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Wines from the Jura, Franche-Comté
Outside the Franche-Comté region, it's not easy to find Jura wines - production is relatively small - so go there if possible and sample them in person. The styles are very varied from dry to sweet, sparkling to liqueur, in a rainbow of colours, from ruby to golden yellow, dark amber to pale green to pink. This might be the smallest wine region in France but what a lot it has to offer.
In the Jura it tends to be a family affair. These excellent and individual wines are produced with infinite love and care, often following biodynamic principles. There are a total of seven AOCs - Arbois; Côtes du Jura; L'Etoile; Château-Chalon, Crémant du Jura sparkling wine; Macvin, a liqueur, and Marc du Jura brandy.
A narrow strip running 80 kms through the Revermont region, four thousand acres in all, makes up the wine growing area with Arbois the main town. The Arbois appellation is the oldest and the largest of the geographic AOCs.
Five grape varieties are grown: Chardonnay, Savagnin, Poulsard, Pinot Noir and Trousseau. The Chardonnay grape originated in Burgundy and produces the floral white wines which are so famous across the world. The Savagnin grape also produces white wine with a smooth and intense flavour and this is the grape for the heralded Vin Jaune. The Poulsard grape makes wine which is a light ruby colour, then there's the Pinot Noir and Trousseau grapes which make the red wines of the region, the latter being a relatively rare variety. Pinot Noir lends itself to blending and is often paired with Poulsard or Trousseau.
The specialities of the Jura
This dry white wine, made from Savagnin grapes is native to Château-Chalon (below left) and is now also produced in the other AOCs of Arbois, Côtes du Jura, and L'Etoile. Vin Jaune, so called because of its deep golden yellow colour, undergoes a specific ageing process under a film of yeast called the voile or veil. Once fermented, it matures for at least six years and three months in oak barrels. The result is a fine, powerful wine.
Vin de Paille
This sweet wine is made from the finest Chardonnay, Savagnin, Poulsard or Trousseau grapes. Vin de Paille or straw wine, is made from grapes that have been part-dried to concentrate the sugars - a practice once done on straw, hence the name. The bunches are arranged on mats or hung in a well-ventilated room for about three months. They dehydrate slowly and are pressed and then the must ferments. The wine is placed in barrels and ages over three years. The result is a full bodied wine with 14.5-17% alcohol, delicious with desserts.
Macvin du Jura
A sweet fortified wine made from a pomace, Macvin du Jura can be white, red or rosé. Alcoholic fermentation of the freshly pressed grape juice is stopped and one third Marc du Jura is added to the must. It is matured in oak barrels for a year, contains 16-22% alcohol, and the flavour is dependent on the type of grape used.
Some Producers with shops in Arbois
Domaines Henri Maire
The Henri Maire company was founded in 1939. As far back as 1632, a certain Maire owned vines and cellars in Arbois. Three centuries later, the young Henri Maire inherited the modest family property at the age of 22. Passionate about the wines of Jura, he set about bringing them to a wider public. To accomplish this, he expanded his vineyards until today, the company is the biggest proprietor in the Jura with some 240 hectares. In early 2015, the Boisset Group joined up with Domaine Henri Maire to promote the Jura wines further.
Domaine André et Mireille Tissot, Stéphane et Bénédicte Tissot
This family business from Montigny-lès-Arsures is run by Stéphane and Bénédicte. (André admits that he is happier now tending the vegetable patch.) Since 2004, the wines they produce are biodynamic. Wink Lorch says: 'I believe that Stéphane Tissot has done more good for the region than any vigneron since Henri Maire. His wines are of the highest quality and reflect him - full of energy and good will, they and he are among the region's finest ambassadors. '
Domaine Jacques TissotJacques Tissot created his Domaine in 1962 with a plot inherited from his father, and his first vintage of Vin Jaune was bottled in 1969. The Domaine now covers 30 hectares in the Arbois, Arbois-Pupillin and Côtes du Jura appellation areas. Jacques and his wife Michelle have now been joined in the business by their children Philippe and Nathalie.
The largest wine festival in France, held the first weekend of February to celebrate the new vintage.
More information: Wink Lorch's book: Jura Wine