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Jura Wine

Jura Wine

This easterly enclave of wine-making that lies between Burgundy and the Switzerland is the viticultural 'Land that Time Forgot' where traditional grape varieties are deployed to produce a diverse array of characterful wines. When we started our tentative reconnaissance of the region a few years ago, Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot in the hill village of Montigny-lès-Arsures was high on our short list of estates to visit as siblings Valérie and Jean-Christophe Tissot grow the full gamut of local grapes and produce a comprehensive range of wines. Happily, our inaugural tasting was a triumph and the Tissots' wines now command a loyal following on these shores.

Savagnin is the only grape permitted in the production of the region's celebrated 'Vin Jaune' which must be matured in open oak casks for a minimum of 6 years and 3 months before release. It is bottled in squat 62-centilitre clavelins and is traditionally served at cellar temperature. The Tissots' bottling is exemplary with a deep yellow robe, attractive sherry-like scents, a complex roast nut, smoked salt and mineral palate and a persistent very dry finish. It is frequently served as pre-prandial 'sharpener' but classic accompaniments include Comté cheese and chicken cooked in Vin Jaune. The Tissots also produce a pure Savagnin under the less stringent appellation of 'Arbois'. It is lighter and more forward drinking than the Vin Jaune but has bags of varietal character with yeasty top notes and an intense saline-edged dried fruit palate.

J.-C. and V. also make some commendable red wines. Their Poulsard has a deceptively pale red-brick colour, ripe cherry scents and a wonderfully smooth red fruit palate offset by delicate tannins. It is best served lightly-chilled and makes a fine foil for air-dried ham or the local speciality - 'Morteau' sausage with lentils. Their Trousseau is darker-hued, deeper and denser than its sibling, with briary hedgerow berry scents and flavours and peppery undertones.

Not to be overlooked is the Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot Crémant de Jura - a bottle-fermented sparkling Chardonnay that has uplifting apple blossom scents, a lively mousse and fresh orchard fruit palate. As if all that weren't enough to contend with, Jean-Christophe and Valérie also find time to make a sweet 'Vin de Paille' from whole bunches of Chardonnay and Poulsard that are air-dried on elevated beds of straw. The finished wine has dried fig scents and a diverse palate of honey, nuts and preserved peel. It makes a terrific bonne bouche or partner to fruit desserts and (like the Vin Jaune) will age almost indefinitely if well cellared.

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  1. Jura Arbois: Vin Jaune Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot 2014
    Bottle
    £37.50
    Bottle (Case)
    £450.00
  2. Jura Arbois: Savagnin Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot 2018
    Bottle
    £20.75
    Bottle (Case)
    £249.00
  3. Jura Arbois: Trousseau Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot 2018
    Bottle
    £16.50
    Bottle (Case)
    £198.00
  4. Jura Arbois: Poulsard Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot 2018
    Bottle
    £13.95
    Bottle (Case)
    £167.40
  5. Jura Arbois: Vin de Paille Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot 2012
    Half Bottle
    £28.00
    Half Bottle (Case)
    £672.00
  6. Crémant du Jura: Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot
    Bottle
    £15.75
    Bottle (Case)
    £189.00
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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!