There's an old saying that goes, if the wines of Burgundy and the wines of Switzerland had a baby, they would be the wines of Jura.Actually, that's not a saying at all, I just made it up. But the …
There's an old saying that goes, if the wines of Burgundy and the wines of Switzerland had a baby, they would be the wines of Jura.
Actually, that's not a saying at all, I just made it up. But the French wine region of Jura, sandwiched between its two "parents," does share characteristics of both, while maintaining a personality very much its own.
The Jura mountains are rolling and green, covered in vines and picturesque in the extreme. Most vineyards are close to 1,000 feet in elevation, and that, plus the cool climate, limits the grapes that can be successfully grown here. But while the geography and climate may appear more Swiss, Jura has borrowed cool-climate grapes, such as pinot noir and chardonnay from Burgundy.
Jura also has several indigenous grapes rarely seen anywhere else in the world. Savagnin is grown mostly in Jura today, with only a few small plantings in Savoie, Switzerland and Austria. Plantings of trousseau are in decline in Jura, but may be achieving success elsewhere. I tasted one from Eyrie Vineyards in Oregon recently. Poulsard belongs almost entirely to Jura.
Jura's individuality arises not only from cultivation of unique grape varieties aside from pinot noir and chardonnay, but also from distinctive styles of wine, such as vin jaune, which is purposely exposed to oxygen during aging, similar to the production of sherry, and vin de paille, where grapes are dried on straw mats before vinification.
Chardonnay is Jura's most-planted varietal, and quite a bit of it ends up in sparkling wine. Although NV François Montand Brut Blanc de Blancs ($18/750ml bottle) isn't technically a Jura wine, because some of the grapes in it come from outside the region, François Montand was certainly a Jura winemaker.
A member of a family of Champagne makers, Montand traveled to Jura during World War II, bringing with him vines from Champagne to establish his own vineyards there. The blanc de blancs is citrusy and floral on the nose, but the palate is undeniably rich, with red apple, orange curd and toasted nut. A beautiful aperitif or accompaniment to a light lunch.
Jura's other Burgundian grape, pinot noir, is sometimes used to give some oomph to native Jura red wines. But, as the worldwide popularity of pinot noir increases, so do examples of Jura pinot noir (sometimes called savagnin noir) for their own sake. 2013 Lulu VIgneron Pinot Noir Côtes du Jura ($44) is a light ruby hue in the glass, with aromas of cherry cream and violet. It's breezy and floral on the palate, with rose and green peppercorn mingling with licorice, slate and cocoa powder. I paired it with pepper steak with delicious results.
Although the poulsard grape itself has a very dark skin, the wine it makes is notably pale in color, so pale, in fact, that the wines are sometimes sold as rosés even if they are vinified as red wine. 2016 Lulu Vigneron Poulsard Côtes du Jura ($48) is a gloriously pale garnet in the glass with notes of tart cherry and raspberry, grounded by leather and balsam, with a floral lift of violet. Truly a special bottle of wine.
Jura wines aren't particularly easy to find in our neck of the woods; these three were the only ones I tracked down. But each one was exceptionally enjoyable, an exquisite alternative to everyday wines, and a genuine expression of a truly unique place.
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