If you wanted to visit a forgotten wine region which sums up all that is bucolic and idyllic about rural France, Jura is perhaps the most perfect example.
This enchanting place, tucked between the Bresse plain and Jura mountains in eastern France, is surprisingly close to Burgundy and shares similar wine styles – yet few outside France seem to have discovered the wines.
Jura has a long wine history since the Middle Ages, but it suffered when phylloxera munched its way through French vineyards. In the 19th century it had 20,000 hectares, today there are 1,600.
White burgundy lovers should take note that chardonnay accounts for 45 per cent of Jura’s grapes planted on Jurassic limestone – and 10 per cent is pinot noir. Increased interest in venerable old vines has attracted top investors, like Macon-based Jean Rijckaert.
For experimental drinkers, Jura is a haven of unusual grapes and authentic styles; some domaines make 15 different wines.
White savagnin (which bears similarities to gewurztraminer) is traditionally made under a film of natural ‘flor’ (strain of yeast) similar to Spain’s jerez – giving us France’s answer to sherry called Vin Jaune. It’s very much an acquired taste and definitely does not suit all (I struggle with this oxidative style); it must be oak-aged for six years and bottled in its signature squat 62cl ‘Clavelins’.
Trying to work out savagnin styles is tricky; is it ‘traditional’ oxidative style or ‘modern’ topped up version? If you prefer modern fresher styles, look for savagnin ‘ouille’ or ‘nature’ (from around Arbois) for lighter elegant non-oxidative styles.
Jura’s reds are easier to enjoy than their whites. The local grapes are meaty trousseau and lighter poulsard, often blended to pale ‘coral’ sappy rosé-like reds. Reds are usually tank matured and bottled early, whilst Jura’s whites are often oaked and bottled later.
Cremant du Jura 2012 Philippe Michel - STAR BUY
This 100 per cent chardonnay fizz is a great champagne substitute, from the same grape and same traditional method. Yeasty nose, citric, minerally – packaged in classy bottle.
Cremant du Jura 2014 Domaine Pignier
Quite floral, citric fruit on palate, velvet smooth, zesty and youthful.
£18.99, Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh
Cremant du Jura Brut 2009 Domaine Grand
There’s extra maturity here making this chardonnay-based cuvée a toasty, yeasty, full bodied fizz.
£18.95, Berry Bros & Rudd
Côtes du Jura Blanc Tradition 2012 Domaine Berthet-Bondet
Traditional oxidised style with classic Jura blend of two-thirds chardonnay, one-third savagnin; oak aged three years without topping up. Expect sherry nose, sweet sour apricot, peppery and savoury finish – delicious with Comte cheese.
£14.95, The Wine Society
Arbois Chardonnay 2012 Domaine de la Pinte - STAR BUY
Unusual oaked chardonnay; buttery, honeyed with hazelnut notes; deliciously zesty, spicy finish – serve with Epoisses cheese.
£16, Marks & Spencer
Arbois Chardonnay les Bruyeres 2012 Stephane Tissot
This single vineyard barrel fermented chardonnay from Stephane Tissot should be ‘eaten rather than drunk’. I can see why: high acid, minerally, intense. Open early and decant prior to serving.
£31, Berry Bros & Rudd
Savagnin ‘Varron’ 2010 Domaine Buronfosse - STAR BUY
I normally struggle with savagnin, but enjoyed this ‘ouille’ style from Varron vineyard with barrels continuously topped up like normal dry whites. Mandarin and pineapple, hints of hazelnut and spice – would suit burgundy fans looking for something different.
£19.99, Raeburn Wines
Trousseau Rouge 2012 Domaine Pignier
A rare example of the deep coloured meaty trousseau grape with some bottle age; crunchy red fruits, charming and medium bodied with a smooth texture.
£21.50, Raeburn Wines
Côtes du Jura Rouge ‘Trio’ 2015 Domaine Berthet-Bondet - STAR BUY
Blend of 50 per cent trousseau, with poulsard and pinot noir; pale ruby, vivid red fruit aromas, lovely ripe sweet fruit, smooth soft texture, streak of minerality running through it – our tasters’ top pick.
Serve with Tomme de Savoie cheese.
£13.95, The Wine Society
Vin de Paille Epicure 2007 Domaine Buronfosse - STAR BUY
Fans of Hungarian Tokay should try Jura’s sweet ‘straw wine’ from dried chardonnay and savagnin; succulently sweet with apricot and orange marmalade notes. The pronounced acidity keeps this fresh – bring out the crème brûlée.
£24.99 hf bt, Raeburn Wines