For the past few years, the hottest wine region among New York somms and hipsters in the know has been Jura, a hitherto obscure wine region situated between Burgundy and the Swiss border. Interest in this region is in part explained by it not being Burgundy. If you’re a young winemaker in love with Burgundian Pinot, vineyard land in Burgundy is just too expensive. And if you’re a wine lover in love with Burgundian Pinot, the wines are just too expensive. Jura is just a few kilometers East with similar limestone and marl soils and cooler Pinot-friendly temperatures but with affordable land prices and thus affordable bottle prices as well.
But the region has more to offer than relative affordability. Isolated from the population centers in France, it has developed its own wine traditions using, in addition to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, grape varietals that are largely unique to the region. Vin Jaune, its most famous wine, is produced in an oxidative style akin to Fino Sherry from Savignin grapes. Poulsard and Trousseau are indigenous and found only occasionally outside Jura. Trousseau today accounts for only 5% of the plantings here. It is more prominent in Portugal where it’s called Bastardo and is often part of the blend for Port. Poulsard is indigenous to Jura and is so thin-skinned it is often used to make white wine.
I’ve long been curious about this region and finally had a chance to try two representative wines this weekend although these two Pinot Noir-dominant wines are only a small sample of the diverse styles found in this region.
My favorite was a 2010 Pinot Noir from Les Chais du Vieux Bourg. Enticing bright, fresh, red and black cherry aromas and soft herbal notes mingle with crushed rock and hints of mushroom. On the palate it’s ravishingly elegant, but oh so light on its feet, with its flavors just whispering until stony minerality emerges on the tart finish to give the wine backbone. Subtlety seductive and texturally sensual but very understated and delicate. The wine was made from the Savignin Noir grape which as far as I can tell is genetically related to Pinot Noir and has a very similar flavor profile. $26
The second wine was a Pinot Noir dominated blend, Trois Cepages 2014, by Domaine du Pelican from Arbois, the main appellation in Jura. With a blend of 60% Pinot Noir, over 30% Trousseau, and a splash of Poulsard this wine was fascinating. Like the Les Chais, the emphasis was on freshness and finesse. The nose of red raspberry melding with citrus aromas and sweet herbs was intriguing and the stony minerality on the palate bracing. This was an acid-heads dream, but the sourness on the finish was a little to prominent. $40
These are cool climate wines, light bodied, lively but not rich or sumptuous. If you’re a fan of rich Sonoma juice you will probably find the Pinot Noir of Jura thin and too acidic. But I found these gossamer textures to be thrilling and the region is distinctive enough to warrant further study.