About this WINE
The lower slopes of the Jura mountains are among the most beautiful parts of viticultural France. They form the eastern flank of the Saone valley, mirroring the Côte d’Or across the way. It is a shame that their wines are much less well known.
Two main white grapes are used, Savagnin and Chardonnay, to make different styles of wine. The barrels of Savagnin are not topped up, so they become lightly and deliberately oxidised, though the wine is saved from spoilage by the formation of a film of yeast known as ‘flor’ on top of the wine, as also happens with fino sherry. Unusual but exciting wine.
The Chardonnay barrels are kept topped up, but even so the wines tend to offer a hint of the same nutty character on top of the more classic outline of the Chardonnay grape.
Stéphane Tissot is a leading grower in the wine appellation of Arbois, where he farms his vineyards biodynamically and is rare in offering single vineyard bottlings such as Les Bruyères.
An hour's drive east of Beaune lies the 1,450-hectare Jura umbrella appellation, comprising the Arbois, Arbois-Papillon, Côtes du Jura, Chateau-Chalon and L'Etoile viticultural zones.
Of these, Château-Chalon is the smallest at 690 hectares, and focuses exclusively on making Vin Jaune, the prized sweet wine that was first made in the 14th century. L'Étoile produces a variety of styles, meanwhile, mainly oxidative Chardonnay as well as Vin Jaune and Vin de Paille.
The area is dramatically beautiful, as much for its sub-alpine landscape as for its remarkable wines, which draw on an essentially continental climate, a multi-faceted and varied terroir (limestone crowns over blue, red and grey marl), and indigenous varietals of Savagnin, Trousseau and Poulsard, alongside Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
In a style not dissimilar to Sherry, a flor or voile yeast is encouraged to grow on all good Savagnins which effectievly start out as a Vin Jaune, before being pulled after a few years in cask, undisturbed, to be bottled as Côtes du Jura (often blended with some Chardonnay).
Vin Jaune itself requires six years and three months to graduate, again non ouillés (not topped up), before being bottled in the traditional 62cl Clavelin, with the Château-Chalon appellation the finest source.
The red Poulsard and Trousseau make fascinating dry wines, yet also are blended together with Savagnin when making the delicious Vin de Paille, which demands low yields of 20 hl/ha, and at least six weeks shrivelling on straw mats, followed by three years in cask before bottling.
Macvin is a largely sweet-wine-making appellation that sources its grapes from all over the Jura region. Macvin wines are produced by stopping the fermentation with the addition of the local spirit.
There are over 200 different grape varieties used in modern wine making (from a total of over 1000). Most lesser known blends and varieties are traditional to specific parts of the world.