The Jura district in eastern France is perhaps one of the least known regions for wine. The region sits between Burgundy and Switzerland and is so isolated that its long-standing traditions have remained intact.
In the wine industry, Jura wines are revered for the unique nuances that makes them excellent for food pairing. During the height of the region’s popularity, the 19th century, there were 50,000 acres under vine. Today, there are merely 5,000 acres – planted to only a handful of varietals. pinot noir, poulsard, trousseau, chardonnay and savagnin dominate the vineyards.
The region’s biggest claim to fame is probably that it is the birth place of Louis Pasteur, the inventor of both pasteurization and modern oenology.
Jura makes wines in all styles: sparkling, white, rose and red. Oddly enough, the region’s red wines are traditionally aged in steel or concrete, while the white wines are aged in very old barrels.
The white wines are unique because they are aged up to six years in old barrels. The most famous of these are vin jaune, or yellow wine. Most producers, outside of Jura, top off the barrels with wine in order to prevent oxidation.
in Jura, however, winemakers intentionally allow the barrels to breathe and the wine to evaporate. During this time, a flor (a skin of yeast) floats on top of the wine. This results in wines that are oxidative, similar to a fino sherry, but without being fortified.
Interestingly, while the wines’ bouquet resembles the sherry, on the palate they come off as fresh, crisp, nutty and fruity – excellent wines for food pairing. Prices begin at $30.
Jura’s red wines are typically made from pinot noir, trousseau and poulsard. The most common and yet still difficult to find, is poulsard. These wines are very bright, delicate and feminine, perfect for summer. These wines are best lightly chilled and served as a cocktail wine or with light fare, even fish! If you can find them, prices begin at $30.
The easiest Jura wines to understand are their sparkling wines, Cremant du Jura, because the populace knows what to expect when purchasing them. These sparkling wines are unpretentious, fresh and delicious without any of the oxidative qualities of the white wines or the vin jaune. These wines are straight-forward and pair excellently with an array of foods and celebrations. Again, prices begin at $30.
While the entry-level price point may seem steep for a region that is virtually unknown and a bit odd, the wines are without a doubt compelling and can make for an intriguing evening with friends and fare.
Alan Cuenca is an accredited oenophile and owner of Put a Cork in It, a Durango wine store. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.