Despite being one of the smallest wine regions in France, Jura is the most complicated. Or so argues wine writer and educator Wink Lorch, who literally wrote the book on Jura.
Lorch led a wine tasting of the region last week at CorkBuzz in Manhattan, during which she debunked four myths about this popular, tricky, and often-confusing region:
1) Vin Jaune Is Jura’s Primary Product
Jura contains only 5,200 acres of vineyards. Annually it produces just 8-12 million bottles, and among these what receives most attention is Vin Jaune.
This style ages the region-specific white varietal Savagnin (after normal fermentation) it in barrels not filled to the top — permitting oxidization. These barrels rest in rooms where the temperature varies.
“Each village has different traditions about where they stick their Vin Jaune barrels, whether they be at ground level or up in the attics,” Lorch explained. “But never in actual cellars. And never with constant temperature. They believe the complexity of Vin Jaune comes from the complexity of the places where they store it.”
Veils of yeast, as the French call them, form over the wine while it rests for years. The result is a notably rich, acidic, high-ABV wine with flavors and aromas of walnut, bruised apple, and mixed spices.
Considering its acclaim you might think that Vin Jaune comprises the majority of Jura production. But Lorch said that the style represented just 4% of the region’s annual output. Jura only produces a small amount of its most well-known wine.
2) All Jura Whites Are Oxidized
Since the most famous style from Jura is oxidized, some people assume the same for all the region’s whites. Of course, that’s not true.
Jura produces excellent non-oxidized versions of its signature Savagnin varietal, along with chardonnay and various white blends. The region does not use much heavy oak with its whites (or in general), nor many new barrels. Most producers in Jura buy ex-Burgundy and employ a mix of barrel shapes and sizes.
3) Jura Is All About Rare Wines
While Jura is best known for its unique styles of Vin Jaune, Vin de Paille and Macvin, collectively those comprise just 11% of the region’s annual production.
Jura produces plenty of pinot noir, chardonnay and trousseau. Much of which ends up in Crémant du Jura, the sparkler that makes up 28% of Jura’s yearly output. White Crémant du Jura must be comprised of at least 70% those three non-rare varietals (most are 100% chardonnay) while Rosé variants must be at least half red.
4) Jura Is High In Altitude
Another misbelief about Jura is that its wines grow high in the hills.
Vineyard altitudes in Jura vary between about 800 and 1,300 feet. Most grapes in the region grow at an altitude around 1,000 to 1,300 feet. “That’s more or less the same as Alsace,” Lorch said, “and yet we don’t commonly think of Alsace as high-altitude wine.”
In terms of natural geography and climate, what does define Jura is clay soil and heavy rainfall.
Generally speaking, Jura soil is about 80% clay, 20% limestone soil, Lorch said. About an hour’s drive to the west, Burgundy is 80% limestone, 20% clay. Jura receives 50% more rain than Burgundy. The average annual rainfall is 1,100 millimeters in Jura. Springs and summers are difficult, especially with grape disease, before fall’s tamer weather saves many harvests.