If you’re looking to serve up something unusual when you’re entertaining this summer, look to the region of Jura, one of France’s hidden gems. It lies directly east of the much more famous Burgundy wine region, nestled against the mountain range dividing France from Switzerland. Despite their proximity, these two regions have little in common. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are prominent grapes in both, but most Jura wines are made from three indigenous varieties that are all but unheard of outside that region: Savagnin, Poulsard and Trousseau.
Jura wines are as funky as they are diverse. You can find almost every colour and style of wine here, from dry red and white to rose and Cremant (sparkling). One of Jura’s most famous wines could fool for a dry sherry: Vin Jaune, or yellow wine, is an oxidative wine with a bone dry palate, just like a Fino or Manzanilla sherry. Yet, its flavour profile is wholly unique, plus it’s one of very few wines that isn’t bottled in a standard Bordeaux or Burgundy bottle, but rather in the squat, slightly tapered clavelin bottle.
Locally, you’re most likely to find Jura wine as a Cremant or a Vin de Paille (straw) wine. The latter is a rich, liqueur-like wine made from grapes left to dry before being pressed. Both production methods are great at smoothing over and hiding the edges of a tough growing year and/or finicky grapes, both of which affect Jura quite often.
These idiosyncrasies have made Jura’s wines achieve something of a cult status. There’s been an uptick of interest in them in North America’s dining hubs. While they’re still pretty rare in Edmonton, don’t pass up the chance to try a Jura wine if one happens to cross your path. No matter what style it happens to be – but especially if it’s a Vin Jaune or Vin de Paille – it will be one of the more memorable bottles you’re likely to have.