The Lure of the Jura

Discovering the joys of Vin Jaune

 


Gazing up from the foot of AOC Château-Chalon, a sloped 50-hectare vineyard, makes the journey from neighboring Burgundy or Switzerland worth the meandering drive. A mass of hill in the shadow of a terraced cliff bearing the miniscule village of Chalon, this particular appellation in Jura is as picturesque as they come and it is where the region’s most eminent style of wine is made, Vin Jaune. Made from the local Savagnin grape, Vin Jaune (also made under Arbois, L'Étoile and the Côtes du Jura appellations in Jura) is a singular and quirky wine made into a purposefully oxidized style. Producers of Vin Jaune do not top their barrels and allow for a textured mossy blanket of yeast, known as the voile, to develop on the wine’s surface, imparting a salty-yeasty tang reminiscent of a Fino or Manzanilla sherry.

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Beyond Vin Jaune, Jura’s wine production encompasses Crémant, red, white, rosé, Vin de Paille (a dessert wine made from grapes that have been dried on straw mats) and a curious liqueur wine known as Macvin – essentially grape brandy blended with grape juice and aged in cask for twelve months.

Jura’s lure is its relative immunity to modern winemaking. Only traditional grape varieties are permitted: Pinot Noir, Poulsard (also known as Ploussard), Trousseau, Chardonnay and Savagnin. A handful of large producers and cooperatives aside, this strip of land is home to the small grower-producer. Like Burgundy, vineyard plots have been divided over the years, splitting ownership, and it’s not unusual for vignerons to own a mere few rows of vines in some of Jura’s most esteemed vineyards.

Jura offers food wines, especially the oxidative whites, which go down a treat with the intensely flavored and local repast of Coq au Vin Jaune, while a hunk of Comté cheese is just right with an earthy Poulsard. Try it.

Domaine de Montbourgeau Crémant du Jura NV
A yeasty, low-dosage sparkling wine with hints of lemony acidity. Delicious alone and is a perfect wine for fish.

Domaine de Montbourgeau E’toile Chardonnay 2007
A savory wine, offering a salty tang with hints of hazelnuts. Fermented in foudre and then transferred to 600 liter barrels for 2 years, during which time the wine is not topped. 

Domaine Berthet Bondet Château-Chalon 2002
A rich, gold-hued wine, with lots of saline character and sherry-like quality. Classic Vin Jaune.

Domaine de la Tournelle Arbois Trousseau des Corvées 2007

A spicy mineral-laden, medium-bodied red wine with enough tannic structure to make this worth storing in the cellar for a few more years.

Pameladevi Govinda is a freelance wine and spirits writer based in New York City. She has contributed to Decanter, CITY, Vibe, Daily Candy, Cheers, Beverage Dynamics, Spain Gourmetour, Imbibe magazine and more. She is extremely passionate about low interventionist wines that speak of place and tradition. She writes about such wines on a regular basis for her blog, which can be accessed via her website at, www.pamgovinda.com.


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Comments

  • Snooth User: SteveKroll
    121363 33

    I have an Arbois Vin Jaune in my cellar that I picked up in Paris several years ago. I've never tasted one of these unusual wines - only read about them. But so far everything I've read seems to indicate that people either really like them or really hate them. I may have to pick up some Comté and give it a try one of these weekends.

    May 31, 2010 at 11:30 PM


  • Snooth User: fred weck
    492455 1

    You bring back memories.In the early 1960's,when I was manager of the Occidental Restaurant in Washington DC,I featured chateau Chalon,Vin de Arbois,Vin Foux and other wines from the jura on our winelist.We also featured them as one of our monthly selections for "Les Amis du Vin" ,a wine club run out of Calvert Wines under the direction of Alfio Mariconi.
    Unfortunately the wines never caught on and just faded away. Fred Weck

    Jun 01, 2010 at 3:47 PM


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