Posts Tagged ‘Jura’

In one of my first posts on the Jura, I alluded to the fact that this region is a veritable rainbow coalition when it comes to wine colors, styles and flavor profiles. In addition to exploring the regions main appellations, we’ve gotten familiar with red, white, rose, sparkling, fresh and super oxidative wines. So I thought it appropriate to conclude our journey through the Jura on a sweet note. Yes, there are some super tasty ones made here, although they may be somewhat difficult to obtain stateside. Like this sweet and rare gem from Bénédicte et Stéphane Tissot..

Mout de raisins partiellement fermente issu de raisins passerilles -right on!

If you are ever in the Jura, and you can only make one stop, I recommend that it be at Tissot’s tasting room, conveniently located in the center of Arbois.  Here you will learn about and taste what makes the region so special. The Tissot’s are true “terroir-ists” and farm all of there vineyards naturally and biodynamically.

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to visit and taste with Stéphane Tissot at the  domaine in Montagny-les-Arsures. This family run enterprise is one of my top picks in the Jura. After being over 90 minutes late, (I miscalculated how long it would take me to devour the Bresse chicken that I had for lunch in the Savoie) a very patient and understanding Stéphane took me on a tour of the vineyards and led me through a comprehensive tasting of 19 wines.  It is here that I experienced the BEST chardonnay that I have ever tasted- a 1986 single vineyard “Les Bruyères” vinified by Stéphane’s father.

If getting to taste the best chardonnay of my lifetime was not enough of a treat, at the conclusion of the tasting, Stéphane slipped me this parting gift (see pic above) Witness Tissot’s 2000 PMG, a late, late, late harvested wine made from partially dried poulsard and savagnin grapes that is only produced in select years and in miniscule quantities.


PMG stands for “pour ma gueule”.. French slang that literally translates to ‘for my gullet” or  perhaps more appropriately in English terms to “for my mug”.  Although the expression is rather casual and commonly used, Tissot’s PMG is a precious creation in the wine world that is anything but common.

I held on to my bottle of PMG until 2 months ago, when I shared it with a group of very special friends on my birthday. What a revelation! Thick, rich and at 400+g/l residual sugar..sweet..oooh wee! With notes of citrus, nuts, honey and dried golden figs, this is not a wine to pair with dessert, this is dessert! O.K., maybe a biscotti for dipping would be nice..

Au revoir Jura!

Prochain arrêt..Spring Mountain!


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By now you all know how I feel about bubbles. Thank goodness for the sparkling wines of the Jura! Since the the creation of this A.O.C. in 1995, production of Cremant du Jura has steadily increased, and presently accounts for 16% of all wines produced in the region. Although there are strict guidelines regarding the composition and vinification of Cremant du Jura (see below), the 210 hectares of vineyards dedicated to its production are spread across the entire region (i.e. Arbois, Chateau Chalon, Cotes du Jura, l’Etoile).

Note the empty bottle of Cremant du Jura..

Often less austere and a bit more forgiving than a glass of Champagne, a nice Cremant du Jura is often my go to sparkling wine when I am in the mood for something food friendly and delicious. Last night my good friends Omar, Melissa and I polished off a bottle of  my current favorite Cremant du Jura while snacking on Cabot cheddar, country pâté and a toasted Acme baguette. The slightly, earthy and dried berry notes of this rose sparkling worked great with the rustic and flavorful pâté. Oh what fun! 

In Cremant du Jura  A.O.C.  the following varietals are permitted:



Poulsard (a.k.a. Ploussard)

Pinot Noir



In Cremant du Jura A.O.C.  production guidelines are as follows:

Grapes must be harvested by hand.

Vinification and ageing must follow the traditional method of sparkling wine production. More specifically, the wine must undergo 2 fermentations, the second of which takes place in the bottle before being disgorged.

The wine must spend a minimum of 9 months on the lees before disgorgement.

For white Cremant du Jura Chardonnay must comprise at least 50% of the total cuvée.

For rosé Cremant du Jura Poulsard and Pinot Noir must comprise at least 50% of the total cuvée.


Cremant du Jura Producers worth seeking out

Domaine André et Mireille Tissot (Stéphane Tissot) 

Domaine Labet (featured prominently in this post!)

Berthet Bondet

Domaine de Montbourgeau


This bottle is everywhere -more fun!


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C'est Jaune!!

And now we arrive at Château-Chalon, the Jura’s smallest and perhaps most esoteric wine region. Located almost equi-distant between the towns of Arbois and Lons-le-Saunier, this micro wine appellation is known for one of the wine world’s most unusual wines, the mighty Vin Jaune, or Yellow Wine.

Why is it so unusual ? Any why is it so yellow ? Permit me to briefly explain : Savagnin grapes are hand-harvested late in the growing season, usually towards the end of October. Late harvesting ensures that sugar levels will permit for the finished wine to contain between 13-15%  abv. Next, a slow fermentation will take place in old cask for an extended period of time. Native yeasts in the cellar, along with a bit of head space in each barrel permit for the development of a thin layer of yeast or voile to develop over the surface area of the wine. The development of such a voile will often take between 2-3 years.

Cross-section of a barrel with Vin Jaune: note the voile on the surface of the wine

And here the wine will stay, for a very long time. Continual exposure to low levels of oxygen, along with the influence of the voile will create certain chemical changes and aromatic compounds that contribute to this wine’s most unusual flavor profile. More specifically, the production of ethanal (note: this is different that ethanol) as well as the lactone sotolon. In addition, proper vigilance must taken to ensure that such wines do not develop unacceptable levels of volatile acidity due to the increased presence of oxygen, the bacteria known as acetobacter and lower levels of acidity. 

By law, a minimum of 6 years and 3 months must elapse between harvest and bottling. As you can imagine, most of this time is spent in the barrel, where Vin Jaune and the process described above creates a wine that as it matures, turns a deep, golden yellow (see first picture).  Finally, Vin Jaune is bottled in a special and rather squat 62cl format known affectionately as the “Clavelin”.  Historically, it is said that after the requisite period of 6 years+ of ageing, this volume (62cl) is all that remained from the original 100cl of wine due to evaporation.

What do such wines taste like?

Thick, rich and SAVORY are descriptors that I often use. More specifically, Chicken consommé, mineral salts, aged parmesan, curry, roasted nuts, dried apples and pears..and always with a healthy dose of acidity and tang to round things out. Sound weird? Yes, these wines are for the chosen few, and certainly not for everyone, however I find them to be delicious and intriguing. I have the same warm fuzzy feeling about Uni (sea urchin). See? Incidently, Vin Jaune has one of the longest finishes that I have ever encountered. Seriously, minutes can go by before the fat dude sings.


In the Château-Chalon A.O.C.  production of the types of wines are permitted:

 Vin Jaune

In Château-Chalon A.O.C.  the following varietals are permitted:

 White: Savagnin

Weird, wacky and wonderful Vin Jaune

Wine/Producer:  Berthet-Bondet 

Composition: 100% Savagnin 

Vintage: 2000

Country: France

Region: Jura

Sub-Region/A.O.C. : Château-Chalon 

Geology/Soil: Limestone, clay, marl

Alcohol: 13%

Importer: various: In CA, Martine’s

US Retail: $70

Berthet-Bondet’s Vin Jaune is archetypal. Curry, chicken stock, roasted nuts, dried apples, earthy cheese..and oh yeah, a salty tang to finish things off. This is simply wonderful stuff. And while we’re at it, I also highly recommend Domaine de la Tournelle’s 2001 Vin Jaune produced in the A.O.C. of Arbois. This wine has my personal record for THE longest finish that I have ever experienced in a wine. These wines are characters that you will not soon forget. They are also extremely ageworthy, and can hunker down for an additional 5-15-30+ years after release.

What to pair with Vin Jaune?

Fried Comte cheese sticks, mon dieu..


Sauteed Chicken in cream sauce with Morel mushrooms

Skate sauteed in vin jaune and brown butter sauce

Roasted Chicken with a side of sauteed mushrooms and pommes frites

Home made fish sticks?

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Red Star Rising over l’Étoile

Our third stop on the Jura route du vin is the A.O.C. of l’Étoile. Located approximately 5km from the main hub of Lons-le-Saunier (home of La Vache Qui Rit processed cheese), this second smallest appellation in the Jura obtained A.O.C status in 1937. Presently the total surface area planted to vineyards is only 75 hectares, or approximately 185 acres. It is small!

The origin of the name l’Étoile derives from one of two sources (depending upon whom you ask). Surrounding the town of Étoile are 5 distinct hills, thereby signifying the five points on a star, or in french, l’Étoile. Or perhaps the region got it’s name due to the tiny, star-like marine fossils which can be found scattered throughout the vineyards of the region. Who knows? Both stories seem to make perfect sense to me.

This is an appellation that has no shortage of traditionally styled, oxidative wines which make the Jura so distinctive in the world of wine.  

In l’Étoile A.O.C.  production of the types of wines are permitted:


Vin Jaune

Sweet Wine –Vin de Paille

In l’Étoile A.O.C.  production of the varietals are permitted:

Red: Poulsard (Ploussard) –for vin de paille only

White: Chardonnay, Savagnin

2006 Domaine de Montbourgeau -one bitey white!


Wine/Producer:  Domaine de Montbourgeau  

Composition: mostly Chardonnay –with a touch of savagnin from select parcels 

Vintage: 2006

Country: France

Region: Jura

Sub-Region/A.O.C. : l’Étoile 

Geology/Soil: Limestone, Blue-gray Marl, Clay.

Alcohol: 13%

Importer: Neal Rosenthal

US Retail: $23

Domaine de Montbourgeau could be considered the poster child for wines from the Jura  produced in the classic, old school style. The domaine is small, (the estate is merely 8 hectares in size) however big things can come in small packages. Vigneronne and present owner Nicole Dériaux crafts a range of judiciously oxidized and precise wines that possess tons of character and integrity.

Take this 2006 Blanc (the current release). Orchard fruits like apples and bosc pears are tempered by distinct notes of hazelnuts and delicate savory notes. All with a laser like precision and intensity that keep this wine incredibly vibrant and crisp. This is a food wine to be sure. Perhaps a classic cheese fondue, or roasted chicken with a side of Comté and sweet potato soufflé. Anyone?

In a pinch, little cheese-lettes with a glass of Jura blanc or cremant are delicious!

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Arbois and the Domaine de la Tournelle tasting room -props to "arnaud 25" for this lovely picture

The A.O.C. Arbois is perhaps the best known to folks who are familiar with the region. Located in the northern part of the Jura, it is also the largest in size, at approximately 800 hectares. Along with the requisite limestone outcroppings, the area also contains a higher percentage of marls and clays in the sub and topsoils, which lend themselves to the production of red wine. For this reason you’ll find more of the Jura’s tasty reds in the northern part of the territory than in the south.

For a multitude of reasons, the town of Arbois is a must stop if you ever decide to travel to tiny region on the  eastern side of France. In addition to tasting some of the regions most exciting wines, there are plenty of other culturally stimulating in which to partake!

Several of my favorites, all located on or  a 2 minute walk from the main square include:

The museum of Louis Pasteur (Who grew up in Arbois. The french chemist and microbiologist known most famously for the creation of the rabies vaccine, the process of “pasteurization”, and an incredible number of discoveries relating to modern germ theory)

Jean-Paul Jeunet An outstanding 2 star Michelin Restaurant (want a taste of the Jura?)

les Jardins de St. Vincent –a one stop wine cave just off the main square. The best wines that the region has to offer, all under one (small) roof. Sommelier-Caviste Stéphane Planche (also the sommelier at Jean-Paul Jeunet) will be your expert guide.

Chocolat Hirsinger  (An amazing chocolatier producing edible works of art- located right on the main square)

Incidently, wines produced in the commune of Pupillin are permitted to append its name to the Arbois classification, as exemplified by Emmanuel Houillon’s label above.

In Arbois A.O.C.  production of the types of wines are permitted:




Vin Jaune

Sweet Wine –Vin de Paille

Macvin du Jura

Cremant du Jura

In the Arbiois A.O.C.  production of the varietals are permitted:

Red: Trousseau, Pinot Noir, Poulsard

White: Chardonnay, Savagnin, Melon Que Rouge (a most obscure varietal!)

La Gamme de Jacques Puffeney

Top producers in the Arbois A.O.C.

-Jacques Puffeney

-André & Mireille Tissot (Stéphane Tissot)

Emmanuel Houillon/Pierre Overnoy

-Domaine de la Tournelle

-Jean-Marc Brignot

Poultry, like this Cornish game hen with roasted yams that I made the other daywork really well with the often more earthy and robust flavors found in game birds like quail, pigeon or squab.

2006 Jacques Puffeney Arbois Pinot Noir

Wine/Producer:  Jacques Puffeney

Composition: 100% Pinot Noir 

Vintage: 2006

Country: France

Region: Jura

Sub-Region/A.O.C. : Arbois

Geology/Soil: Limestone, Blue Marl, Clay.

Alcohol: 13%

Importer: Neal Rosenthal

US Retail: $30

Jacques Puffeney’s father was a vineyard worker who owned a modest plot land in the village of Montigny Les Arsures (just around the corner from Arbois). Jacques made his first wine at the age of 17 but, however in order to earn a living, he also worked as a “saleur de Comte”, making the fabled cheese of his region. Petit a petit,  Jacques acquired more vineyards throughout the area.

Presently the domaine consists of 7.5 hectares, all in the A.O.C. of Arbois. His skills and dedication in both the vineyards and the cave has earned him the nickname the “the Pope of Arbois”. Puffeney’s Pinot Noir is one of the few familiar wines in the Puffeney lineup, as Pinot Noir is considered an “international varietal” and both Trousseau and Poulsard are exclusive to the Jura. 

What a great example of cool climate Pinot Noir! Red berry fruits and high tones of herbs and mouth cleansing acid make this red a great wine for the table, and a great wine for conversation.

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No, we haven’t jumped into our second Jurassien A.O.C. just yet. I was getting hungry, so I prepared a little something to try out with a classic and delicious Chardonnay from the region. No big woop..See the menu below..

-Breaded and pan-fried filets of sole

-Yukon Gold creamy mashed potatos (butter, milk, salt, pepper., you know..)

-Raw Kale salad (so good for you, easy to prepare and really tasty too..)

-Homemade sauce tartare (housemade mayo, capers, fresh herbs, lemon juice and a dash of sugar)

Diner chez mumu

Creamy potatos, and a mild white fish with subtle seasoning but a heavier preparation worked just great with a complex and high acid (think..acidity cuts through the  fat and richness of this meal) white from the Jura. I cannot think of a more appropriate wine to enjoy with this simple meal than Domaine de la Tournelle’s complex “Terres de Gryphées”. 

2005 Domaine de la Tournelle "Terres de Gryphées"

Wine:  Domaine de la Tournelle “Terres de Gryphées”

Composition: 100% Chardonnay 

Vintage: 2005

Country: France

Region: Jura

Sub-Region/A.O.C. : Arbois

Geology/Soil: Limestone, Marl, Clay.

Alcohol: 12.5%

Importer: Various –in California: Jolivin     

US Retail: $24

Domaine de la Tournelle  is a modest enterprise to say the least. Established in 1991, and with less than one hectare (2.55 acres) of vines, Evelyne and Pascal Clairet have methodically dedicated themselves towards producing some of the very best wines that the Jura has to offer. I have tasted nearly the entire range of wines from this domaine, and have never, ever been less than totally impressed. They guys have mad skills, seriously. Today the domaine has grown to a whopping 6 hectares (still miniscule by just about anyone’s standards) which are steadfastedly dedicated to the Jura’s native varietals of Ploussard, Trousseau, Chardonnay and the mighty Savagnin.  The Clairet’s are committed to using absolutely no herbicides, chemical fungicides, insecticides, cultured yeasts or new oak. In addition, only minimal amounts of SO2 are utilized at bottling.

Domaine de la Tournelle “Terres de Gryphées” hails from two distinct plots of Chardonnay planted on that most classic Jurrassien soil of limestone, clay, and marl interspersed with marine deposits from thousands of years prior. The wine is aged in used barrels only, and undergoes a 24 month elevage while undergoing regular bâtonnage (stirring of the lees while in barrel) to lend additional complexity and richness.

A most Jurassien chardonnay

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A true study in diversity -The Côtes du Jura


Our first foray into “department 39” will be the Côtes du Jura, which was granted A.O.C. status in 1937. The Côtes du Jura boundries are the largest of the Jurassien A.O.C.s, extending 80km (50 miles) from Salins les Bains in the north to St.-Amour in the south. (for a map of the Jura, please see previous post) For this reason, it is also an appellation with overall a more diverse terrior and soil composition than appellations such as Arbois or l’Etoile. With its varied terroir and plethora of wine styles, the Côtes du Jura is truly a study in diversity.

The appellation presently consists of approximately 640 hectares of vines spread out over 105 different communes. The most notable of which include: Arlay, Beaufort, Buvilly, Gevingey, Lavigny, Mantry, Passenans, Poligny, Rotalier, Saint-Lothain, Toulouse-le-Château, Le Vernois, Vincelles et Voiteur.

Wine styles authorized in the Côtes du Jura :




Vin Jaune (more on this monumental wine later..)

Sweet Wine –Vin de Paille

Macvin du Jura (2/3 grape must and 1/3 grape spirit oak aged for a min. 12 months)

Cremant du Jura

Varietals authorized in the Côtes du Jura:

Red: Trousseau, Pinot Noir, Poulsard

White: Chardonnay, Savagnin

2005 Annie et Philippe Bonard "Les Chassagnes" Savagnin

Wine: Annie et Philippe Bornard “Les Chassagnes”

Composition: 100% Savagnin

Style: Ouillé

Vintage: 2005

Country: France

Region: Jura

Sub-Region/A.O.C : Côtes du Jura

Geology/Soil: mostly limestone, with some marl, and a higher percentage of clay in the northern part of the region.

Alcohol: 13.2%

Importer: Savio Soares Selections

US Retail: $30

Philippe Bornard lives at the top of the village of Pupillin and farms about six hectares, of which he inherited from his father. After years of selling grapes to the local cooperative, and with the urging of his good friend and Jurassian legend Pierre Overnoy, in 2005 Philippe made the move towards vinifying and bottling his own wines.

“Les Chassagnes” is the name of a lieu-dit, or a designated vineyard site where the obscure but characterful savagnin grape grows on predominantly limestone soils interspersed with deposits of marl and clay. In the vineyard Philippe practices biodynamic viticulture, a strict from of organic farming whose timing is dependent upon the lunar cycle, as well as the utilization of a set natural preparations to treat vines in order to optimize vineyard health.

“Les Chassagnes” is made in the style of Ouillé, meaning that during the ageing process there exists head space between the surface of the wine and the opening of the barrel. Thus the wine is constantly exposed to oxygen and most often develops slightly oxidized characteristics similar of roasted nuts, salt and savory flavors.  Nevertheless, along with subtle nuances of such an oxidized wine, this Savagnin ouillé still maintains a vibrancy and briskness marked by fresh apples a distinct mineral note.

Savagnin and Comté -there is no more perfect marriage

Food: The region’s very own Comté cheese is an excellent pairing partner to savagnin based wines. Like wines from the Jura, Comté also has its own A.O.C. recognition which it received in 1958. Made from cow’s milk and of a semi-hard texture, Comté is generally aged between 8-12 months. By law, only milk from Montbeliarde cows can be used, and each cow must have at least a one hectare upon which to graze.

In addition to strict production standards, the finished cheese can never be sold as a grated product, and must be sold in whole pieces (see picture above.) The creamy, sweet nutty and subtle savory flavors of a well aged Comté pair beautifully with the somewhat salty, nutty and high acid white wines from the Jura. This cheese and wine pairing is really a no-brainer!

Prochain arrêt- Arbois..

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