The more I taste wines from the Jura, the more impressed I am with the different historic styles and modern renditions. You might be thinking… Jura wines? I wouldn’t be surprised. I hadn’t heard of them either until I really dove into wine.
The #Winophiles group of writers and bloggers are hosted this month by Jeff from Food Wine Click. Scroll down for a list of articles and a ton of information, including wine pairings.
Jura wines – The What and Where
This relatively small and mountainous French region is tucked in between Burgundy to the northwest and Switzerland to the east. I think it’s one of the most unique wine regions in the world, producing red, white, rosé, sparkling, sweet, and vin de liqueur in a variety of styles.
We haven’t visited this part of France to date, yet it’s high on our list; mountains and valleys, hiking, ability to geek out on food and wine, and beaucoup opportunities to go to off the beaten path wine producers.
For us here in France it’s easier to find Jura wines, not so for the rest of the world. Yet the more I review US importer portfolios, that is slowly changing. Scroll to the bottom for a list of retailers.
History Meets Modernity
Based on intel from French wine friends, the region has more recently begun to develop a reputation for being one with small-scale producers making unique, excellent wines in both organic and biodynamic ways.
However, according to Jura expert and author Wink Lorch, many wine producers have farmed organically and utilized biodynamic methods since forever, not just the newer blood. Philosophically, they believe farming and making wine with as little intervention as possible is the best path. You will not always see the organic or other certification on the back wine label, yet know many Jura wines are made in a more natural style (minimal intervention and very few to no additives in the cellar) with minimal to no sulfites added.
So in a sense, you cannot go wrong in the Jura!
Breaking Down Jura Appellations and Grape Varieties
Unlike Bordeaux or Burgundy with numerous appellations, the Jura has four under which about 90% of Jura wines are classified:
- Côtes du Jura AOC (covers the entire region and includes the wine Macvin du Jura)
- Arbois / Arbois-Pupillin AOC (mostly red but others too)
- Château Chalon AOC (mostly dedicated to the Vin Jaune wine)
- L’Etoile AOC (only white wines including Vin Jaune and Vin de Paille are labeled with this AOC).
Those who wish to bottle outside the appellation system, or who make wines from grapes not allowed in the AOC, are labeled IGP (Protected Geographical Indication), or sometimes Vin de Pays or Vin de France. Know being labeled as such has nothing to do with quality!
The Jura produces dry red, white and rosé wines, crémant (sparkling), sweet, Vin Jaune (made with 100% Savagnin and aged oxidatively), Macvin (liqueur / fortified must), Vin de Paille (sweet wine made with Chardonnay, Savagnin, Poulsard or Trousseau), and Marc du Jura (fine distilled Brandy).
There are five grapes in the Jura that can be used in appellation wines:
- White: Savagnin, Chardonnay
- Red: Poulsard, Trousseau, Pinot Noir
Savagnin, Poulsard and Trousseau are indigenous to the Jura.
Historic Wine Styles and Modern Renditions
The most well-known, historic Jura wine is the oxidative style Vin Jaune. Here, oxidative means air is allowed in the barrel or tank during aging. The result is a different tasting wine: distinctively oxidative – think bruised apples, spices, nuts and caramel – yet surprisingly fresh. While the unusual flavors can be off-putting for some, I encourage everyone to have an open mind and great food pairing when tasting Vin Jaune!
Made from 100% Savagnin grapes, it is bone-dry, complex and long-lived. After the base wine is made, the juice is placed in barrels and not topped up for approximately six years. During this time, a layer of yeast forms (sous voile in French meaning veil on top) which protects the wine from extreme oxidation, and allows slow, controlled oxidation. Vin Jaune is always in the distinctively shaped clavelin bottle (62 cl (620 ml) versus the regular 750 milliliter size). This winemaking process is similar to that of Sherry.
(Many decisions and steps along the way that effect the wine aromas and flavors are necessary to make Vin Jaune. But, I’ll keep it simple here and leave it to that above!)
Moving on from Vin Jaune, other historic or modern white wines with 100% Chardonnay or Savagnin, or a blend of the two, are produced. Made in either the traditional way like most white wines, where the wine is topped up in barrel or tank (in the Jura this is called ouillé) or not topping up so a layer of yeast forms on top of the wine (sous voile) results in a variety of options to try.
Jérôme Arnoux – Wines of the Jura
Jérôme is a self-taught winemaker from the Jura. He worked for various winegrowers around Arbois, learning about the different soils, grape varieties and making wine. After 20 years of this, including a decade at Domaine Tissot, he became co-owner and head winemaker of Arbois’ oldest cellar, Le Cellier des Tiercelines. They cultivate 21 hectares of vineyards in three different Jura areas from which the bulk of fruit for his wines comes. The vineyards are managed according to sustainable principles, and they are presently in their third year of official organic conversion. His winemaking style is natural yeast fermentation and minimal to no doses of sulfites.
Entre-Deux 2016 – 100% Savagnin
Entre-deux means between two, which is this wine – between traditional and modern (a traditional grape made in a modern, topped up (ouillé) style.
Look at that gold color! The aromas are fairly intense citrus leaning towards mandarin orange, walnuts and hazelnuts, creamy yoghurt and sea spray . Sipping it is a lemon citrus, nutty, white pepper explosion in your mouth. Vibrant, taut, precise and balanced, it goes on and on with nice bitterness and salty minerality. We were wowed by this wine that is definitely a discussion piece and paired nicely with Comté cheese aged 26 months.
It spent 20 months aging in large oak barrels (foudres) and should age 10 or 15 years.
Pinot Noir Révélation
Yes, you can make great red wine in the Jura! And this one is again wafting with aromas: smoky red fruits and old leather. A sip reveals a bowl of mixed ripe berries, forest spice and dried culinary herbs like thyme and bay leaf. We loved abundant silky tannins balanced by acidity and a round mouthfeel.
It started slightly reductive so we set it aside. A total change after an hour, revealing massive red cherries and unending length. Such a deeply tasty, lovely wine that paired excellently with the chicken dish Coq au Vin Jaune in the photo.
Domaine Badoz Vin Jaune 2014
We ended with this 100% Savagnin, oxidative style wine that reminded me of Fino or Manzanilla sherry. Like sherry, this is a style of wine not everyone likes. It is savory with nuttiness, beeswax and furniture polish (in a good way). Bone dry, a sip is full of nutty caramel and a zing of salty lemon citrus. And it is quite food friendly, like sherry, yet we had the ultimate classic pairing of Vin Jaune and Comté cheese. Off the charts delicious!
Here are a few US retailers of Jura Wines:
- Kermit Lynch (Berkeley)
- K&L Wines (San Francisco)
- Astor Wines (NY)
- Vinopolios (Portland)
- MacArthur Beverages (Washington D.C.)
Jura with the French #Winophiles
Camilla at Culinary Cam shares “Lamb Sausage-Stuffed Ravioli + Domaine Rolet Arbois Vieilles Vignes Poulsard 2018“
• Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Crémant du Jura: A traditional yet different sort of bubbly“
• Lynn at Savor the Harvest shares “Change your 2023 Wine Routine, Reach for the Jura!“
• Jane at Always Ravenous shares “After Dinner Sips From the French Jura to Linger Over“
• Gwendolyn at Wine Predator…Gwendolyn Alley shares “Enjoying Jura’s Wine and Cuisine: Biodynamic Champ Divin Crémant du Jura Brut Zéro + Seared Scallops“
• Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “Crémant du Jura & Rösti – blurring the borders and blending French and Swiss culture“
• Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Caves Jean Bourdy and Comté Cheese: Jura Classics“
Information sources: Jura Wines (Wink Lorch), Wine Scholar Guild
Link to Jérôme Arnoux Wines
Next month we’ll be back looking at women in the French wine industry working sustainably and respecting the Earth. Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator is hosting. Stay tuned!