I had ordered my bottle of wine from the Jura a couple of months ago and forgotten about it. Only once before have I had a wine from this region. At the time we were investigating “Godforsaken Grapes” from France, which took me to the Savoie, near the Jura for a Jacquere from Apremont. You can read about that in “Though the Mountains May Crumble…Apremont and some Alpine Pairings”
The Jura is often lumped in with Savoie, but the region is actually North West of Savoie. This region sits on the border to Switzerland near Geneva. If the word “Jura” reminds you of Jurassic Park, there is a reason for that. The Jurassic geological period was named for these mountains where the limestone strata from this period were first identified.
Another interesting fact: Louis Pasteur was born in this region. Famous of course for discovering that microbes were responsible for making alcohol sour, he created pasteurization to heat and kill bacteria. He is also responsible for creating a vaccine for rabies. For more on how Louis Pasteur impacted the history of wine, check out this piece that our friend Lori, from Dracaena Wines collaborated on with writer Joey Casca a few years ago Heros of Wine: Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)
” A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world.”Louis Pasteur
The Côtes du Jura
The Jura wine region is 50 miles long and never more than 4 miles wide.
Within the region you will find 4 AOCs
Côtes du Jura, which covers the whole region.
Arbois in the north of the region where half of the wine is red and they focus on the grape poulsard.
L’Etoile named for starfish fossils that are found locally. This appellation is only for white wine and much of that Chardonnay.
Château-Chalon the hilltop village where they only allow vin jaunes.
Update* These are the Geographic AOCs. There are 3 more AOCs for Products: Crémant du Jura for sparkling wines, Macvin du Jura for this liqueur and Marc du Jura, for the regions brandy.,
The region has taken a beating, with phylloxera, WW1 and then railways that made it easier to get wine from Languedoc. By the 1960s the region had less than 1000 hectares of vines. Today there are approximately 2000 hectares.
Savagnin the grape & the wine
We focused on one grape, Savagnin. While most often this grape is used to make “vin jaune” a late harvest wine made with a technique much like Sherry, except without the fortification, they do make dry wines in 3 styles.
In my research, I learned the term “ouillé”. This French term refers to topping up a barrel, which is what you typically do when you are aging a wine. So if you have a wine, made in the manner which most of us consider normal, by topping the barrel up as it ages to keep the exposure to oxygen down, in the Jura the bottle will say “ouillé”. If it is made in this method in the region of Arbois (which is a smaller region within the Jura) it is call “naturé”.
These wines are light and elegant with floral and citrus notes with notes of anise.
When the wine is “non ouillé” or not topped up it will just be labeled Savagnin. Savagnin spends 2 or 3 years in oak and is not topped up. The wine mixes with the oxygen and develops oxidative flavors; think dried fruit like dried apples, ripe soft cheese with notes of white pepper. It pairs well with Comté cheese which is a specialty of the region. It is suggested that you decant this wine for at least 15 minutes before serving.
This is the big daddy of the region, the wine they are most known for. The famous Château-Chalon perched on it’s cliff only produces “vin jaune”. Vin Jaune translates to “Yellow Wine” or “Golden Wine” and the wine is indeed golden. White wines as they age and are exposed to oxygen darken.
This wine, like the Savagnin we spoke of above, it aged without topping up or “non-ouillé”. This wine must be aged for at least 6 years and 3 months in oak barrels. But what makes this different from Savagnin, in addition to the length of barrel aging is that over time a layer of yeast forms on the top of the wine. They call this “le voile”. (If you know anything about Sherry, you might be familiar with this technique for Manzanilla and Fino Sherries that mature under their layer of “flor”.)
Here is another case of gross looking mold making delicious wine (like the noble rot botrytis). These wines become concentrated and they will have nutty flavors and savory tones of ripe cheese as well as bright acid and citrus notes. They are immensely interesting. Check out this list of notes potentially found in a Vin Jaune.
“Flavors in Vin Jaune can include ripe Camembert cheese, green and golden apple, candied orange peel, lemon and lemon peel, ginger, nutmeg, curry, vanilla, sandalwood, almond, hazelnut and walnut. There’s a touch of rancio, a wine term often used with Cognac that describes the mix of woodsy, earthy and musty flavors.”Amateurgastronomer.com October 10, 2011
Domaine Benoit Badoz Côtes du Jura Savagnin 2011
Our wine, was the middle style a Savagnin.
- 100% Savagnin
- Aged in Oak barrels for more than 3 years.
- Region Côtes du Jura AOC
- Aging potential 25 years
Domaine Benoit Badoz was founded in 1659 and Benoit is the 10th generation vintner at this family domaine. Located in the heart of the region in the town of Poligny, they have 10 hectares of vineyards. This wine, the Côtes du Jura comes from vineyards around the town of Voiteur (19 km away), which is very near to Château-Chalon.
What to pair with a Savagnin?
I did my research, pulling tasting notes to find complementary flavors. Then I dug deeper. I admit that I often look to Fiona Beckett for ideas. Her site offers such a range of suggestions depending on the age and style of the wine as well as the region. Often there are local specialties she will recommend, as well as other pairings that could be from anywhere in the world. It was here that I settled on my pairings.
I had planned and shopped for our dinner but hadn’t really thought it through when an opportunity arose to enjoy the sunset on the roof with a friend. We don’t see each other as often as we would like, but social distancing outside watching sunset seemed perfect.
We began with a cheese plate with Comte, the well known cheese of this region, plus walnuts, green apple, and thinly sliced fennel. Dinner included seared scallops, lobster ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce, and a spinach salad with apple, fennel, and bacon with a lemon vinaigrette.
Our Savagnin and how it paired
I will admit, that I am writing this after our tasting, and some of the things I learned came after tasting the wine. We did not decant it. I suppose I should have read that, but you know, I enjoy the journey and in fact, Michael caught brighter citrus notes as he first sipped this saying it felt crisper at the start. As Michael poured, my friend RuBen commented that he could smell it from across the patio!
We stuck our noses in. This was interesting! RuBen wrinkled his brow. Wine tasting is pretty new to him. Sandlewood? Yep…I might not have picked that up, but he had been smelling candles recently. I got bruised apple and spices. We all kept sticking out noses back in the glass, trying to pull out notes.
With the Comte cheese, it was heaven. RuBen wanted a sauce of the wine to dip the cheese in. (hmm…could I do a reduction, like with a balsamic?). With the green apple slices? YUK! That was a cry from around the table. With the fennel it was a mixed batch, Michael and I found it interesting, RuBen said it made the wine concentrate to the center of his mouth and disappear (I picture a black hole collapsing onto itself. I should taste with RuBen more often. He comes up with fantastic tasting notes!)
We moved on to dinner. Nice with the scallops, the brown butter sage sauce and the lobster ravioli pulled out the funkier notes in the wine, which I liked. I also thought it went well with the salad, something about the bacon and the lemon vinaigrette contrasting with each other and melding with the wine, was really nice.
We continued to sip, the sun set, the conversation moved to different subjects and we watch the stars come out. Mars was actually glowing brightly in the sky not too far from the strip.
Good wine, good food, good friends, great conversation. Thanks Jura for a little rooftop getaway, we almost forgot about COVID for a while.
The French Winophiles
I’m excited to see what the rest of the Winophiles have tasted from the Jura! If you are reading this early enough, join us on Saturday October 16th on Twitter! We will be there at 8 am Pacific time discussing the wines of this region. Just follow and use the hashtag #Winophiles to join the conversation!
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla will share “Seafood B’Stilla + Domaine Rolet Arbois Trousseau 2012“
- Christy from Confessions of a Culinary Diva is talking about “Jura in the Afternoon“
- David from Cooking Chat will be sharing “Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs with Jura Wine“
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator is “Exploring Flavors of Jura Food and Wine Take Two: Trousseau and Melon”
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass will be heading “Back to the Jura (virtually), for Crémant this time around“
- Nicole from Somm’s Table will be “Jurassic 5: An Intro to the Jura and its Main Grapes (#Winophiles)“
- Payal from Keep the Peas is sharing “Sherry? No, Jura“
- Pinny from Chinese Food and Wine Pairings is “Sipping Tissot-Marie Crémant Du Jura and Snacking Fried Pork Skin“
- Susannah from Avvinare shares “Discovering Delights from Jura Region”
- Terri of Our Good Life pours Sparkling Jura for Celebratory Moments.
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm will serve up “Bourride served with a Chardonnay from Jura“
Sources, resources and further reading.
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.