The world of wine is vast. In fact, it is literally global. Many wine drinkers play it safe; rarely veering off the course of “known,” “safe” wines. This month our French Winophiles group is veering. You may ask how can one veer off the safe, known path in France. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Provence, Champagne, Rhone Valley; what is unpredictable about French wine? Well this month we are exploring what has been called the wild side of France; we are going rogue into the Jurassic world of Jura.
Jurassic? Believe it or not wines from Jura are commonly referred to as Jurassic, though the wines are not actually pre-historic. There is little written or explored about France’s smallest wine region. Chances are you have never even heard of Jura. I was familiar with the region finding the wines in Texas proved almost impossible. Let’s take a moment to learn a few quick facts about Jura.
- Located in the Jura Mountain Range, part of the foothills of the Alps in the extreme eastern side of France not far from the Swiss border.
- Very small: 50 miles long and never more than 4 miles wide
- Directly east and runs parallel to Burgundy’s Côte d’Or district
- Vineyards face south and southeast
- Arbois, home of Louis Pasteur, is the main town Jura
- Continental climate that includes mountain rains and very cold winters
- Jura produces only 1% of France’s wines, with more than half being white, the rest is predominately rosé, with a few reds and sparkling wines
- Jura is primarily known for two distinct white wines:
- Vins Jaunes: Yellow wine, made only in Jura from the a late harvest of the local variety, Savagnin, it undergoes a slow fermentation, a minimum of 6 years in cellar, the barrels are not filled to the top so the wine oxidizes giving it deep yellow color, almost amber; nuttiness and tangy characteristics develop; it said to be a powerful, rich in extract and very unique
- Vins de Paille: Straw wine, is made in a similar fashion to the Italian Vin Santo where grapes (Savagnin and Chardonnay) are harvest late then dried on straw mats to they become like raisins, concentrated in color and flavor, then crafted into a delicious dessert wine
Jura has four AOC regions. The three wines I found are from Chateau D’Arlay, located in the Côtes Du Jura appellation. It is the second largest of Jura’s appellations, Arbois AOC being the largest. The vineyards here spread over 12 major villages. Most of the wines produced in this appellation are white. Chateau D’Arlay is Jura’s most renowned and arguably best producer, is located in the village of Arlay on the Côtes Du Jura.
I really did not know what to expect from these wines. The Chateau D’Arlay website is completely in French, indicating the lack of tourism in the region. I was able to make out a little bit of information but since I don’t know French it was not much use to me. The Importer, Wines of France Inc., provided no further assistance. And the labels on each of the wines was, of course, in French. So if my details are sketchy I apologize.
2009 Chateau d’Arlay Cotes du Jura Tradition Blanc, France: Crafted of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Savagnin; straw yellow in the glass; nose displays promenent Chardonnay notes of orchard fruit, soft baking spice, and cedar; the palate is unique, zesty with lots of spice notes, no info on oak treatment but this wine definitely spent time in oak, medium weight for a white, lots of texture, not particularly acidic yet balanced, medium finish; really good with medium sharp cheeses of 1655 Guyere and Aged Gouda; definitely not your typical white, grew on me, preferably a food wine; SRP $27; click here to find in the US
2009 Chateau d’Arlay Cotes du Jura Corail, France: Crafted of a blend of Pinot Noir, Poulsard, and Trousseau; scarlet red with orange hues; very soft nose bouquet, dried roses and violets with soft notes of strawberries, raspberries, smokey notes and savory herbs; delicate on the palate yet firm in acidity and tannins, light body with short finish; paired really well with smoked Italian meats of Calabrese and Soppressata; was amazing with Guyere 1655 topped with Divina Sour Cherry Spread; SRP $24; click here to find in the US
2009 Chateau d’Arlay Cotes du Jura Rouge, France: Crafted of 100% Pinot Noir; bright garnet in the glass; soft nose of dried cherries, raspberries, cranberries, spice notes, touch of savory herbal notes and a hint of tea; palate is really tart red fruit, not complex or multi-dimensional so don’t think Burgundy, pleasant wine but not super memorable other than its from Jura; however, it is certainly drinkable, old world style, integrated tannins, well-structured; it’s rustic quality felt more Italian than French; SRP $22; click here to find in the US
I had no idea how these wines were going to taste so I opened them the day before I prepared a meal in order to plan. Light, unique, hhhmmm. I selected a fall meal of grilled chicken breast served with sweet potato/fig ravioli and brussels sprouts with cranberries and pecans. It was a delicious fall meal. The Jurassic rouge wine paired lovely with this dinner.
Overall my impression of these wines was unique, drinkable, better with food, light, and hard to buy when other French wines from say Languedoc are better at the same price. If you run across Jurassic wines buy them, drink them, share them, enjoy them, just don’t expect to be blown away.
Check out what my fellow #Winophiles discovered in Jura:
- Exploring the Flavors of Jura in Four Courses with Wine by Wine Predator
- Finding Jura by L’ocassion
- My Kingdom for a Bresse Chicken by FoodWineClick
- To the Jura with Vin Jaune, Toétché, Wild Mushrooms, & Comté by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Pulled Pork with Cabbage and Bacon by David from Cooking Chat
Please join us this morning at 10CST on Twitter using #Winophiles to share your knowledge or learn more about Jura.
My Song Selection: These wines have a very rustic, old world feel. In looking at pictures from Jura my sense it the region feels more medieval than modern. I would love to visit. I chose this song because I feel it too offers an old world style.
Get your own bottle of Jurassic wine and let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!