ONE of the wine world’s greatest curiosities is Jura. This beautiful sub-alpine region nestling between Burgundy and Switzerland, with its strikingly different wine styles, is just 50 miles across the Saone valley from tourist hotspot Beaune. Yet few have heard of it, let alone tasted the wines.
With 1,850 hectares, Jura is France’s smallest region. Wine styles here are wacky and varied: from dry whites, yellow whites, rosés, light reds to sweet dried grape wines. Its warm continental climate, heavy marl/limestone soils and weird array of grapes make it an enchanting hotchpotch for adventurous wine drinkers – but you have to brace yourself for some strange flavours.
Jura would suit Burgundy drinkers, sherry lovers and fizz afficionados alike – there is something here for everyone.
For mainstream drinkers, there is Chardonnay; it makes up 45 per cent of plantings here. The oaked Chardonnays are similar to Côte de Beaune styles, but wilder, almondly, fleshier and fatter. According to Burgundy-based Belgian negociant Jean Rijckaert:
I feel there is great potential for Chardonnay in the delicious inexpensive Cremant fizz from L’Etoile; one of the few places left in France to offer creamy consistency at cracking prices.
Jura’s most famous white grape is thick-skinned, super-acidic Savagnin. You find it as a dry semi-oxidised white or in the traditional Vin Jaune full-on oxidised style. This is where the sherry lovers come in. Savagnin is late harvested and after fermenting, it grows a flor yeast (or “veil") encouraged to grow in untopped-up casks for six years and three months – before being decanted into dumpy clavelin 62cl bottles. It’s akin to a good Fino, with walnut, wild mushroom notes and very tangy flavours. The best come from the special 50 hectare Chateau-Chalon appellation.
I found Jura’s pale reds hard to appreciate. Red Poulsard and Trousseau grapes grown in the big Arbois appellation and its Pupillin “cru” seem austere and unpredictable; I preferred Jura’s Pinot Noir, close to Alsace’s pale elegant reds.
For the newcomer to Jura, labels are a problem. In the past wines have been sold directly from the cellar door (Henri Maire, France’s direct wine firm, is based here), so there has never been much need for information on labels. Opening a bottle of Jura wine is an adventure – you never know quite how it will taste.
Taste test France’s most interesting region
CHARDONNAY, LES GRANDS TEPPES VIEILLES VIGNES 2004 Jean Francois Ganevat
(£14, Les Caves de Pyrene, 01483 538820)
CHATEAU CHALON VIN JAUNE 1998 Berthet-Bondet
(£27.50, The Wine Society, 01438 740222)
VIN JAUNE 1999 Daniel Dugois
(£25, Les Caves de Pyrene)
CRéMANT DE JURA 2006 Michel
PUPILLON ROUGE 2004 Emmanuel Houillon
(£14.45, Les Caves de Pyrene)
TROUSSEAU CUVÉE DES GEOLOGUES 2004 Lucien Aviet
(£11.95, Les Caves de Pyrene)