The Jura Wine Region

Wine Tours of Jura

Jura Wine Tours

  • Sandwiched between Burgundy in the west and Switzerland to the east, Jura’s vineyards cover just 1900 ha along an 80 km north-south strip – less than 10% of the area under production in the 19th century
  • An important wine producing area before the phylloxera scourge of the late 1800s wiped out most of the vineyards. Now becoming funky and fashionable with sommeliers and restaurateurs as the wide and distinctive range of wine types are food-friendly
  • Five grape varieties used, three of which are rarities
  • Home to the extraordinary vin jaune (yellow wine) reminiscent of sherry
  • Also home to Comté cheese, and yes, it gives us the word ‘Jurassic’

And if you want to know more…
The grape varieties
In line with its neighbour Burgundy, Jura grows Chardonnay for dry whites some of which these days can equal those of the Cote d’Or in quality. It also features in the sparkling wine. Again like Burgundy, Pinot Noir is grown either for single varietal wines, or in a blend, or as a component of the sparklers. Things get interesting for the wine geek when we come to the other three varieties. Poulsard is an ancient variety native to the region. It gives pale coloured reds (sometimes sold as rosé) with a nose of small red berries. Trousseau, another indigenous variety, gives darker reds with peppery, spicy notes in addition to red fruits. The real quirk of Jura is Savagnin Blanc (normally just Savagnin), a white grape which makes two different and distinctive styles of wine – which brings us neatly to…

Types of wine
Vin Jaune is a real wine-making oddity. Made from 100% Savagnin grapes picked late for maximum ripeness (and therefore alcoholic strength), normal fermentation is followed by putting the wine into old 228 litre casks – and here’s the important bit – not quite topped up. This causes a thin film of yeast (called the voile or veil) to form on the wine, similar to the veil which helps produce Fino sherry. The whole is left untouched for at least five years and can only be bottled six years and three months after harvest. The result is a heady mix of almonds, walnuts and spices. The bottle itself is rather dumpy and squat and contains 62 cl – presumably the normal 75 cl would be way too…well, normal. A real Harry Potter of a wine. Serve at just above cellar temperature with chicken in vin jaune, a classic of the area unsurprisingly, Comté cheese, or experiment with other savoury dishes. A more recent style of Savagnin is made in the usual way, ie with topping up of barrels to prevent oxidation, and displays exotic aromas similar to Gewurztraminer (a genetic relative). The Chardonnay hereabouts is floral with citrus notes. Blended with Savagnin you get an overlay of roasted hazelnuts or almonds. The reds are not what makes Jura distinctive: suffice it to say that Poulsard is light, easy drinking; Trousseau more butch and tannic; Pinot Noir, well, Pinot Noir, but often blended with the other two. Crémant de Jura is the sparkler, made from a blend of any of the five grape varieties. Vin de Paille is a luscious, long-lived sweet white wine traditionally made from grapes dried on straw (paille = straw). Macvin is not a beverage you find at your local burger joint (though perhaps you should if only to aid forgetfulness) but a strong liqueur made from just-fermented grape juice and marc, the basic ‘brandy’ made from the slurry of skins and pips after wine is made. Marc du Jura is the brandy itself and is known in the area as a ‘heart-warmer’, a typically Jurassian understatement.

Understanding the classifications
Jura labels can be a bit confusing. There are seven in all, three ‘product’ based, four geographical. The three product-based are easy enough: the AOCs Macvin du Jura, Crémant du Jura, and Marc du Jura can be made throughout the region and you get what it says on the can. AOC Cotes du Jura is omnipresent and can cover all the various styles of wine from all the permitted grape varieties, but with emphasis on whites and sparkling. The three remaining AOCs do not mention ‘Jura’ and this is where mystery and confusion can dwell. AOC Arbois is the most important of the geographic appellations and is centred on the region’s ‘wine capital’, the town of Arbois. Perversely for Jura as a whole, about half the production here is red. All the other wine styles can also be made. AOC L’Etoile is a small sub-region specialising in whites including vin de paille, vin jaune, and crémant. The show-stopper is AOC Chateau-Chalon under which classification only vin jaune can be made (other wines can be made in the area but are classified ‘Cotes du Jura’).


Vineyards of Lons le Saunier in France
Vineyards of the Jura
Arbois Jura France

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For more information or to arrange your next tour with French Wine Tours, call John Sherwin on +33 (0)7 50 90 02 00
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