Most people are profoundly agnostic about the wines of Kenjiro Kagami. They have never heard of him. Of those who have, there is a small, but well publicised group of true believers.
Members of the church of Kenjiro drink everything they can find, upon which they make an offering to the gods of social media. Whether the wines really are the holy-grail of Jura, seems beside the point. If a Miroirs wine is felled and no-one can see the empty bottle, was it really drunk?
Is that too cynical though? Maybe just everyone loves the wines and wants to express it on social media. I’m not convinced. The smell of groupthink is too strong. It reminds me of queues outside Supreme. How do we really separate what we like, from what everyone else likes?
To add to the appeal or not of the hunt, depending on your preference, is the lack of a traditional supply / demand dynamic to accompany the market. Like Overnoy, it’s not that prices go up to settle the demand, rather that bottles are rationed by the gatekeepers who get tiny allocations. A typical scene might be that you see it on the list in a restaurant in France, and the owner will size you up before telling you that he won’t sell it to you. Awkward. Is it more exclusionary than not being able to drink a wine because you can’t afford it?
Anyway, because of the above, I hadn’t really formed to much of a strong opinion of the wines, save a couple of encounters in bars over the years. Fuck it, I thought, there are enough exciting young vignerons in Jura who I’d be happy to drink.
A few days ago, I walked up to La Croix Russe for a very small dinner with Kenjiro Kagami and Bruno Schueller, whom he worked for for many years to challenge my assumptions and try and overcome my anti social-media prejudices.
The Domaine started in 2011, before which Kenjiro had worked spells with Thierry Allemand and Bruno, both in their way pathfinders for avant-garde natural wines. They work on 3 hectares of vines in Grusse, about 10,000 bottles a year. The name ‘Miroirs’ itself is both a play on his name in Japanese and he believes an expression of the “Mirror” between himself, the wines and the terroir. It’s a fine concept.
We tried four wines, three before dinner. They had a bit more volume with the 2018 vintage, which I think they were pleased about after some recent short harvests. I asked Kenjiro who his main markets were, he told me he sends 30% to Japan, 30% stays in France, and the remaining 30% is split between all his other export markets.
2016 Domaine des Mirroirs Poulsard
This was beautifully light, very pure, very clean. A wine of elegance and a certain power without weight. Sometimes Poulsard can be more on the earthy, spicy side, like Puffenay, but this was much more on the Chambolle-style bright, cherry fruits.
2016 Domaine des Miroirs Les Saugettes Chardonnay
This was an oxidative style, aged in large foudre and concrete, I think. For me it wasn’t quite so enjoyable, the pure style of the domaine I think works better without the notes that come in with oxidation, as they somewhat drown out the delicacy of the style.
2017 Domaine des Miroirs Savignan
A very nice wine, and lovely Savignan, did it knock me sideways? No, although I’m all too aware of my coarseness. I suppose it depends what you evaluate it against. With dinner, Kenjiro brought with him a Magnum of his first ever vintage, the 2011. a very rare chance to try and older vintage. #unicorn I guess.
2011 Domaine de Miroirs Les Saugettes Chardonnay
They were so keen to get funds into the estate, they actually made two releases of this cuvee. A first, bottled only in 75cls, then this – a very limited release, only bottled in magnums, that had an extra year of elevage. A really great wine, still showing abundant youth. I suspect that all of the wines from the estate will end up getting drunk way before they hit their peak of maturity if this bottle was anything to go by.
Just to make a few remarks following these wines. Kenjiro was incredibly warm and welcoming, his shyness and humility makes one appreciate the wines even more I think. It is tempting to personify the wines to the man, and the unique sensibility of the Japanese artisan, cf the film, “Jiro dreams of Sushi” that seems to be almost mystic in its appreciation of the finer sensory aspects. Whether this contributes to the aura of the wines is debatable, but certainly tasting with a Japanese vigneron can be a unique experience. Sometimes even verging on the religious.
He is doing terrific work, please forgive my cynicism, and deserves the acclaim of being one of the best producers in Jura. The market for his wines is just a bit bonkers, but there we are.