Jura Wine

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Jura Wine

We began prospecting for vinous talent in the Jura in 2016 armed with Wink Lorch's excellent and definitive 'Wines of the Jura' and the self-imposed remit of only visiting producers who didn't have a UK importer (most of them at the time) and were making a diverse range of highly-rated wines. When we visited siblings Valérie and Jean-Christophe Tissot at Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot in the hill village of Montigny-lès-Arsures - above Arbois - we realised we had found exactly what we were seeking.

Jean-Christophe oversees the wine making whilst Valérie is demonstrative and eloquent and is happy to travel to New York or London to extoll the virtues of the Jura in general and her estate's wines specifically. We were delighted to discover that V. and J.-C. produce a sparkling Crémant de Jura made from pure, bottle-fermented Chardonnay and has a fine mousse, uplifting effervescence, citrus top notes and rounded orchard-fruit palate. They use the locally-favoured grape variety of Savagnin to make a marvellous and intentionally-oxidative dry white wine that has bags of character. It has marvellous Manzanilla-like aromas and a hauntingly long dried-fruit palate. Traditionally, it is served at ambient temperature as a pre-prandial pick-me-up. Savagnin is also deployed to make the celebrated speciality that is Vin Jaune - indeed, it is the only grape variety permitted to be used in that wine's production. Matured for a minimum of 6 years and 3 months in flor-covered (a film of yeast) open casks. It is then bottled in squat, square-shouldered 62-centilitre clavelins prior to release. This takes oxidation to another level altogether and it exhibits yeasty 'baked bread' notes, complex dried-fruit characteristics and incredible length. It can age almost indefinitely – apparently pre-Napoleonic era bottlings occasionally change hands for enormous sums of money.

Valérie and Jean-Christophe don't draw the line at still and sparkling white Jura wines, they also produce a brace of incredibly interesting reds. Their Poulsard is not dissimilar to a very dark rosé, with a brick red robe, hedgerow berry scents and a soft red fruit palate offset by gentle tannins. It is an excellent partner to charcutérie or substantial salads and drinks well from release. Their Trousseau is a denser and darker wine with more tannic grip, a wealth of autumnal fruit notes and peppery undertones. It pairs well with small game, wild mushrooms or the local Morteau sausage.

Completing the extensive Tissot canon is another highly-regarded speciality of the hill country of Jura – a Vin de Paille. This sweet wine is from a blend of Savagnin, Poulsard and Chardonnay that are air-dried indoors on beds of straw over winter before being pressed to release their naturally-concentrated juice and then barrel-aged for 3 years prior to bottling in slender halves. The finished wine is a honeyed nectar with dried-fruit and grilled-nut nuances and a persistent finish. It makes for a decadent bonne bouche or partner to fruit-based desserts.

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  1. Jura Arbois: Vin de Paille Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot 2018
    Half Bottle
    £32.90
    Bottle (Case)
    £789.60
  2. Jura Arbois: Vin Jaune Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot 2017
    Bottle
    £45.00
    Bottle (Case)
    £540.00
  3. Jura Arbois: Poulsard Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot 2022
    Bottle
    £17.50
    Bottle (Case)
    £210.00
  4. Jura Arbois: Savagnin Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot 2020
    Bottle
    £24.75
    Bottle (Case)
    £297.00
  5. Crémant du Jura: Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot
    Bottle
    £18.50
    Bottle (Case)
    £222.00
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Jura Wine Region:

With just over 2,000 hectares under vine, running in a narrow strip from Arbois in the north to Saint-Amour in the south, the Jura represents something of a footnote in French viticulture, albeit a very important one. In this relatively remote, land-locked wilderness traditional grape varieties and techniques have survived yielding wines of great character and a strong sense of ‘terroir’ or taste pertaining to location.

Despite its relatively small size (equivalent to Sancerre) the Jura is home to 5 grape varieties, 6 AOCs and 200 estates of various sizes. There are four geographic AOCs – Arbois, L’Etoile, Côtes du Jura and Château-Chalon (exclusively Vin Jaune) - and two product AOCs – Crémant du Jura and Macvin du Jura (a blend of grape juice and spirit, like a Pineau).

As for the wines themselves, the traditional whites from the Savagnin grape are sherry-like (if the barrels are not top-upped), while the reds (Poulsard and Trousseau) are light in colour, fruity and elegant rather than rich. Fans of cru Beaujolais or lighter Pinot Noirs would appreciate them. Sparkling Crémant is also made - from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as tiny volumes of deliciously sweet Vin de Paille (from grapes that have dried in lofts over the winter).

As one might expect, the wines are at home with the dishes of the Jura – reds with Morteau sausages, whites with Comté cheese, none more so than Vin Jaune, aged for 6 years and 3 months before release and served in its unique 62cl bottle called a clavelin. The Jura is proud of its heritage (especially its most famous son, Louis Pasteur) and has heroically defended its wine culture – in 1973 its winemakers descended on Strasbourg armed with clavelins and 15kg Comté cheeses to see off the threat of the EU harmonising bottle sizes!