Description 1 of 2
Jura is a French wine region that lies between Burgundy and Switzerland. The wines produced here are very unique, some would say “funky,” meant in the nicest possible way. This is a cool-climate region, with clay and limestone soils and plenty of Jurassic era fossil matter, hence the name. It’s split into four regional appellations: Arbois, Côtes du Jura, L’Etoile, and Château-Chalon.
Before the Phylloxera blight which destroyed most of the vineyards in the late 1800s, more than 40 varietals were grown here. Now only five grapes remain: Ploussard (Poulsard), Trousseau, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay (referred to here also as Melon d’Arbois), and Savignin (also called Naturé). Arbois and Côtes du Jura (for all areas outside of Arbois) cover red, white, and rosé wines made from all five grapes.The reds of Arbois tend to be pale (sometimes called rosé, even when they are full on reds because of their pink hue), light to medium-bodied and fresh, with high acidity and slightly floral aromatics. It’s not uncommon for these to be slightly cloudy in appearance, especially when produced with a high percentage of Ploussard. Ploussard is also responsible for the Corail, rosé, which has a distinctly orange hue and sweet/tart flavor. Trousseau adds more color and deeper flavors. Here Pinot Noir takes on some its lightest, fresh, and delicate expressions. The white wines can also be a distinctive color variant, from a pale green to orange.
Vin Jaune (yellow wine) is a style distinct to Jura. This is produced from the Savignin grape, which undergoes the usual malolactic fermentation process as other white wines, then transferred to used Burgundy barrels and aged in special caves for six or more years, where it develops a layer of yeast similar to that of Sherry flor and becomes slightly oxidized. The result is a dry, aromatic, nutty wine, sometimes with spicy notes similar to curries (turmeric, ginger, cardomom). Funk doesn’t begin to describe it, but these can be amazingly complex and delicious when produced in the right hands. Château-Chalon are considered the finest examples. These differ slightly in that they are picked late harvest, with a sweeter flavor profile, and have been known to last decades in the cellar. All Vin Jaune is bottled in a “clavelin” bottle, which is squat with a deep indentation (punt), at the neck, sealed with wax at the top.
Cremant du Jura is a sparkling wine made with at least 50% Chardonnay, and smaller percentages of the other regional grapes, including the reds. These are also produced as rosés. The wines are produced in the methode traditionelle, aged with their lees in bottle for at least nine months.
L’Etoile, the name thought to derive from the abundance of star-shaped fossils found in the area, is an appellation in the center of Jura that produces only whites from Chardonnay and Savignin. Ploussard is grown for sole use in Vin de Paille.
Vin de Paille, or “straw wine,” is produced from Chardonnay, Savignin, and Ploussard. These are picked early (not during late harvest as with other styles of raisinated wine), then dried in the cellar until their sugars are fully developed, often by January after harvest, and pressed. They are oak aged for a minimum of three years before release. The resulting wine is yellow/amber in color with a honeyed and candy fruit sweetness, somewhat nutty with a good balance of acidity.
Macvin du Jura is a vin-doux-naturel (fortified wine), produced from all five of the regional grapes, ripened till late harvest, aged in oak for at least 12 months. The brandy added to the wine (marc) is aged at least 18 months. In order for the wine to carry the Macvin du Jura label, both the wine and brandy components must be produced by the same winery. ~Amanda Schuster
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