If you ask someone to name the great wine regions of France they would probably come up with the obvious names – Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, maybe even the Loire Valley or Languedoc-Roussillon. Probably very few would say Jura – but this little region packs a punch way above its relative weight.
Some publications even refer to Jura as the 'Land that Time Forgot' or a ‘footnote’, but that’s more a reflection of its size than the superb quality of the wine it produces. It is a region in eastern France, between Burgundy and Switzerland. The most obvious thing to point out is that it is largely mountainous, essentially land-locked in a wilderness of peaks. But squeezed in on the slopes is just over 2,000 hectares of vines, with a variety of grapes growing. This makes it one of the smallest wine regions in France.
The renowned French chemist and biologist Louis Pasteur was born and raised in the Jura region and owned a vineyard near Arbois. The climate is continental, with long cold winters and hot summers. Many vineyard slopes are quite steep which creates problems with soil erosion.
We are very excited to offer a new range of wines from Jura which we think really reveal the expressive nature of this fascinating under-rated region.
The soil in Jura is limestone but with clays of varying hues which account for both the number of grape varieties used and for the complex nature of so many of the wines. Vines are trained quite high in order to avoid spring frosts.
The Jura is proud of its heritage and has heroically defended its wine culture – in 1973 its winemakers descended on Strasbourg armed with clavelins and cheeses to see off the threat of the EU harmonising bottle sizes.
The big two grape varieties
The Jura is famous for its eccentric grape varieties, but it also boasts the big hitters - pinot noir and chardonnay are planted in the Jura, having been brought to the region from Burgundy during the Middle Ages. When both grapes began to increase in popularity, more were planted replacing some older varieties, and the Chardonnay vines now account for nearly 45% of all Jura planting. It is valued for its good sugar levels and early ripening. Chardonnay is perfectly adapted to the heavy clay soils, and the good wines have real character. Acidities are higher than in Burgundy which is why in general wines are aged in oak for longer. At best they are wines of genuine complexity and richness. Four of our new selections are Chardonnays.
Pinot noir is used to make a varietal style of wine. The wines are pale in colour, fragrant and characteristically on the earthy side.
All of our new collection comes from Domaine Labet, based in Rotalier in the area south of Lons-le-Saunier, known as the Sud Revermont. The Labets come from a long line of Jura farmers, but it was Alain Labet who paved the way for modern wines from the Jura, producing wines of elegance and precision. He uses low-intervention and organic practices, following the Bourgogne tradition of topping up barrels. His eldest son, Julien, continued and expanded on the minimal intervention track, certifying the old-vine vineyards to organics (2010), and incorporating animals into their vineyard management program. Along with his siblings Charline (a trained oenologist), and Romain (a viticulturist), Julien is directing the next-generation of Labet wines.
One of the more unusual wines is Macvin du Jura, derived from marc and vin, and is a sweet vin de liqueur made from the blending of barely-fermented grape must and aged marc.
Macvin has a walnut and raisin flavour with spice and a good deal of complexity. Macvin has been in production since the fourteenth century. It is made from five permitted grape varieties, and can be red or rosé when produced from the Poulsard, Trousseau, and Pinot noir, or white when produced from Chardonnay or Savagnin. The grapes are harvested late in season when their sugar content is at its highest. The grape must/juice is allowed to ferment but then Marc du Jura, pomace-based eau-de-vie, is added at a ratio of one litre for every two of must. This halts fermentation, leaving behind residual sugar. Macvin is usually used as an aperitif, but the residual sweetness makes it an excellent dessert wine too.
Perhaps Jura's most famous wine
We also sell a vin jaune, perhaps Jura’s most famous style of wine. This must be made from 100% savagnin, which is is harvested late, usually in late October but it can be November. The grapes have to weigh in with a potential alcohol of between 13% and 15%. The wines ferment slowly and then are transferred to 228l barrels of old oak. The barrels are never topped up and the wines become partially protected from oxidation by a thin veil of yeast, called locally 'voile' which is very similar to the flor in sherry. To get the appellation vin jaune, the wine has to remain in barrel for not less than six years and three months by which time only about 62% of the wine is left after evaporation. Appropriately, vin jaune is then bottled in a special tubby bottle called the clavelin, holding 62cl.
Vin jaune should not be chilled but served just cool. Decanting can be beneficial and gives the wines time to breathe.
Here is our new selection along with an old favourite
|Domaine Labet, La Bardette, Cotes de Jura, 2015, £75|
|From the limestone-laced, clay-clad La Bardette vineyard. This is fermented in older wood for ten months, before remaining in the vessels for 18 months on the lees. Made with some old vines planted in 1947 giving a chiselled, beautifully balanced wine despite the notable power of 2015. This is one of the Labet family’s finest terroirs.|
|Les Varrons Chardonnay,£80|
|A citrus bomb, electric acidity but rich. Intense and powerful, with smoky stones, wild rice, even mountain air. Perfect with poultry, mushrooms or soft cheeses.|
|Domaines Labet, Cote de Jura, Les Varrons Rouge, 2017|
|Juicy, delicious and lots of strawberry fruit, red berry and wild strawberry. Also some earthy notes, with tobacco, oak and even cola on the finish.|
|Domaines Labet, Cotes du Jura, Les Champs Rouges, 2016, £80|
|Golden colour and nicely pared citrus and oak. Floral, apples, nuts, lemon and a creaminess with a long finish. This is one of the family’s larger parcels of 45-year-old vines, planted in a red clay soil on a west-facing hillside. The old vines convey real energy, good drive and tension on the palate, and the finish is sustained and mineral.|
|Domaine Labet, Cotes de Jura, En Chalasse, 2018, £70.00|
|This is quintessential Jura chardonnay, quite structured in this vintage and will age well, with an intensity to the fruit that gives energy on the attack, good depth of citrus fruits on the mid-palate and both lift and length on the finish.|
|Macvin du Jura|
|Macvin du Jura is the signature vin de liquer of the Jura. A blend of unfermented grape juice which is then muted with marc from savagnin (the distilled lees and the French equivalent to grappa). This keeps the alcohol to a stable level and prevents further fementation of the sugars. An intense flavour explosion of dried apricot and nutty savouriness.|
|Lucien Aviet & Fils Arbois Caveau de Bacchus Vin Jaune 'Cuvee de la Confrerie', Jura 2010, £80|
|The golden coloured 2010 Arbois Vin Jaune is a selection of the domaine’s finest barrels of savagnin matured sous voile for seven years or more. Picked at 14% alcohol, the long élevage concentrates the alcohol. This is a textbook example of the style with aromas of curry, chicken broth, green walnuts and mushrooms. This has more volume, length and complexity than the domaine’s Réserve du Caveau, but at the same time, it's delicate and nuanced. Only 1,000 bottles were filled with this great Vin Jaune, which is guaranteed to develop beautifully in bottle. For drinking now to 2100.|