Jura Wine

Jura Wine

Lying between Burgundy and the Alps the Jura is an ancient, characterful and remarkably unspoilt enclave of wine production. Historically overlooked by outsiders, it has retained a strong sense of tradition deploying grapes little-known elsewhere and making styles of wine that are unique to the region.

On an explanatory trip in 2016, we were keen to sample the wines of Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot in the hill village of Montigny-lès-Arsures as we had ascertained they produced a broad range of wines that were reputed to be very high quality. Happily, our intelligence proved to be accurate and we were wowed by their wares at our tentative first tasting. Even more fortunately, sibling patrons Jean-Christophe and Valérie had sufficient stocks to meet our buying requirements so we were able to place an inaugural order on the spot.

The Domaine's sparkling 'Crémant de Jura' is made from pure Chardonnay that is lees-aged for a minimum of 12 months before being disgorged. It has a fine mousse, spring blossom scents and a zesty orchard fruit palate so makes a versatile, crowd-pleasing aperitif. Savagnin is the traditional white grape in the Jura heartland of Arbois that is deployed to make deliberately oxidative dry white wines of incredible intensity and longevity. J-C and V's version has sherry-like aromas and a persistent, dry mineral-edged palate that lends itself well to air-dried ham and Comté cheese. Savagnin is also the only permitted grape in the local speciality 'Vin Jaune'; a richly-hued vin de garde aged in open casks for a minimum of 6 years and 3 months and bottled in distinctive, squat 62 centilitre clavelins. The Tissots' has expressive smoked salt and spice scents, complex mineral and roasted-nut notes and an incredibly long finish.

The red wines of the Jura also merit attention. Poulsard is an early-budding local grape variety used to make pale and fragrant red wines that are excellent summer drinking when lightly chilled. The Domaine J-L Tissot bottling has a rusty red robe, a delicate red fruit bouquet and palate and the gentlest of tannins. Trousseau is another regional variety used to make wines that are denser and darker with some spicy undertones and more tannic grip. It can support 3-5 years bottle age and makes a fine partner to the local Morteau sausage.

Not to be overlooked is a venerable 'Vin de Paille', a carefully crafted sweet wine made from a blend of Chardonnay and Poulsard grapes that are air-dried on straw beds to concentrate the natural sugars. With an amber colour, preserved-fruit aromas and an intensely rich, honeyed palate, it pairs well with fruit desserts or strong hard cheeses.

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  1. Jura Arbois: Vin Jaune Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot 2013
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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!