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Understanding Jura, the French Wine Region You’ve (Probably) Never Heard of

For a few years now, the wines of a small pocket of France have been the toast of the sommelier and wine shop owner community. But for most, Jura means very little (and no, we’re not talking about the Scotch whisky). It’s almost as though industry types have been trying to keep the secret, safeguarding a small but delicious supply of funky French wine just for themselves.

jura wine region france
Jerome Genee/Getty Images

Jura rests in the north of France, between the exalted vineyards of Burgundy and the Swiss border. Expectedly, it’s a bit chillier here, and there’s a nice mix of clay soils down low and sought-after limestone soils higher up. The “jura” name comes from a Celtic word for forest and there’s even a resident mountain range sporting the name.

The most celebrated wine from the area is vin juane, which comes off like a cross between a wine and a sherry. The Savagnin grape is picked especially light, when it’s dense with sugar. It’s fermented and then aged for years in the barrel, where a blanket of yeast (flor) coats the wine. It’s an oxidized marvel, with fierce flavors that take time to unpack (let these puppies breathe for a while).

Will Jura continue its rise? There’s a good chance. And a big reason is that the wine is damn good. It’s also diverse and incredibly eclectic.

Why the recent reverence? Several reasons. One, the rise of natural wines has shifted out collective palate toward atypical, less-streamlined wines. Second, the current generation’s undying interest in lesser-known varieties. In the Jura, that stands for grapes like Savagnin, Trousseau, and Poulsard. Third, the contemporary wine culture dictates that the industry stay one step ahead of the consumer. A somewhat obscure part of a country with a decorated winemaking history is ripe for the picking. Somms and wine buffs alike adore an overshadowed wine realm with a distinctive style or styles.

Does that mean Jura will continue its rise? There’s a good chance. And a big reason is that the wine is damn good. It’s also diverse and incredibly eclectic. Even the more recognizable varieties, like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, take on dramatic new tastes and textures when made in the Jura. 

Phylloxera wiped out a good chunk of Jura’s original plantings, and while the current amount of land under vine is significantly smaller, it’s of high quality. Some 230 producers call the Jura home these days and produce a range of wine styles, from whites and rosés to sparkling and both vin juane and vin de paille (or “straw wine,” made from dried grapes to concentrate the sugars and flavor).

Next time you’re dining out or perusing your favorite bottle shop, drop the Jura name and see what kind of reaction you get. It’s likely you’ll get an excited reaction from a fellow wine person in the know, before being whisked away to a few of their favorites examples of wine from the region.

Here are a few we suggest looking for.

Jean Bordy 2018 Rouge

Domaine Jean Bourdy Cote du Jura Rouge label
Image used with permission by copyright holder

A complex, fruity, and earthy offering from a label that’s been at it since the 15th century. It’s recommended that you decant the wine for several hours. Some say you can age a wine like this for at least a half-century, for you extremely patient souls out there.

Domaine Eric Thill 2016 Chardonnay sur Mountbouchon

Domaine Eric Thill 2016 Chardonnay sur Mountbouchon
Image used with permission by copyright holder

A great example of what Chardonnay can do when you let it do its thing. It’s vibrant and wild, the antithesis of your mother’s Chard. There’s minerality, a bit of funk, and flavor for days.

Domaine Overnoy-Crinquand Cremant du Jura Rosé

Domaine Overnoy-Crinquand Cremant du Jura Rosé
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This delicious rosé is certified organic and made from younger vine Poulsard. It bursts with berry flavors and some subtle woodsy qualities, all while being bone dry. The color is fantastic and there’s enough structure that should you run into an older bottle, it’s very much worth grabbing.

Domaine Pignier Cotes du Jura 2014 Gamay Blanc

Domaine Pignier Cotes du Jura 2014 Gamay Blanc
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This nerdy wine will spark all kinds of great conversations. It’s fermented slowly in a cement egg and offers a lovely honeycomb hue, packed with fruity, grassy, creamy, and citrus elements. You’ll be amazed at how it evolves, even over the course of a single bottle with friends.

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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