No region in France seems to capture the hearts of wine professionals quite like the Jura. With its unique varietals, production methods, and small quantity of wine produced each year, the bottles are sought after, guarded, and waxed poetic over by those in the know. Are you in the know?
The Jura is a mountainous region in Eastern France bordering Switzerland, close to Lausanne. Its unique rugged landscape, including over 4,000 caves, with lakes, cliffs, and valleys abound, and particular foods and wine, aren’t quite like anywhere else in France. Local grape varietals like Savagnin, Poulsard (aka Ploussard), and Trousseau, and indigenous cheeses like Comté, are the region's pride. In addition, the unique Vin Jaune, or yellow wine, and exclusively vin jaune appellation, Château-Chalon, is a particular regional specialty, where the local grape, Savagnin, is fermented and put into old casks not completely full. A voile, also known as a flor, or yeast film, forms on the wine, and allows for a gentle oxidation. After 6 years and 3 months the wine may be bottled into a unique 62 cl bottle called a clavelin. Paired with aged Comté, they create a match made in food and wine heaven.
The light reds from Poulsard and Trousseau are distinctive as well, with floral, berry, herbaceous, and spicy characteristic - and some of the finest versions of all of these wines are being made by Philippe Bornard.
Tucked into the tiny village of Pupillin, Philippe Bornard has been making an array of wines over the last 30 years in nearly all categories made here, i.e. vin jaune, sparkling wines, still whites, reds, and even vin jaune vinegar. Yep, vinegar. After inheriting the vineyard from his father, who used to sell off the grapes, Philippe was convinced to create his own wines from the 6 hectare estate covering the appellations of Arbois Pupillin and Côtes du Jura. Everything is farmed biodynamically, and has been certified since 2012. Only recently has he stepped back from the forefront of the domaine’s winemaking, but keeps a keen eye on things and is at the ready when needed.
The 2018 Arbois Pupillin “Le Ginglet” is 100% Trousseau. In the glass it is hazy pale garnet in color, and perfumes notes of tart red cherry, cranberry, savory herbs and earth, and on the palate, lively cranberry-lemonade acidity bounces off the tongue. Its light weight and tannins, and bold, electric acidity is hard not to enjoy, especially with a gentle chill on the bottle. The domaine’s other cuvees are as equally striking, and other producers such as Les Granges Paquenesses and Jean-François Ganevat are creating exquisite wines with a strong sense of locale.
The next time you’re at a french wine bar or restaurant, look beyond the Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, and elsewhere and explore the wines of the Jura. Your taste buds will be thankful you did, and the waiter or somm will look at you with a mutual understanding, for you are in “the know.”