Why the Hippest Sommeliers Love Old-School Wines from the Jura
The old-school wines from this region in France are seemingly on every cutting-edge wine list.
Jura wine geeks are racing to scoop up as many bottles from Jacques Puffeney as they can find. The venerated natural-wine producer from the Arbois region announced his retirement as of the 2014 vintage; he subsequently leased most of his vineyards to Guillaume D’Angerville, a Burgundy producer. If you see a Puffeney wine at a restaurant like Heirloom Cafe in San Francisco, buy it now.
Most Americans can’t even pronounce Jura (Joo-ra), yet its wines have become practically a secret handshake for all the hippest Francophile sommeliers and shop owners. The Jura—which sits between Burgundy and the Swiss Alps—is one of France’s more traditional viticultural regions, excelling at natural wines. Its climate is comparable to Burgundy’s, meaning that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grow well there. But the pros are especially fascinated by its more idiosyncratic grapes. White Savagnin is the basis for nutty, sherry-like wines, aged a minimum of six years, called vin jaune. And the red grapes Poulsard and Trousseau create light-bodied wines, somewhat similar to Beaujolais, that are incredibly aromatic and pair tremendously well with food.
The Oxygen Effect
For centuries, many winemakers in the Jura have intentionally oxidized their whites: They fill barrels most of the way, but leave some space at the top for air. Some of the Jura’s most intriguing Chardonnays and Savagnins are made in this fashion. Aged in barrels for several years, they become deep golden or orange in color and take on flavors of nuts, spice and citrus.
Wines to Try
The jura produces a very diverse group of wines. Here, three great ones.
2012 Les Granges Paquenesses La Mamette Chardonnay ($23)
Originally from the south of France, up-and-comer Loreline Laborde was drawn to the Jura by its affordable land and simple lifestyle. Her Chardonnay is outstanding: unmistakably silky and full of citrusy fruit.
2010 Domaine de Montbourgeau l’Etoile Savagnin ($45)
Third-generation winemaker Nicole Deriaux ages this oxidized Savagnin in-barrel for four years. The wine develops toasted-hazelnut and zingy orange-rind notes.
2012 Domaine de la Tournelle Trousseau des Corvées ($37)
Not only do Evelyne and Pascal Clairet make terrific natural wines, like this fragrant, lively berried red, but they also co-own a natural-wine bar, Antidote, in London.