A concentrated vineyard
Be fooled by its size; good things come in small packages! Just because the Jura vineyards stretch over "only" 80 km (50 miles), it doesn't mean they are less rich and varied. From Champagne-sur-Loue to Saint-Amour, nestled against the Jura Mountains, this region brings seven Appellations of Controlled Origin (AOC) together, ensuring the authenticity of its wines: Arbois, the oldest but also the most extensive; Côtes du Jura, which is found from north to south; L'Etoile, featuring the Chardonnay grape variety; and Château-Chalon, which produces Vin Jaune (Golden Wine). To these geographical AOCs, four Protected Appellations of Origin (PAO) can be added: Macvin du Jura (liqueur), Crémant du Jura (sparkling wine) and Marc du Jura (distilled brandy). There are five grape varieties in the Jura: Chardonnay, Savagnin, Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir.
Floral or traditional?
Produced from the Chardonnay and Savagnin grape varieties, Jura white wines (External link) are divided in two categories: floral, more subtle and refined, and "traditional," more powerful. To obtain the former, winegrowers use the ullage method, which consists of topping up the barrel as the wine evaporates to prevent it from coming into contact with air. To obtain the latter, the wine is in contact with air, creating a thin layer of yeast on the surface. This results in a wine with more intense aromas in which both the power of the Savagnin and the finesse of the Chardonnay are expressed.
A matter of fermentation
It is said that Vin Jaune was born by chance due to a barrel forgotten in a cellar. Nicknamed "the gold of the Jura," it is now one of the greatest white wines in the world. Made exclusively from the Savagnin grape, it is kept in oak barrels for at least six years and three months, without any intervention from the winegrower. It is this fermentation that causes its aromas of nuts, hazelnuts, almonds and spices. It is then put in a clavelin bottle, a special 62-centiliter (21-oz) bottle, the volume of one liter (34 oz) of Savagnin remaining after being barreled. Its fermentation process has been at the heart of the studies on the conservation of wines by Louis Pasteur, a scientist from the Jura, known for having developed the rabies vaccine.
There’s more than just white in the Jura!
Although it's less well known compared to other of the region's culinary specialties, such as the Morteau sausage, cold meats, Comté or Morbier cheese, the red wines of the Jura are just as delicious. We let ourselves be surprised by the Poulsard variety, with a light ruby color that sometimes makes it look like rosé, while Trousseau, more tannic and strongly colored, is distinguished by its aroma of red berries, spices and fresh ground pepper. Finally, the colorful and robust Pinot Noir often goes well with the first two, bringing an aroma of red berries with a spicy note.
Yellow like straw
In the Jura, Vin de Paille ("straw wine") is no joke! The production of this sweet wine with aromas of candied fruit, honey, caramel and marmalade follows very precise specifications. First, the most beautiful bunches of Chardonnay, Savagnin, Poulsard and Trousseau grapes are left to dry for three months. Then the grapes are pressed, and the must thus obtained is left to ferment for about three months. When it reaches between 14.5 and 17° alcohol, the wine is put in barrels where it will age for three years before being tasted.
Vin jaune is for celebrating
True pride of the people of the Jura, Vin Jaune (Golden Wine) has its own festival! Every year, in early February, lovers of this beverage gather for the Percée du Vin Jaune ("the piercing of the Vin Jaune"). For two days, the town hosting this touring event dresses with the colors of wine and its ambassadors. The cellars of the city open their doors to winegrowers from all over the Jura to taste their wines in a can't-miss festival. Cooking competitions, tastings and auctions of old vintages are on the program before the opening of the new vintage—that is, the barrel containing the matured wine.
The Jura also sparkles
Red, white, yellow and—sparkling! The palette of Jura wines would not be complete without crémant and its fine bubbles (sparkling wine not produced in Champagne). If it can be made with the five grape varieties present in the Jura, its production must be done by the book. The grapes used to make Crémant du Jura must therefore be harvested by hand and then transported in perforated crates to prevent their juice from oxidizing. They are then pressed in whole bunches. Afterwards, the Crémant undergoes a double fermentation, according to a method dating back to the end of the 18th century: the first one in vats or in barrels, and the second one in bottles.
Getting to the Jura Mountains