Jura: No Tourists, Lots of Great Wine and Things to See

Our last day in Jura before moving on to Switzerland was filled with some great visits and another superb lunch. In fact I overheard one of our group saying this was her favorite meal, even after having been at a 2 star Michelin the other day.

The first visit was in Poligny to meet Benoit Badoz who gave us a tasting from rosé to

Benoit Baddoz with the marl terroir for vin jaune

Benoit Baddoz with the marl terroir for vin jaune

savagnin ouillé (modern, non oxidized version) to a Burgundian style chardonnay to vin jaune and vin de paille. A lesson learned at this visit: they serve their reds before the whites because the whites are more agressive and assertive than the reds. There are 3 red grapes: pinot noir, Ploussard and Trousseau:the best pinot noirs from Jura make you think Burgundy, which is only 50 miles away; Ploussard is the lightest, showing onion skin brown at an early age; and the trousseau being my favorite with a fruit forward, medium body personality.

We then made the short trip to visit Jean Michel Petit at his Domaine de la Renardière, who is a well-known and respected wine personality. We tasted 8 of his wines and he again represents the modern interpretation of the great local white grape, savagnin. There are 2 styles: the traditional oxidized version which develops in the barrel under a layer of yeast, identical to the flor

looking at the flor in a vin jaune barrel

looking at the flor in a vin jaune barrel

used to produce sherry.; and the modern ouillé or non-oxidized version. We learned that ouillé comes from the French word for bung, the opening at the top of each barrel, and that the winemaker always tops up his barrels to prevent oxidation. Jean Michel makes a superb chardonnay which is a dead-ringer for a white burgundy, at a fraction of the cost. In fact Burgundy is so close that you can see the Cote de Beaune.

We had lunch at Le Grapiot, just 200 yards down the village path from la Renardière. Lunch entrées of either cod or braised beef cheeks were paired with either the Julien Mareschal Chardonnay 2013, another dead-ringer for a white Burgundy and a Ploussard by Désiré Petit 2013, a light fruity red.

We then made the short 20 minute ride to Chateau Challon, on a spectacular promontory overlooking the Jura Mountains. Chateau Challon is famous for its vin jaune and one of the best producers is Jean Berthet-Bondet who showed us his cellars from the 17th century and his barrel room with 500 barrels holding 8 vintages of vin jaune. Vin jaune is made from the savagnin grape which is aged a minimum of 6 years under a layer of yeast, or sous-voile as it is called in the area. Jean had us try his Trio, a fruity blend of the 3 red grapes of the region; Balanoz single vineyard chardonnay 2013 made in the modern style (another dead-ringer for a white Burgundy); a Cotes du Jura blanc sous voile blend of chardonnay and savagnin; and two vin jaunes. Vin jaune and any of the oxidized whites are an acquired taste but they pair superbly with the local Comté cheese, which comes either with 12 months or 24 months aging.

We then went on a walking tour of the town which reminded me of Gordes in Provence, only without the tourists. In fact we were the only non-French speaking people in town. We drove through the winding streets of the spectacular Seille Valley and there were many people out doing a Saturday afternoon hike. It’s easy to fall in love with this area, so off the beaten path and wrongfully so. It is so close to Burgundy and I strongly urge you to consider adding Jura to your itinerary if you’re even in the Burgundy region.

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