Two weeks ago, on the heels Chablis, I dropped by the Jura Region Tasting on West 36th Street. Twenty-three growers and a few hours there–within minutes, I wanted nothing more than to drink the wines of Jura daily. Situated between Burgundy and Switzerland, Jura is home to grapes like Poulsard, thin skinned and producing fantastically light ruby reds with earth, funk, red fruit, and skunk…I’d be pressed to ask for anything more.
With six AOC’s, four geographical: Arbois, Chåteau-Chalon, L’Etoile, and Côtes du Jura, and two product denominations: Macvin du Jura and Crémant du Jura–Jura currently produces only 1% of France’s wine. With wines that were recorded as early as 80 A.D., Jura introduced restrictions on the number of grape varieties permitted in 1732, and in 1774, a list of 14 suggested varieties for production was published. By the end of the 19th century, Jura showed 20,000 ha of vines. Years later, phylloxera still shows its effects. Currently, there are only 2,000 ha of vineyards left.
Arbois, at the northern end of Jura’s 80 km stretch, produces 70% of the region’s reds. Here, all of Jura’s five permitted grape varieties are put to use: Poulsard (or Ploussard), Pinot Noir, Trousseau, Chardonnay, and Savagnin.
Domaine Philippe Bornard (pictured at top) produces some lovely reds from Arbois, as does Domaine De L’Octavin (pictured above). A few days after the event, I picked up a bottle of Arbois Rouge Poulsard “M”, Puffeney 2006 at Astor Wines (one of the few places, in addition to Appellation, where one can actually purchase these wines), and though the vintage was hot, the wine was light and minerally with notes of blood orange, easy drinking and delicious.
Imported by Savio Soares, the the following Arbois reds of Domaine Philippe Bornard were poured:
Arbois-Pupillin Ploussard la Chamade 2007-Earthy with a smoky cloud that elevates the wine’s acidity and flavors of cherry fruit. Finishes with a kiss of gingerbread.
Arbois-Pupillin Trousseau Garde Corps 2007-Cherry is the skeleton from which hangs lean and dirty flesh. Acidity courses through veins and keeping the heart lively and fresh.
Arbois-Pupillin Trosseau le Ginglet 2008-Floral ginger and bright cherry, light, like gauze dressing naked earth.
Domaine Rolet Pere & Fils produces the brilliant Arbois Rosé 2008 made from Ploussard–light salmon in color with aromas of fresh strawberry that linger long to the finish, this rosé is incredibly silky with the milky warmth of a mother’s flesh. It’s a shame that it’s unavailable in the city.
Arbois of course, also produces whites. The Domaine Rolet Pere & Fils Arbois Chardonnay 2006 has a mind that’s just as dirty as those of the reds. With light citrus, there’s minerality and salinity that’s reminiscent of the giant oyster remains that dot the soil, left over from the Lower Jurassic (175-200 million years ago) period.
Finally, there’s Domaine Rolet Pere & Fils Arbois Vin Jaune 2002. Made with Savagnin, Vin Jaune must be aged for six years and three months in oak casks. Over this time, Vin Jaune is not topped off, and so, at the end of it’s maturation, there is only 62% of the original wine left. After two to three years in the cask, Vin Jaune, like sherry, develops a surface layer of yeast (voile) that protects the wine from further oxidation, while aiding the development of complex characteristics. Because Vin Jaune is bottled in special 62 cl bottles called clavelins, it cannot be imported into the United States. With sherry-like aromas, the Domaine Rolet Pere & Fils Arbois Vin Jaune 2002 is nutty, with notes of citrus and dried fruit.
Stay tuned for Vin de Jura, Part II.