Introducing Jura

Jura is a French wine region located in a narrow fifty-mile strip in the mountains between Burgundy and Switzerland. Its high-altitude vineyards spent centuries in relative obscurity before being rediscovered in recent years by influential sommeliers and wine geeks the world over.

For those new to the region, discovered is not necessarily understood. Jura is home to an unusually wide array of idiosyncratic wines--some are lip smacking, others are fascinating but not overtly delicious. We’ve put together a crib sheet to Jura to help anchor your experiences.

For chardonnay and pinot noir, think of Jura as Burgundy’s cool cousin to the east. Cooler temperatures and rich limestone soils yield high-quality classically styled wines in a lighter fresher style.

It is with white wines made from the local white variety, savagnin that Jura begins to defy expectations. These wines are made sous-voile or “under the veil.” After fermentation the wines are aged in barrel, usually for three years. The barrels are neither topped off nor stirred, so that a protective layer of yeasts grow, as with fino Sherry. These wines are never fortified; they are at once delicate, complex and aromatic and will challenge your expectations of what white wine should taste like.

Jura’s most famous sous-voile wine is Vin Jaune: late harvest savagnin that has spent at least six years in small oak barrels under a protective blanket of yeasts developing complex and beguiling aromas walnuts, almonds, honey, apples and sweet spices. The finest examples of Vin Jaune come from the appellation Chateau-Chalon.

Jura’s two native red varieties, trousseau and poulsard, yield wines a shade darker than rosé. Trousseau tends to be softer with red and black fruits. Poulsard is more structured and perfumed, sometimes with an earthy character.