. At the end of the 19th century and before the phyloxerra outbreak, the vineyards of the Jura covered 20,000 hectares. Today, a mere 2,000 hectares are planted. Most of the vineyards are planted at elevations between 200 and 350 meters and are sequestered from view from the main roads. The dominant landscape of the area is a mix of forest and cultivated farmland sprinkled with contented looking cows. Historically, the Jura was an important source of salt, but today it is best known for its cheeses. In fact, it is hard to be anywhere in France where Comté is not included on the cheese platter. Happily, in the past few years, the idiosyncratic wines of the region have made great progress in finding their rightful place at the table of the 21st century...

The wines of the Jura are produced from five different sanctioned grape varieties. Three are indigenous: Savagnin, Poulsard and Trousseau and two are borrowed from Burgundy: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I realize that referring to grape varieties as “indigenous” and “borrowed” is partaking in a kind of simplistic and revisionist history, but as is the fashion of the day around here, I am claiming “executive privilege”. At the end of the 19th century there were 45 different grape varieties growing in the Jura vineyards and the concentration on 5 varieties in the context of gaining AOC status is consistent with the narrative played out all over France. To digress, one of the most exciting recent developments in French viticulture is the replanting of “heritage” varietals and clearly the vignerons in Jura have a lot to choose from. The Jura vineyards are organized into four appellations: Arbois, Chateau Chalon, L’Etoile and Côtes du Jura. These appellations are overlaid by three “product-centric” appellations; Cremant du Jura, Macvin and Marc du Jura. It is interesting to note that in 1936, Arbois was among the first AOC’s to be recognized by the French government, a fact that would have made the town’s most famous son, Louis Pasteur, proud. The other three appellations received AOC status soon thereafter.

The Arbois appellation accounts for nearly half of Jura’s total production, and the small town of the same name is the hub of the region’s wine activity. The appellation extends to a few neighboring villages including Pupillin which can distinguish itself by hyphenating its name, Arbois-Pupillin. Chateau Chalon holds a legendary status, the only wine produced under this AOC is Vin Jaune. Its producers are held to the most rigorous standards, including a provision that can result in declassifying entire vintages. The 50 hectares of Chateau Chalon’s vineyards are spread across four communes with only certain parcels having AOC status. Those parcels that are not included fall into the Côtes du Jura appellation. The appellation of L’Etoile boasts 79 hectares spread across five hills and five villages. L’Etoile’s soil is rich in a star shaped fossil called “pentacrine”. So, what else could this village and appellation be called? The vineyards are planted primarily with Chardonnay and the appellation mandate covers only white wines, Vin Jaune and Vin de Paille, or as I prefer to say “white, yellow and orange wines”. The Côtes du Jura, in short, is an appellation that extends the full 80 kilometers of the Jura wine region, represents about 722 hectares and covers everything that doesn’t fall into the first three appellations.

The younger generation of Jura’s wine producers are pivoting somewhat from oxidized white wines and blended red wines to white wines that are “ouillés” (topped up) and red wines that are produced from a single varietal. But it is the Vin Jaune that remains the patron saint of Jura wines. Its origin is shrouded in the fog of history, although from the 18th century forward the wine has been associated with the Benedictine monastery in Chateau Chalon which in that period was the provenance of female nobility. As they say, girls just want to have fun. Produced from Savagnin, Vin Jaune can not be bottled until six years and three months after harvest and spends most of that time in barrels, typically 228 liters, without being touched. A film of yeast develops across the surface of the wine, keeping it from spoiling. At the end of this long maturation process, the wine is put in bottles that hold 62cl of wine called Clavelin after the original bottle maker. Vin Jaune has long been considered among the world’s best wines and is able to age indefinitely which suggests a corollary with the farmer who tends her land for future generations. Vin Jaune can be a wine purchased by one generation for the pleasure of the next. An unusual selling point to say, “buy this wine and drink it in a hundred years.”