Photo by travelblog.org
Jura – France’s smallest wine region – managed to pretty much elude me for much of my wine life. I think I always confused it with that bottle of whisky you see behind the tills at the Coop, but it’s nothing like that. Instead, think of the Jura as an antique shop that’s been there forever, but you’d never noticed it before. Once inside, it’s full of curiosities and has an earthy smell of creaking furniture and ancient stone. Some things are instantly attractive and have transcended time and others are just that little bit too.. well.. of another era.
Here are some quick and dirty Jura wine basics:
80km east of Burgundy on the low, western hills of the Jura mountains. It’s cool, damp and very rocky with plenty of clay and limestone. Together, this means wines that have high acidity and a characteristic, earthy minerality – like licking an ancient church wall. In a good way.
Jura wine styles to get to know
The Jura is famous for ‘oxidative’ wines, i.e. wines that have been deliberately exposed to oxygen while in the barrel and this gives them a characteristic taste…
The ‘Clavelin’ bottle used for all Vin Jaune wines
Vin Jaune: The Jura is most famous for its very particular Vin Jaune, which means ‘yellow’ or ‘golden’ wines. They must be aged for a minimum of six years and three months in old barrels and their particular nutty, stone-like flavour comes from the fact that they’re made in a similar way to Fino Sherry, where space has been left in the barrel for oxygen to come into contact with the wine and it grows a ‘flor’ type of yeast. Unlike Fino however, these Vins Jaunes have not been fortified with grape spirit and they maintain a stingingly high acidity. They can age for years, starting out with citrus flavours and a stony, saline tang, becoming more earthy, mossy, viscous and mineral with age. The searing acidity remains and they are beyond bone dry! Savagnin is the only grape that can be used for Vin Jaune and they must be bottled in the distinctive ‘Clavelin’ bottle which holds 62cl. If you like Fino Sherry, you’ll love this.
Vin de Paille: This ‘straw wine’ is made using grapes that have been dried for three to four months before being pressed, fermented, then matured in oak for two to three years. It’s sweet and it’s thick and unctuous. If you like Ice Wine, you’ll love this.
Crémant de Jura: Sparkling white and rosé wines made using the ‘traditional method’ (like Champagne) with Chardonnay being the most important grape (Pinot Noir is often also added). These are generally fine like Champagne, but often with more fruit and a little softer.
Other white and red Jura wines: Chardonnay is the most widely planted white grape and is used for more ‘normal’, i.e. non-oxidative styles of still white wines. Savagnin is the other key white grape variety and is used for both normal and oxidative wines. The red wine are usually made using single grape varieties, with Troussard, Poulsard (aka Ploussard) and Pinot Noir being the big three. All reds are usually fairly light in colour with lots of tart, crunchy red fruit.
Want to try some? Head to The Sampler in London (thesampler.co.uk) and try the full range by Domaine Badoz.
FACT! If the wine says ‘Château-Chalon, it can only be a Vin Jaune. It’s an appellation in its own right.
FACT! There are two AOC appellations that make all styles of wine mentioned above: Arbois and Côtes du Jura. If it’s from L’Etoile, it can only be white wine, including Vin de Paille and Vin Jaune.
Jura make some fabulous cheeses that you may well already know and love. These wines love milky Morbier, the golden, nuttiness of Comté, the delicate blue of Bleu de Gex Haut-Jura and the oozing deliciousness of Vacherin Mont d’Or.
Have you tasted wine from Jura? Let me know your thoughts!