VISITING JURA

By Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 6 July 2024

There is a bitingly cold wind sweeping across the vineyard plateau above the town of Arbois in Jura.  The temperature in late April is unusually chilly this year and sharp frosts have been forecast in the coming week – so producers here are looking understandably nervous.

Days later I hear that this cold snap has devastated vine buds across Jura’s appellations: Arbois, Etoile, Chateau Chalon (pictured below) and Cotes du Jura.  Some producers have lost 50% of their crop, a tragic blow for this remote region in eastern France.

2024 is the fourth bad frost year in the last eight years, starting in 2017, but this is the new norm with our climatic extremes.

(Image credit: CIVJ)

Jura is a small enchanting region tucked between the slopes of the Jura mountains and the Bresse plain.  It is just 80km long with 2,000 hectares of vines and 200 producers with wine labels, so it is very vulnerable to any loss.  But in this historic region there is a band of resilient and passionate artisan winemakers, many with small family wineries, who believe that what they have is unique, in comparison to neighbour Burgundy just one hour’s drive to the west.

“The beauty in Jura is in our diversity”, explains leading winemaker Stephane Tissot of Domaine A&M Tissot (pictured above).  “We have an amazing mosaic of soils here, from limestone to different ‘trias’ and ‘lias’ clays (see below), so you see more diversity of Chardonnay in Jura than you do in Burgundy”.

White wine dominates 80% of Jura’s production, with Chardonnay the most planted grape covering 43% of plantings, at its best on limestone.  Winemaker Florent Rouve of Rijckaert, who makes wine in both Jura and Burgundy, explains the difference in taste: “In Jura the style is different to Burgundy with a more saline salty edge”.

As in Alsace, Cremant production in Jura is becoming increasingly popular – now 29% of production here – and this traditional method fizz takes up much of the Chardonnay grown.  Many Jura growers make Cremant, Stephane Tissot himself makes six different Cremant cuvees, with plans to extend his reserve wine base to enhance complexity.

Savagnin is the other dominant white grape with 25% of plantings.  This tough-skinned aromatic grape, at its best on blue and grey marl, has naturally high acidity – and makes Jura’s most distinctive Vin Jaune.  At its best in the hilltop village of Chateau Chalon (pictured below), where the style of Vin Jaune is rich rounded and concentrated, in comparison to Vin Jaune from other appellations like Arbois or Cotes du Jura.

Vin Jaune as a wine style is distinctive and has put this tiny bucolic region on the world wine map – but in fact it only makes up 4% of Jura’s production.  Matured in old Burgundy barrels for at least six years with a very thin film of flor (see below), oxidation is considered desirable in this distinctive nutty yeasty style of wine.

Three red grapes make up 20% of Jura’s vineyards with Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir planted on lower warmer soils.  Perfumed Poulsard grape, at its best around Pupillin village and almost exclusively grown in Jura, is very good for natural non-interventionist winemaking making a dark rose style.

Black fruited spicy Trousseau, best around Montigny les Arsures, is considered by some to be Jura’s best red.  Pinot Noir has been grown in Jura since C13, but now with warming temperatures across the region, the latest trend amongst growers is to produce more still Pinot Noir making lively elegant reds.

What is unusual about the Jura region is that their vignerons do not specialise in just one grape or wine style – but everyone makes all the different styles.

“This is very typical in Jura”, explains Tissot, who showed me 21 different wines from Cremant, Savagnin Ouille, amphora-aged Trousseau to Vin Jaune.  “We don’t make wine by fashion here – the tradition in Jura is to make lots of styles”.

JURA WINES TO TRY:

SPARKLING

CREMANT DU JURA BRUT NV Marcel Cabelier

£10.99 each for 6 bts or £14.99 bt Majestic Wine

Attractive toasty aromas and citric fruits made from a four grape blend: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Trousseau and Poulsard.

WHITE WINE

ARBOIS CHARDONNAY 2020 Florent Rouve

£19.99 Waitrose

Rich rounded voluptuous fruits with beautifully integrated acidity and light saline finish – a typical example of Jura Chardonnay.

COTES DU JURA BLANC, SAVAGNIN ‘SOUS VOILE’ 2018 Domaine Pignier

£35 Raeburn Wines

High scorer at our tasting with this excellent domaine (Jean Etienne Pignier of Domaine Pignier pictured below).  A very fine nutty savoury Savagnin with a salty edge – matured under a thin film of yeasts – hence the name ‘Sous Voile’.

RED WINE

POULSARD 2020 Fruitiere Vinicole d’Arbois

£25 Harrogate Wine; Hedonism Wine; Dreyfus Ashby UK

Perfumed light red berry, fresh clean – perfect for chilling.

ARBOIS TROUSSEAU ‘SINGULIER’ 2020 Domaine A & M Tissot

£35 The Wine Society

Bright cherry fruits, vibrant freshness with rich intense finish from the master of Trousseau, Stephane Tissot of Domaine A & M Tissot (pictured below).

NO SIN TOU TSEFS 2022 Fumey Chatelain

£34 Sager & Wilde

Clever blend of Pinot Noir, Trousseau and Poulsard from an up-and-coming producer (Marin Fumey Chatelain of Domaine Fumey Chatelain is pictured below) loved its cranberry fruits and green tea notes.

DESSERT WINE

L’ETOILE VIN DE PAILLE 2019 Domaine de Montbourgeau

£37 hf bt The Wine Society

Jura’s traditional intensely sweet dessert wine – the famous ‘straw wine’ from grapes dried on a bed of straw in the attic before fermenting – made from Chardonnay, Savagnin and Poulsard blend

Tasting at Domaine A & M Tissot with Stephane Tissot

End of a great visit to Jura!

Big thanks to CIVJ, Stephane Tissot, Marin Fumey Chatelain, Jean Etienne Pignier – and all the other vignerons in Jura who made our visit so interesting and memorable.

 

Join Rose’s Fine Wine Tasting Dinner at Prestonfield House Hotel on 27 November 2024 www.rosemurraybrown.com

wine tastings

The perfect gift for the wine enthusiast in the family. Rose does In-person tastings too.

cellar advice

Rose does cellar valuations for private clients, valuations for insurers & bespoke portfolio management.

Related stories

  • June 22, 2024

    By Rose Murray Brown MW  Published in The Scotsman 15 June 2024 Cremant d’Alsace is one of France’s hidden gems, with over 80% of this wine sold in France itself. Today fizz in the small region of Alsace, tucked between the Vosges mountains and river Rhine in eastern France, is a big success story.  Cremant d’Alsace is almost one

  • June 2, 2024

    By Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 2 June 2024 “Sylvaner is a Cinderella of a grape”, explained Alsace wine expert Anne Krebiehl MW.  “In the past Sylvaner was a very important variety in Alsace, which now needs to be treated with more respect”. Today Sylvaner is not considered a ‘noble’ grape, but after our tasting held

  • May 18, 2024

    By Rose Murray Brown MW    Published in The Scotsman 18 May 2024 I am standing in the highest vineyard in Hungary.  This 501 metre hill, in the foothills of the Bukk mountains, towers above the beautiful baroque town of Eger below to the west – and is one of the Eger’s most prized vineyards. I can barely see