It’s a region of medium high mountains, created in… the Jurassic period. It is north of the Alps, and east of Burgundy. It’s a natural border between France and Switzerland.
The wine production area is mostly around small towns of Arbois and Lons le Saulnier.
With its continental climate, ( dry, cold winters and hot summers) limestone and marl soil, this region produces some of the most special and surprising wine of France.
There are four regional appellations: Arbois, Côtes du Jura and the smaller Etoile and Château-Chalon.
They are mostly well known for their white wines and especialy the “Vin Jaune” ( Yellow Wine).
Two grapes varieties are used for white: the world star Chardonnay, and the local Savagnin.
Vin Jaune is a speciality made from extremely riped Savagnin grapes put in Burgundian aging barel of 228 liters for 6 years and 3 monthes. But, what is very unique in this wine making process, except the time, is that those barrels are not in stable temperature cellars, but in places well ventilated and subject to temperature fluctuations.
As the barrel is never topped-off as in a classic winemaking process, this allows creation of a yeast film in the barrel that will develop this specific walnut aromas called “le gout du jaune”. This bacteria film has been closely studied by Louis Pasteur ( born in Arbois) for his work on wine making process. It’s exactly the same process and results for that of Jerez wines, in south of Spain.
It’s very difficult to maintain the quality of the wine and to keep the yeast film intact during these 6 years. If the film is torn, then all the content of the barrel are destroyed.
After 6 years in a wooden barrel, more than 40% of the initial volume is gone in the air (called the angels share). So one liter of grape juice give 60 cl of Vin Jaune, that’s why it’s always sold in a specific bottle of 62cl called “clavelin”.
The result is a beautiful golden yellow color, that can become almost amber after years and a unique flavor of walnut, dried fruit, spices, burned bread…. Combine with a high level of acidity.
It is so special, that some people may reject it, thinkink there’s a default or something. But honestly, nothing pairs better with comté cheese, than a glass of “Vin Jaune”. In fact, this wine is addictive!
This wine that has been raised in such harsh conditions (oxydation, temperature variations, long contact with wood, etc…) becomes incredibly resistant and can be kept in its bottle for decades, some say over 100 years. Better than that, you can keep a bottle of Vin Jaune open during several days without affecting its taste.
Jura region is known for producing straw wine: very late harvest to get over ripe grapes ( selection of Savagnin, Chardonay and Poulsard) which are then dried during six weeks over a straw bed ( or nowadays, on open-to-air racks) to become more concentrated in sugar (and taste). Then it is kept in small barrels for 3 years. At the end, the level of alcohol is between 14 and 18.5°.
This Vin de Paille is sold in small bottle of 37.5 cl. It develops flavors of dried fruits, apricot, caramel, and candied orange.
See my tasting note of a Chateau Chalon 1998 in my other post.