If you were to talk about a variation in styles, character and diversity for a small wine-producing region it would be Wines of the Jura. Jura is located in eastern France between Burgundy and Switzerland in the Franche-Comté district. This wine region is also known as “the Revermont” and is about 50 miles long.
The Jura region has northern continental climate with cold winters and warm summers. The average temperature ranges in the mid fifties with long hours of sunshine due to Jura’s latitude and proximity to the North Pole. The terroir is made up of soils that are predominately clay and marl with some outcropping of limestone. Many of the regions 2000 hectares of vineyards lie in the valleys.
Jura is made up of four major AOCs: Château-Chalon, Côtes du Jura, Arbois and L’Étoile. The following five grape varietals are recognized in Jura: Trousseau, Poulsard, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Savagnin. Except for Château-Chalon, which only produces wines with the Savagnin grape and L’Etoile creates white wines except in the case of Vin De Paille where Poulsard is allowed. All the other AOCs can utilize all five grape varieties. In addition Jura has two product AOCs. One is Macvin Du Jura, liqueur wines that are produced from grape brandy rather than wine. Because Macvin Du Jura can us all five Jura varietals, the wine can be white or red. The other product AOC is Crémant Du Jura, a sparkling wine that can also use the five different varieties. White Crémant must contain at least 50% Chardonnay grapes. For a Rosé Crémant the sparkling wine must be made up of at least 50% Poulsard and Pinot Noir.
Savagnin is considered the foundation grape of the Jura region. This white grape is thick skin and similar to Traminer. This grape is used to make Vin Jaune, known as the yellow or golden wine. These wines go through oxidation as they lay in barrels for six years and three months. During this time a surface layer of yeast forms, called flor. This layer protects the wine by reducing the amount of air the wine is exposed to. This process might be considered the French version of Fino Sherry. Although it uses flor, it does not utilize the solara system that is used in its Spanish counterpart. Savagnin is also used in Vin De Paille, a dessert wine, which is made from grapes that are left to dry out on straw.
Poulsard is considered a dark skinned grape but because the skin is very thin, the wines created from this variety are usually lighter in color. Typically it is the earliest to ripen and considered a more difficult grape to work with.
Trousseau grows better in very sunny spots and is harvested later than the Jura varieties. Both the Trousseau and Poulsard sampled at a recent wines of the Jura event were red wines that could easily be served at any time of the year. The delicate lightness of the wine lends itself to summer. They can be served slightly chilled or at room temperature. Trousseau and Poulsard are also a perfect go to at Thanksgiving.
The wines from this region display a lot of acidity and minerality. What is most interesting and unusual is that at wines of the Jura, the winemakers insisted that one sample the reds first followed by the white wines. Perhaps this is due to the reds being softer and more delicate while the acidity of the white wines especially the Savagnin made them feel bolder.
For winemaker Stéphane Tissot of Domain André Et Mireille Tissot having a biodynamic winery and vineyards allows his wines to intensify more expression of the terroir. Two favorites were the Arbois 2014 Chardonnay Les Graviers. One senses from the wine the limestone soil in his wines. Floral fragrances of white flower accentuate the wine. The flavors are white flowers and stone fruit. Stéphane’s Arbois Trousseau is filled with flavors of berries and cranberries with some pepper on the finish.
The charming Clémentine Baud of Domaine Baud is the ninth generation for this family owned winery. The winery is certified Terra Vitis, a certification acknowledging that the winery respects and works harmoniously with nature through sustainable practices. Clémentine featured the most wonderful Trousseau of the entire Jura event. The 2014 Trousseau was light and delicate in texture but at the same time delivers depth giving the wine a more complex quality. The wine exudes fragrant aromas of rose perfume and red fruit. The acidity and minerals give way to a savory wine. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and aged for six months in large used barrels. Domaine Baud also had an exemplary Chardonnay. The 2014 Chardonnay Flor is a wine with sweet florals and flavors of oranges and orange blossoms.
Domaine De La Touraize has been making wine for eight generations going back to the 1700s. In the 1930s due to the economic climate in the world, the winery, which had been independent, joined a coop. Today under the guidance of André – Jean Morin, the winery has gone back to being independent. Most impressive and probably the best example of Poulsard at this event was the 1915 Ploussar La Cabane. The wine is delicately elegant with it sweet aromas of rose. Although light and delicate the wine is complex. The flavors are cranberries.
A unique feature of Château D’ Arlay is presented on the label. Each label delineates the vintage as well as the year the wine was bottled. The Côte Du Jura Corail 2011 combines all five of Jura’s varietals. Both the reds and the whites are co-fermented together. Another interesting wine is the Côtes Du Jura Reserve. Combining three different years, 2011, 2007 and 2004 of Pinot Noir, Trousseau and Poulsard. The idea is that by combining vintages it rounds out the wine.
An example of a first generation winery is Jean Berthet-Bondet’s Domaine Berthet-Bondet. Jean decided to utilize organic practices in 2010 and the wines he showcased are now organically certified. The 2014 Trio is a blend of Trousseau, Poulsard and Pinot Noir. The wine is very balanced with blueberry flavors. The 2014 Savagnier is a single vineyard unoxidized Savagnin aged in stainless steel. This was a favorite with its orange aromas and citrus flavors. The 2014 Balanoz is a single vineyard Chardonnay that ages less than one year in oak. The wine has subtle flavors of citrus and stone fruit.
Domaine Daniel Dugois exhibited several worthy wines especially the Trousseaus. The 2013 Trousseau Les Trias is an example of vines planted in clay soil. The wine is bright with berry and cranberry flavors. The 2013 Trousseau Grevilliere is created from 60 plus year old vines that are planted in limestone soil. The limestone gives the wine hints of pepper that accent the tart cranberry flavors. The 2013 Savagnin has wonderful lemon and lemon grass flavors with lots of sapidity.
Finishing off any tasting of wine from Jura one must experience a Vin De Paille. The Domaine Rolet 2009 Arbois Vin De Paille is only created in certain years when the climate is very warm and dry. This dessert wine is a blend of 40% Chardonnay, 40% Savagnin and 20% Poulsard that exhibits a thick consistency. The marvelous apricot flavors are subtle and not overbearing. The wine is the perfect end to any meal.
The wines of the Jura represent a unique opportunity to discover new varietals and a different approach to traditional winemaking practices. Jura wines are definitely worth exploring as they will add a new dimension to any wineophiles repertoire.