Tasha Brandstatter on March 8, 2017 1 Comment From Champagne to the Côtes du Rhône, Bordeaux to Burgundy, you probably think you’ve heard of every wine region in France. But even the motherland of terroir has regions waiting to be discovered, and one of the most exciting among them is Jura. Arguably France’s most obscure wine region, Jura’s wines are unusual, distinctive, and completely different from wines made anywhere else in the world. Which is exactly what makes this region so much fun to explore! Geography Jura is a tiny, secluded region at the far eastern edge of France, sandwiched between Burgundy and the Swiss Alps. Even in modern times it remains quite remote, and Jura’s isolation has contributed to its “weird” winemaking styles, which have a history going back centuries. The soil is marl and limestone, and the climate is similar to Burgundy, but with longer, colder winters. Since the region is so cold, the growing season runs late, with harvests regularly occurring in November or even as late as December. In addition to wine, Jura’s famous for its cheeses — you might have heard of Laughing Cow, which is made in Jura, or the more robust Comté cheese — and its geological landscape, from which the name of the Jurassic period is derived. Grapes 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 Arguably Jura’s signature grape, savagnin is a very small, pale-skinned grape that ripens slowly, a decided advantage in cold regions like Jura. The wines made from savagnin are dry and slightly spicy, with an underlying freshness. Trousseau Called bastardo in Portugal and used to make port, in Jura trousseau produces a red wine that’s often described as gamey and earthy, full of body and flavor. Trousseau vines bud very late in the spring, helping the grapes escape spring frosts. Poulsard/Ploussard Even though it’s a black grape, poulsard skin is incredibly thin, even more so than that of pinot noir, 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 sometimes the grapes never produce any pigment at all! 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 Because of the cold temperatures, the chardonnay wines made in Jura are closer in style to those of Chablis than Burgundy. To combat high acidity, they’re often aged for long periods in oak barrels. Wine Styles With such unique native grape varieties and a challenging climate, it should come as no surprise that wines produced in Jura are unlike those made anywhere else in the world. Generally speaking, Jura’s wines are known for being oxidative and challenging, for people who like “stinky cheese and rollercoasters,” as wine director of Piripi restaurant in Miami, Matt Reiser, likes to put it. Yet that’s only a portion of the wonderful wines that come out of Jura. Here’s a quick guide to the region’s signature styles. Vin Jaune Literally “yellow wine,” Vin Jaune is Jura’s most famous style of wine. Traditionally made with savagnin grapes harvested as late as possible, the resulting wine is aged in oak barrels. So far, so familiar; but unlike vinification practices in other regions of France, in Jura the barrels are never topped off. As the wine slowly evaporates, a thin film of yeast, called voile, forms on top of the wine, partially protecting it from oxidation. After at least six years and three months (though most winemakers wait longer), the concentrated, oxidized wine is bottled in a squat bottle called a clavelin. Vin jaune is intense in flavor, with a predominate nuttiness and a complex array of spices on the palate. It can be served as a dessert wine or as an accompaniment to Jura’s Comté cheese (or failing that, any good aged cheddar will do). It also pairs well with risotto, curry, and mushroom dishes. Vin Typés Also labeled as Côtes du Jura Tradition, these are white wines aged in barrels and allowed to oxidize, like Vin Jaune. Only they’re bottled well before the six years of aging is finished. Many of these wines come from barrels where the voile of yeast isn’t doing its job protecting the wines, so the winemakers bottle it before it can turn to vinegar. Like the more exalted Vin Jaune, Vin Typé is nutty, with lots of acidity and spice, but not as overwhelming as Vin Jaune–nor as expensive. These are good value wines that make an excellent introduction to the region. Vin de Paille A super-sweet dessert wine, “straw wine” is made from grapes allowed to dry for six weeks (this was originally done on straw pallets, hence the name). Then, right before Christmas, they’re gently pressed and the juice is allowed to ferment and age several years. Vin de Paille can be made from chardonnay, savagnin, and poulsard grapes, and is a deeply colored and decadently rich wine with predominant flavors of walnut and raisin. Macvin Probably the most peculiar of Jura’s wine styles, macvin is made with barely fermented grape must and marc, which is all of the materials (stems, seed, skins, etc.) leftover after pressing. The result is a wine liqueur that has plenty of spice and raisin flavor notes, and is usually served as an aperitif. Crémant du Jura Jura also produces its own style of sparkling wines. Usually made from either chardonnay or pinot noir, these crémants are fruity, fresh, and crisp, and come in either white or rosé. They’re likely the most approachable of all Jura’s wines, and generally a good value. Appellations When searching for Jura wines in your local wine shop, keep an eye out for these appellations, as well as Côtes du Jura, which is a catch-all appellation for all the wines made in the region. Arbois The very first Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée ever appointed in France, Arbois is the major city in Jura and is home to some of France’s best restaurants. The major grape produced here is poulsard. Château-Chalon The village of Château-Chalon is the home of Vin Jaune, and all the wines produced here are made with savagnin grapes in the Vin Jaune style. As such, some Château-Chalon wines are not explicitly labeled Vin Jaune. L’Etoile The Chablis of Jura, known for its exceptional chardonnay wines. Vin jaunes from l’Etoile are fresher and lighter in body than those from Château-Chalon, and the appellation is famous for its Crémants du Jura.