Jura Wine Region Guide
The Jura is a small wine region in Eastern France, beloved by sommeliers around the world for its unique and interesting wines. Nestled between Switzerland and Burgundy, the wines from Jura are grown on the foothills of the Jura Mountains. Even though it’s really close to Burgundy, there is a very different atmosphere here. It’s much more rural and green.
The landscape is not dominated by vineyards but consists of a mix of pastoral grazing for the cows that make Comté, villages, and vines. It is truly one of the most beautiful and underappreciated regions in France. This hilly terroir is varied, with plenty of different types of limestone.
The Jura includes a handful of appellations and a number of classic and unusual grapes. This region makes still Whites, Rosés, and Reds, as well as Sparkling Wine, Sweet Wine, and Fortified Wine. Their most famous wine is Vin Jaune, or “Yellow Wine” which is an oxidative white reminiscent of a Fino Sherry.
Intentional oxidation of the whites here is a regional specialty. To produce oxidative whites, winemakers let barrels evaporate without topping them up with more wine. A film of yeast forms on top of the liquid, allowing oxidative characteristics to take shape but protecting the wine from going brown. In the Jura this film is called “le voile” or “the veil.”
Jura Grape Varieties
Burgundy’s famous white grape is omnipresent in the Jura. Because of its versatility, Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape here and much of it makes its way into the local sparkling wine.
This ancient white grape is Jura’s pride and is what goes makes their famous Vin Jaune. When young and fresh, it has floral and mineral characteristics. When oxidized it takes on spicy, nutty complexity. This grape is also known as Traminer, where it is also grown throughout Central Europe.
Like Chardonnay, this grape is better known as the highly prized red from Jura’s Western neighbor, Burgundy. In Jura, it is often used in red blends, though you can find it on its own. The Pinot here tends to be pale and earthy.
Also called Ploussard locally, this grape tends to be pale and light, making perfumed and pretty red wines. Poulsard is the second most planted grape after Chardonnay. It is often used to add a bit of color to Rosés.
This late-ripening red grape makes up only a small amount of plantings in Jura but is considered prestigious. Trousseau offers more structure and power than the other two Jura red grapes and can be spicy and complex.
Wines of Jura
Crémant du Jura
Crémant du Jura is the local sparkling wine made in the traditional method (Champagne style). The vast majority of it is Chardonnay, but it can be made with any of the local grapes. Crémant accounts for a large percentage of Jura’s volume and is very good value sparkling wine. There are also Crémant rosé’s that may normally include a small percentage of Poulsard.
Vin Jaune is the king of oxidative wines here, and the Savagnin white wines are left under the veil of yeast for years before bottling. These wines may not be bottled sooner than six years and three months after the harvest, although winemakers may leave it longer. They come in a recognizably squat bottle that is a bit smaller than a normal 75cl. The best Vin Jaunes can last for decades, perhaps even a century. They are nutty and intense and extraordinarily interesting.
Vin de Paille
This is literally “straw wine”, a dessert wine made from dried grapes. Both syrupy and sweet, these golden sweet wines provide an explosion of flavor. They can be made from Savagnin, Chardonnay, Trousseau and Poulsard.
Marc du Jura
This local brandy is made from the pomace (or solids left over after pressing) of the local grape varieties. It is double distilled and then aged in cask for at least two years.
Macvin du Jura
Macvin can be white, red or somewhere in between and is Jura’s fortified wine. Partly through fermentation, Marc du Jura is added at one-third of the mix to create a strong (18-22% ABV) wine with some residual sugar.
Appellations of Jura
Côtes du Jura
Côtes du Jura is the broadest of the regional appellations and produces all of the different types of wine. Red, white, rosé, sparkling, sweet and fortified wines included within this AOC.
Arbois is the most famous regional appellation in Jura and is named after the delightful village at its center. Arbois can be any style and made with any of the region’s five grapes.
This tiny, single hilltop (see photo in carousel at the top of this page) is a very special and prestigious regional appellation that only produces the very best Vin Jaune from Savagnin only. It only gets made in the best years, and is a truly unique and special treat.
Even smaller than Château-Chalon, L’Étoile is a truly niche regional appellation. This tiny area produces pure or mostly Chardonnay in the oxidative style and also makes Vin de Paille and Vin Jaune.
Try These Jura Wines to get a Taste of the Region
The Jura is a magical region with really interesting wines, if you aren’t already in love with it, you soon will be! This area is becoming more and more popular with sommeliers and customers as people discover its dynamic range of wines.
I recommend trying Domaine Rolet and Domaine Gerard Villet to get a sense of the place, but there are so many more good producers in the region.
Written By Caroline Conner of Lyon Wine Tastings
Caroline is from California but got into wine while at university at Oxford. As a wine nerd, she did competitive blind tasting and was Top Taster in the 2009 Oxford Cambridge Varsity Blind Tasting Match, judged by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson. Caroline has her WSET 4 Diploma and has worked in sales, wine publishing, retail, and now runs educational wine tastings in English for expats and tourists in Lyon, France. She loves Lyon because she can be in Côte-Rôtie in 30 minutes. Her goal as a wine educator and wine writer is to make wine fun and interesting without being snobby about it. She misses London’s dynamic wine market, but loves discovering France’s more esoteric grapes and regions.
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