The never-ending search…
Humility, balance and the constant appetite to learn are just some of the qualities that Pierre Overnoy has brought to the world of wine, not just in the Jura but around the globe. Such reverence is the first thing that springs to mind, all without even considering the wines themselves. From a family of five Pierre’s upbringing was on a 15-hectare mixed farm in Arbois, France - the “capital” of the Jura region. From a very young age, Pierre was enamoured with the grape vines on his father’s property and it was this fascination that led to his inheritance, of the then 2.65 hectares, of vines in 1968.
Returning to the traditional work of the vigneron
Overnoy was sceptical of the chemical usage presented to farmers in the 60s and from the get-go of his reign in the vineyards he abolished any use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other chemicals. This was a return, to how Pierre describes it, the traditional work of the vigneron. It’s with this diligence and curiosity that Overnoy would come to shape the wines that many nowadays would sacrifice a lot for - namely, often lots of cash at auction!
Despite the changes in the vineyard, Pierre was not happy with early attempts at his wine, feeling a slight disconnection of place and a never-ending feeling something was not the same as what had come before. It was at this very point a chance meeting with a local sommelier and oenologist Jacques Néuport would change the course of how work was done in the Overnoy winery. Mr Néuport would show Pierre the ways of the iconic Beaujolais natural wine guru Jules Chauvet. From here, no additives were ever used in the winery again and the usage of sulphur dioxide was stopped completely. Pierre focussed solely on terroir, singularity and precision from this point, much as his grandfather had done before. This remains the focus up until this very day.
The crucial work of Emmanuel Houillon
No story of Pierre Overnoy is complete without remarking on the indelible work of Emmanuel Houillon. Manu, as he is affectionately known, came to Pierre as a viticultural and oenological apprentice in 1990, his parents being customers of Pierre’s. Following seven years of schooling and working at the side of Overnoy, he was hired as an employee, but this only tells part of the story.
Over the years, the two had formed an unbreakable bond, some say more like father and son than anything else. In 2001, at the age of 63, Pierre Overnoy retired. Emmanuel Houillon and his wife Anne have been fully at the helm ever since, although Pierre is never far away from the vineyards or tastings in the cellar. Houillon not only continues the work learned at the side of Overnoy but brings fresh and courageous ideas to the Domaine - which Pierre admires.
Pierre Overnoy - unforgettable natural wines from a remarkable human being
At some stage in every wine drinker's life, the opportunity to taste the wines of Overnoy will come about, for the lucky ones, this will happen more than once. I will refrain from another tasting note because nothing more can be written that hasn’t come before but be it known that they are truly unforgettable and an inspiration. Some would argue, me included, that more important than what is directly in the glass is the truly remarkable human being behind the bottle. For me, it’s the connection of people, place and moment that leaves its mark after every sip that makes some bottles transcend the ordinary - none more so than those of Overnoy.