A Look at the Region of Jura and it's Wines

A Look at the Region of Jura and it's Wines

27th Feb 2019
- Paul Downie -

Jura now trendy, sought after and distinctly different even cult.

This small wine growing area of France is wedges between Burgundy to the west and Switzerland to the east. Predominantly a limestone soil similar to Chablis and Cote d’Or with added clay and stone in the Northern area. However, it is one of the smallest wine regions of France and is a shadow of it’s pre phylloxera days having reduced in size to about a tenth of the area under vine.

The distinctive wines are now a product of historical wine making, the Natural wine movement and the distinctive indigenous grape varieties. The 5 grape varieties are both indigenous and “international”.

Grape Varieties

Only five varieties of grapes are grown in Jura. While the majority of these consist of the ever-versatile chardonnay, at least in terms of volume, winemakers in Jura also grow grapes unique and native to their region.

  • Savagnin

Savagnin is a very small, pale-skinned grape that ripens slowly, picking can extend uinto early December.The wines made from savagnin are dry and slightly spicy, with an underlying freshness. This grape also is used to make the classic “vin jaune”.

  • Trousseau

The grape found its way from Jura to Portugal over centuries where it is called “bastardo” and used to make port. It is an ancient variety that buds late thus escaping the spring frosts.

In Jura trousseau produces a full bodied red wine that’s often described as gamey and earthy, flavor sometimes with a hint of strawberry.

Poulsard/Ploussard

Even though it’s a black grape, poulsard has a thin skin and low in tannin., and the red wines made from it tend to be closer in pigment to rosé. At their darkest, poulsard wines are a very light garnet, and even after a week of skin contact can still have no colour.They are often mixed with Pinot Noir for colour. Poulsard wines are characteristically delicate and fragrant, with a floral sense of charm.

  • Pinot Noir

The darling of Burgundy, in Jura pinot noir is traditionally blended with either poulsard or trousseau, mainly for color. More recently, some winemakers are producing single-variety pinot noir wines that are lighter and earthier than their Burgundian counterparts.

  • Chardonnay

Jura’s most planted variety. Wines are closer in style to Chablis more than White Burgundy as the cooler temperature produces grapes high in acidity and longer ageing is necessary to soften this. Wine makers are now making distinctive chardonnay, slightly oxidative, nutty and expressive if the area where they are produced.

The climate is continental with the growers training the vines high on to help avoid the effects of frost in early spring.

Wine Styles of the Jura

Crémant du Jura – Crisp and fresh offering excellent value. Mostly made from chardonnay by the traditional method. A delicate sparkling wine often with an apple, lemon sorbet character along with brioche or leesy notes depending on the time on 2nd fermentation lees. The good producers will leave the wine for at least 18 months rather than the minimum 12 months required.

Crisp Whites – The whites from Jura are made from Chardonnay or Savagnin and often times blended together. This produces floral white wines fragrant, with citrus fruits, peaches, white flowers, but also roasted hazelnuts or almonds when blended with Savagnin

Fresh Reds – Made from Poulsard, Trousseau, and Pinot Noir, these wines are light in color and body, and are fruity, fresh and flagrant. Due to the gamey quality of these wines, they pair well with rich meats and cheese. These wines are meant to be drunk young but some Trousseau wines can be aged. Once vinified, it develops intense, peppery, spicy flavours and hints of red fruits

Vin Jaune -Vin Jaune means golden wine and is the quintessential wine of the Jura region. These wines are the rarest of French wines. Vin Jaune wines are made with 100% Savagnin grape and are the pride and joy of the Jura region. Native to Château-Chalon, Vin Jaune is still the undisputed king of this appellation. It’s also produced in Arbois, L’Etoile and Côtes du Jura AOCs. It undergoes a specific ageing process under a film of yeast known as the voile, or veil. Once fermented, it’s kept for at least six years and three months in oak barrels with no intervention by the wine-maker. This yeast patiently contributes to the famous ‘yellow taste’: complex flavours of walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and spices. After barrel ageing, the resulting nectar is bottled in a tailor-made clavelin containing 620 ml (what’s left of the initial litre). This dry and powerful wine, reminiscent of sherry, is outstanding after cellaring but can readily be enjoyed at any time: Serve with mushrooms on toast, poultry, white meat and fish with cream, risotto, exotic and spicy dishes, and of course Comté cheese dishes.

walnut cake.

Vin de Paille – This is another specialty wine from Jura. Vin de Paille, translates to mean straw wines. These are sweet wines that are made from a blend of Savagnin, Chardonnay, Trousseau and Poulsard(Pinot Noir is not a part of the blend). Grape clusters are then arranged on straw mats or hung in a well-ventilated room for around three months. After this slow dehydration, the grapes, naturally filled with sugar, are pressed. The must then ferments until its level of alcohol reaches 14.5° to 17°. After that, it still has to patiently age in barrels for three years. The bouquet shows explosive fruity notes of candied orange, dried apricot, quince, pineapple, dates, tea, spices, honey and the palate is a balance between sugar and acidity.

Macvin du Jura – Mainly white, but can be red or rosé, Macvin du Jura is a liqueur. It’s a careful blend from the 14th century whose production process has been passed down from generation to generation. Alcoholic fermentation of the freshly pressed grape juice is stopped and one-third Marc du Jura is added to the must.
The Marc used to stop the fermentation mid-process (a method known as mutage) must be made from grapes grown in Jura, and must have spent at least 18 months in oak barrels.

Macvin rests in oak barrels for at least 12 months, during which it acquires its full complexity and ricjhness.

Its taste and power vary depending on the grape varieties used. Made with Savagnin or Chardonnay, it releases flavours of raisins, cooked prunes and candied fruits. When featuring Poulsard, Trousseau or Pinot noir, surprising notes of red fruits appear.