Jura wine: a nod and a Wink
A new trend has hit the London wine scene; I believe it’s the same in New York. Whenever I arrive at one of the hip and funky wine bars such as Sager & Wilde or The Remedy, I look at the list of wines by the glass and lick my lips at the thought of drinking these great bottles and great vintages from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rioja and Tuscany. But there is a new set of wines featuring on these lists, made with unfamiliar grapes, from a tiny area in eastern France. Ladies and gentlemen, Jura has hit the big time.
No one has done more to raise the profile of these interesting and fabulous wines than Wink Lorch. Wink splits her time between London and her home in the French Alps and has worked in the wine trade since 1979; these days she writes and educates about wine. I first came across Wink when I signed up to Wine Travel Guides (the best £29 I ever spent!) and used her guides to plot my way around the Rhone, Burgundy and Champagne one year, Bordeaux and The Loire the next.
With no book printed in English about the Jura region, Wink decided to do something about it and 18 months ago put out a call to arms and set up a Kickstarter project to self-publish a volume on the subject. The wine world got behind Wink (I’m very proud to say I contributed) and the 352 page tome was published earlier this year to great acclaim. For the past couple of months Wink has been promoting her book and the wines of the region through a series of tasting events and I was lucky enough to get a place at one of these events last week.
I have to say a massive thanks to David Carter and the Charlemagne Wine Club who squeezed me in at the last minute and were ever so welcoming on the night. I will certainly return for future events and you can see what’s coming up by signing up to the club’s mailing list here. I also have an apology to make… The tasting consisted of 9 wines from Jura… but I had to leave after 6 to get my last train home! Luckily for me Wink and David insisted I tried the final 3 wines before leaving so I did get to taste and make a few notes on my way home.
There are five grapes grown in Jura; the red wines are made from Pinot Noir, Trousseau and Ploussard; the whites from Chardonnay and Savagnin. As well growing distinctive grapes, they seem to do everything differently in the region, which means after the fizz come the reds, then the whites. Such an interesting tasting, so beautifully presented, I’ll be adding a few to my own collection for sure:
Domaine de Montbourgeau Crémant du Jura Brut (The Wine Society £12.50)
100% Chardonnay. This is regular and enjoyable wine in our house – this bottle wasn’t the best condition I’ve had, a touch of oxidation perhaps, but still showed just enough of what I love about it. Toasty and yeasty on the nose, like unbaked cookie dough, with hints of apple and grapefruit. The palate is super-dry but with plenty of fruit and acidity; apple, greengage, even a touch of ripe peach. The yeasty notes come through on the good length finish – a fizz that is so much more exciting and interesting than most NV Champagne and at less than half the price. 90 points
Domaine Hughes-Béguet Ploussard 2009, Arbois-Pupillin (The Wine Society £11.95)
Is this really a red wine? It looks more like watered down Vimto! I do love the funky nose of Ploussard; a wonderful combination of the reddest cherries, crushed raspberries, damp earth and something a bit feral. On the palate the wine is light and bright as a button; soft ripe cherries and apple skin combine with raspberry freshness and acidity for a delightful balance. This is a fun, juicy and attractive wine… great fun. 88 points
Marie et Denis Chevassu Pinot Noir 2012, Cote du Jura (N/A UK)
Beautifully bright in the glass with lots of red currant and raspberry character and a hint of lightly smoked meat. Very light body with bright acidity – like a raspberry coulis. There are some gentle tannins providing a tight structure and a lovely mineral touch that brings another level of complexity. Deliciously summery fruit with plenty of interest from the minerality and a touch of exotic spice. Better than most regional Burgundy available at this price. 89 points
Domaine Daniel Dugois Trousseau Grevillière 2011, Arbois (Les Caves de Pyrene £14.89)
Many of the Jura aficionados will tell you that the white wines are the real jewels of Jura, but for me, Trousseau is the most interesting of all the grape varieties the area has to offer. The nose offers a cornucopia of red fruit; so fresh and just throwing itself out of the glass! There is also the funky note of the forest and smoky meat… very attractive and oh so interesting. On the palate the acidity whacks you between the eyes and there is a russet-like texture that is very appealing. Considering the light colour, the red fruit is highly concentrated and supported with smoky, sweet spice. A big step up in class with real complexity and concentration; still very young but already so expressive. 92++ points
Domaine Berthet-Bondet Naturé 2013, Côtes du Jura (N/A UK)
100% Savagnin (Naturé is another name for Savagnin)
I struggled to get a great deal on the nose here; there is a toasty note for sure and some lemon, maybe even a touch of lemon balm. The texture is delightfully glacial with lemon, lime and grapefruit fruit showing through… it’s a real grower this one. It’s a linear wine but its extremely focused and tense’ the finish is very dry but very long. I need a bottle I think to really get under it’s skin! 89 points
Domaine de la Renardière Les Vianderies Chardonnay 2011, Arbois-Pupillin (The Wine Society £14.95)
A familiar nose! The nose is extremely mineral with a tough of yeast and lots of precise apple fruit. At first my mind went straight to Chablis but it is very reminiscent of the new wave of Chardonnays coming out of California. The palate is apple with a twist of citrus and just the merest hint of roasted peach and some lees-y notes. Very tense and very chalky – classy and a perfect match for shellfish I am sure. 91 points
As mentioned above, I didn’t spend enough time with the final three wines due to my dash for the last train. I wish I could’ve given them more attention, as they are wines I don’t fully understand. The first two were made in a very oxidised in style… something I genuinely don’t understand and therefore can’t appreciate. I will return to these wines in the near future, making sure I taste them with someone who does appreciate their stylistic qualities:
Domaine Berthet-Bondet Tradition 2009, Côtes du Jura (N/A UK)
70% Chardonnay, 30% Savagnin
Domaine Montbourgeau L’Etoile Savagnin 2009, L’Etoile (The Wine Society £16.25)
The final wine was a very unusual style of wine that Jura is already famous for, Vin Jaune. Vin Jaune is made from late harvest Savagnin grapes. The grapes are fermented slowly and then kept in small old oak casks, which are never topped up, so an air gap appears above the wine as it evaporates. A film of yeast grows over the wine, called the voile (veil), which allows the wine to be exposed to small levels of oxygen. The wines have to age for a significant amount of time and cannot be bottled until six years and three months after the harvest. After this time the wine is bottled in squat 620ml bottles known as “clavelins” and can keep for decades.
Domaine de la Pinte Vin Jaune 2006, Arbois (Slurp £41.63)
This was my very first taste of the style and wow did it make me think all the way home! It has oxidised notes but what I was left with was an amazing combination of lime-leaf and curry. It played on my palate most of the way home and I am so pleased I have a bottle of Daniel Dugois’ 2005 sitting on the shelf just waiting to be explored.
So there you have it. A fantastic and informative tasting for a group of wines that deserve everyone’s attention, not just the London and New York funky bunch!