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Feature Region ➺ Jura

Feature Region ➺ Jura

A Wonderful Boozy Secret

There are wonderful moments as a wine geek, when you find wines that resonate with you, that make your tastebuds stand to attention; wines that are new and exciting and joyful to drink. It’s like you have been wandering through this jungle of wine and you come out into a clearing and there it is standing in front of you. It’s like stumbling across a wonderful boozy secret.

The wines from the Jura have this effect on people. Same goes when you visit the region. If you are used to scrambling for appointments and donning your finery to attend the revered Grand Marque’s in Bordeaux and Burgundy, the humble and down to earth attitude of vignerons in the Jura is certainly refreshing.

gorgeous, honest and rustic

This wonderful French wine region is tucked away near the Swiss border, the last region before the alps, occupying the other side of the broad Saône Valley to Burgundy. In fact you can think of it as Burgundy’s groovy, edgy cousin.

It is drop-dead gorgeous, honest and rustic with smiling people and beatific cows. Up here the sun seems more intense, the air sweet and pure and the wines, complex, characterful and thanks to sharing the similar Jurassic limestone soils as Chablis & the Côte-d'Or, deliciously sapid without the attached pretence.

The AOC of Arbois is the heart of the Jura in everything except geography. At around 850 ha is the largest AOC in the Jura and interestingly, was one of the first six AOCs introduced in 1936. Within its bounds lies the ‘cru’ of Pupillin, home to several of the region’s most famous producers. The Côtes du Jura to the south, spanning 650 ha, is the other substantial AOC in the region and both the Côtes du Jura & Arbois produce red and rosé wines from Poulsard, Trousseau, and Pinot noir grapes, and white wines from Chardonnay and Sauvignon grapes.

If you seek sparkling wine, the Crémant du Jura AOC is the place to aim for Méthode Traditionelle wines from Brut to Demi-Sec produced from Chardonnay, Poulsard and Pinot Noir and if you dig that flat knacker bounciness and joyful drinking that is Pet Nat or Pétillant naturel ….. The Jura is literally ground zero for the wine style.

Poulsard makes beautiful, ethereal, shimmering wines; wines of detail and space, light in body but full of character and complex wonder. Trousseau has a little more bass-line, deeper and meatier but every bit as delicious and the Pinot Noir provides lovely drinking with a sapid, sappy edge and wild-eyed, bouncy enthusiasm.

saliva-gland inducing acidity

Things get interesting when we look at the white grapes. Chardonnay can be made in a reductive style, with many of the best examples prompting nervous glances over the shoulder from the Burgundians…… or…… they are transformed through the practice of controlled oxidation in ullaged barrels resulting in super-complex, nutty-edged wines with that sapid, limestone acid drive.
While you’ll come across some reductively made Savagnin, you are more likely to find the wine in the oxidative style in all it’s nutty, nervous glory with a seam of saliva-gland inducing acidity that makes the chops smack.
The vinous crown jewel of the Jura has to be Vin Jaune …… a mere 4% of the region's total production.

The Vinous Crown Jewel

Savagnin, a late-harvested grape is popped, post-ferment into old Vin Jaune barrels which already contain a healthy population of ambient wild yeast. The barrels are ullaged with an air space left at the top of the barrel and gradually, over time, a thin film of yeast grows on top of the wine, filigreed and lacy in structure allowing the wine to slowly gain complexity in an oxidative environment.

This thin, lacy layer of yeast is known as the voile …. The French word for veil and wines produced using this method are known as sous voile or under the veil. Damn you French and your sexy winemaking nomenclature!
After many years of oxidative aging the ‘yellow wine’ is bottled in the traditional squat bottles and ready for you to genuflect before imbibing. It’s an infinitely complex wine with characters of grilled nuts, ocean spray, wild mushrooms, walnuts and all manner of heady aromas and flavours with an incredibly long finish.

We often fall into chin-stroking introspection and think about whether wines have been produced to perfectly match a local cuisine or visa-versa ….. We challenge you to grab a hunk of local Jura cheese, say a 36-month aged Comté and settle down with a glass of Vin Jaune. #chinstroking.

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