The Jura holds a small and special place in my heart. Why, because it is a wine region that is so far off the conventional route du vin that it remains a total mystery to many wine amateurs and professionals alike. But please believe me when I tell you that this special place maintains a veritable treasure chest of vinous and culinary gems. When wine folk enthusiastically go on and on and ON… about Burgundy, I always manage a sly smirk when I recall that the best chardonnay that I have ever tasted came not from Burgundy, but from the Jura. (more on this later)
In addition to being the smallest wine region in France, the Jura is arguably its most traditional in terms of wine styles. Case in point, the Jura’s very own “Vin Jaune” a highly oxidized but unfortified white that must legally spend 6+ years on it’s voile before release. Yes mes amis, these Jura wines are certainly memorable and always chock full of character.
Fortuitously, I believe that this most unique region also boasts some of its most delicious cuisine. In fact, the best meal that I have ever had in France was in the town of Arbois. And, if you are fortunate enough to make to this magical place, the pastoral setting, numerous lakes and forests also make the Jura a great place to hike, bike and explore throughout the day while you’re building up an appetite for the delicious dinner and perfectly appointed wines that you will no doubt enjoy that evening.
Below are some important factoids on the region. Soon, we’ll jump right into breaking down and enjoying the weird, wonderful and wacky wines that make the Jura the real deal.
Location: Eastern France, and one of four departments that form the larger region of Franche-Comte. The region lies approximately 85 km (53 miles) east of Burgundy and also borders Switzerland.
Latitude: 47 degrees
Significant Geographical markers: The Jura Mountain range-located just north of the Alps at an altitude of 1700m, and dozens upon dozens (100’s?) of small, medium, natural and man-made lakes.
Climate: Continental (cold winters, warm summers, moderate precipitation, a long growing season)
Soil: predominantly limestone, formed during the Jurassic period (206-144 million years ago). Also some marl, and a higher percentage of clay in the northern part of the region, especially around Arbois.
6 A.O.C.s and date granted:
Cotes du Jura-1937
Cremant du Jura-1995
Macvin du Jura-1991
Principal Towns: Arbois, Lons-le-Saunier
Chief Viticultural Hazards: Cold winters, Autumn frost, un-even or inadequate ripening.
Principal Red Varieties:
Poulsard (a.k.a. Ploussard)
Principal White Varieties:
Pinot Gris (for cremant)
Vine training/pruning: Guyot
Total area under vine: 1600 hectares (3900 acres)
Wine Styles: red, white, rose (really a very light red), cremant-sparkling wine, vin jaune – a highly oxidized wine, macvin (a late harvest and fortified wine), vin de paille, marc du Jura