Vine Path Blog 9/19: The Great Wines of Jura
What makes French wine so exciting for drinkers, other than it’s being delicious, is that it always feels like there is more to discover. It was only a few decades ago that American drinkers started discovering places like Bordeaux and Burgundy, while today young drinkers are excitedly discovering Beaujolais and the Loire. Yet to be understood and yet to be trendy for French wine consumers generally, as been the Jura. If you talk to any Somm or wine professional however, they’re likely to tell you that the great wines of Jura rank among their favorite wines in all of France.
Why then hasn’t this become a trend? Most likely it’s because everything about the wines of Jura is unique and beyond comparison. These wines would be naturally confounding or intriguing to the average drinker which is why is always a pleasure to get to introduce new people to these wines. In this month’s collection we’ve gathered together three quintessential bottlings from three of the best producers in the region, producers that have helped shape and define the region, it’s wines, their style, and philosophy.
The best place to start is Domaine de la Pinte, Jura’s largest producer. Usually when one hears of a region’s ‘largest producer’ one might think that they might producing wines in an industrial fashion. Not so for de la Pinte. For Jura is so small and tight knit that the philosophy of making traditional wines with minimal intervention from grapes grown sustainably has influenced the area’s biggest producers. It should be said however, that to say ‘the biggest producer in Jura’ is not saying nearly as much as ‘biggest producer in Napa’, for instance. The estate is only 34 hectares large (84 acres) and is planted to all five of Jura’s major grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Savagnin, Ploussard/Poulsard, and Trousseau. Since 1999 de la Pinte has been an organic domaine and they’ve always worked the grapes by hand. For Poulsard de l’Ami Karl 2017, our first wine in the collection, de la Pinte harvests the grapes by hand, ferments with native yeast, and ages the wine in concrete vats for 6 months before they release the wine. Ploussard is the varietal that makes this wine and it’s pretty much only found in Jura. It produces wines with a very pale color and lots of leafy, fruity aromatics. This cuvee, like any good Poulsard, is racey and bright with low tannins and lots of salty minerality.
The wines of Jura have a few things in common with most other alpine growing regions. They all tend to present a similar kind of minerality and briskness that only a cool, high altitude wine region could present. For Joseph Dorbon, one of Arbois, Jura’s finest producers, this minerality is evident. For his finest wine, Les Bernardines Vieilles Vignes, and the one in the collection this month, he co-ferments Ploussard (60%) with Pinot Noir (40%) from a single old vine plot in his three hectare estate. The wine is aged one year is steel tank and then another year in 225 liter French oak barrels. This is a wine for the ages and one of distinction and singular identity. It’s an energetic wine with gentle yet strong tannins and a persistent finish. For a drinker new to Jura wines, this might be the best place to start because it’s got a grape we all know in it and it’s irresistibly delicious.
Of all the names in Jura, Ganevat is perhaps the most revered and most famous. Spearheaded by the indelible Jean-Francois Ganevat, a man born of winemakers in the Jura dating back 350 years, this iconic domaine produces a blistering array of cuvees each year from over a dozen different varietals. And yet the domaine is only 8.5 hectares planted, which means that each wine that he makes is rare and special. Jean-Francois is famous for his obsessive cellar work, for each cuvee is raised and treated in a different way. There are no rules or boundaries at Domaine Jean-Francois Ganevat other than to make wines that express terroir and varietal is the clearest possible fashion. For the cuvee Champs Poids, Jean-Francois purchases some Chardonnay from neighboring growers and raises it for 30 months in large neutral oak vats. The resulting wine is the quintessence of a Jura white. It’s rich, round, and full with pronounced acidity and distinctive nutty qualities.
It’s our hope that after experiencing all of these great Jura wines you’ll share our enthusiasm for these unique wines and while we’d love it if the Jura got more recognition we don’t want the prices to go up! If you like it, keep it a secret between us. If you don’t, keep it to yourself!