Jura wine is French wine produced in the Jura département. Located between Burgundy and Switzerland, this cool climate wine region produces wines with some similarity to Burgundy and Swiss wine. Jura wines are distinctive and unusual wines, the most famous being vin jaune, which is made by a similar process to Sherry, developing under a flor-like strain of yeast. This is made from the local Savagnin grape variety. Other grape varieties include Poulsard, Trousseau, and Chardonnay. Other wine styles found in Jura includes a vin de paille made from Chardonnay, Poulsard and Savagnin, a sparkling Crémant du Jura made from slightly unripe Chardonnay grapes, and a vin de liqueur known as Macvin du Jura made by adding marc to halt fermentation. The French chemist Louis Pasteur was born and raised in the Jura region and owned a vineyard near Arbois that is still producing wine today under the management of Jura's largest wine firms: Henri-Maire.
Climate and geography
The climate of Jura is continental with many similarities to Burgundy but can be more aggressively cold, especially in the winter time. Ripeness levels of the grapes is always a concern for winemakers of the area and harvest times are often delayed as long as possible (usually well into late October) to try to achieve the highest levels possible. To help lessen the threat of autumn frost, grapevines are often trained to the Guyot system.
The majority of the regions vineyards are found at altitudes between 820-1,310 ft (250-400 m) between the plains of the Bresse region and the Jura Mountains. The towns of Lons-le-Saunier and Arbois are the principal cities in the wine region. The vineyard soils tend to be composed of mostly clay in the lower flat lands with more limestone based soils in the higher elevation. Deposits of marl are scattered throughout the region with some of the area's most regarded vineyards being found on those sites. Many vineyard slopes are quite steep which creates problems with soil erosion.
- Arbois is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée for wines made in the Jura wine region of France, around the town of Arbois. It was the first controlled appellation to be attributed in France, in 1936. Red and rosé wines can be produced from Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot noir grapes, and white wines from Chardonnay and Savagnin.
- Château-Chalon AOC is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée for wines made around the village of Château-Chalon. Only white wines from the Savagnin grape made in the vin jaune ("yellow wine") style can be made using this appellation. However, the Château-Chalon wines are not explicitly labeled as vin jaune. The wine is known for its longevity, and ability to age for several decades.
- Crémant du Jura is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée for sparkling wines. White and rosé wines can be produced from Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot noir red grapes and Chardonnay, Pinot gris and Savagnin white grapes.
- Côtes du Jura is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée producing red and rosé wines from Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot noir grapes, and white wines from Chardonnay and Savagnin.
- L'Étoile is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée producing wines from Chardonnay, Savagnin and Poulsard grapes. The wine is produced on 4 communes: L'Étoile, Plainoiseau, Quintigny, Saint-Didier.
- Macvin du Jura is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée producing late harvest vin du Jura fortified with marc du Jura. On 14 November 1991 it received its AOC designation. It is the latest Jurassian AOC becoming the third vin de liqueur to receive such a designation. Macvin has been in production since the fourteenth century. It is made from five permitted grape varieties, and can be red or rosé when produced from the Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot noir, or white when produced from Chardonnay or Savagnin. The grapes are harvested late in season when their sugar content is at its highest. The grape must is aged in oak barrels for twelve months without prior fermentation in tanks. Marc du Jura, pomace-based eau-de-vie, is then added at a ratio of one litre for every two of must. Fermentation stops, leaving behind residual sugar and a sweet dessert wine.
Grapes and wine
The main grapes of the region are Chardonnay, known locally as Melon d'Arbois, Savagnin, also known locally as Naturé, Poulsard, Pinot noir and Trousseau. Chardonnay and Pinot noir clippings were brought to the region from Burgundy during the Middle Ages and were used limitedly among the 40 other grape varieties that were prevalent in Jura for most of its winemaking history. Towards the end of the 20th century both grapes began to increase in popularity, particularly the Chardonnay vine which now accounts for nearly 45% of all Jura plantings and is valued for its good sugar levels and early ripening.
Pinot noir is used to make a varietal style of wine or as a blend to deepen the color of the pale Poulsard grape. By itself, Poulsard makes a rosé in the Arbois-Pupillin region that is characterized by an orange corail tint. The Poulsard grape is also one of the primary grapes for the vin de paille. The Trousseau grape performs best in the gravelly vineyards near Arbois that can give the grape the additional heat it needs to ripen into a deep colored, intensely flavored wine. The white Savagnin grape has some similarities with the possibly related Traminer and Gewürztraminer. While the grape is permitted in all styles of white Jura wine throughout the region it is mainly found in vin jaune where it proposes a nutty, full bodied wine that can age for an extended period of time. Savagnin, itself, is the only permitted variety for vin jaune.
Jura's most famous and distinguishable wine is the sherry-like vin jaune. The wine is produced by picking the Savagnin as ripe as possible, in some cases becoming a sort of late harvest wine, and after fermentation storing it in Burgundian aging barrels for over 6 years. The barrels are filled up to the top and allowed to evaporate, reducing the volume in the barrel and a creating an air pocket at the top of the barrel. During this time the wine oxidizes and grows a film of yeast that is similar, but not the same strain, as the Jerez region flor. The wine is then bottled in a signature clavelin wine bottle that holds 62 cL. Vin jaune is an intensely flavored wine that often requires decanting prior to drinking.
Due to the cool climate, Chaptalization is permitted in the Jura region and is sometimes a necessity to compensate for the low sugar levels in the under ripe vintages. Most white wines in the region are aged in oak for several months prior to release while red wines are often aged in stainless steel tanks and bottled early. Producers in the Jura include Gaspard Feuillet, Chateau Béthanie, Domaine Berthet-Bondet, Frédéric Lornet and Henri Maire.
- T. Stevenson "The Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia" pg 224 Dorling Kindersley 2005 ISBN 0-7566-1324-8
- J. Robinson (ed) "The Oxford Companion to Wine" Third Edition pg 378 Oxford University Press 2006 ISBN 0-19-860990-6
- H. Johnson & J. Robinson The World Atlas of Wine pg 148 Mitchell Beazley Publishing 2005 ISBN 1-84000-332-4