An Introduction to Jura

France’s wine regions are some of the most famous in the world. Casual wine drinkers could likely list several off the top of their heads, as well as grapes grown in these regions.

Ask casual or even well-versed wine drinkers about the Jura and the response will be much different.

Though smaller and not as well known, the Jura produces exceptional whites and reds that deserve to be recognized.

The Jura department is located within the Franche-Comté province in eastern France, between Burgundy and the Swiss border. Americans may know the Jura best for its cheese: Comté and Morbier. The Laughing Cow cheese is also based there.

Sloping vineyards and rolling hills extend in every direction. To the east are the forested Jura Mountain range, after which the department (and the Jurassic geological period) was named.

Near the northern end of Jura is the town of Arbois. It has the honor of being the first place in France to be named an AOC, a designation it received in 1936. Arbois is also where Louis Pasteur grew up; his childhood home is now a museum. Fifteen miles southwest is the perched village of Château-Chalon, home to the most prized Vin Jaune and some of the most celebrated vineyards in France.

Meaning “yellow wine,” Vin Jaune is made from Savagnin grapes. The wine is aged at least 6 years and 3 months in oak barrels, during which time a thick layer of yeast called “the veil” forms.

In addition to Savagnin, Burgundian varieties Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are grown in the Jura, as are local red grapes Poulsard and Trousseau. Winemakers in the also produce Cremant (sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne style), Vin de Paille (sweet wine), and Macvin (fortified wine made from marc, grape juice and spices).

In the Jura you’ll find a unique camaraderie among the vintners. In part it’s due to the small size of the region, but mainly it is because they share a real passion for their grapes, soil and terroir. Family and tradition are important too; wine estates are passed down through sons and daughters and relatives work together to produce wine.

You can’t help but be passionate about wines from the Jura, with their marked acidic and oxidative flavors. These are conversation-starting wines; Vin Jaune especially is the kind of wine you could spend hours sipping and discussing.

Return to the main page of The Amateur Gastronomer in Jura

AG Pick: Quivira Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2009

It may seem odd that a winery would use its foe as label art, but Quivira has done just that. The animal pictured is one of the Dry Creek Valley’s wild pigs, a cross of the Russian boars and Italian pigs that were brought to the United States in the 1800s.

Though seemingly cute and innocent in the illustration, these wild pigs can be a nightmare for growers. Ripe Zinfandel grapes are irresistible to the pigs that are also prone to destroying deer fencing during their snacking.

Like the wild pigs, the weather too can be a struggle. Fortunately that wasn’t the case for Quivira in 2009, when consistent temperatures towards the end of the summer allowed the Zinfandel to ripen to a rare level of even maturity.

It’s not just the optimal growing season that makes the 2009 Quivira Dry Creek Zinfandel worthy of a spot at your dinner table. It is the addition of a supporting blend of grapes that enhance the Zinfandel base, elevating the wine to another level.

As described by winemaker Hugh Chappelle, “this wine exemplified our pursuit of the sum being greater than the parts.”

The wine is 83% Zinfandel, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Sirah, 3% Syrah and 2% Grenache. The grapes were hand harvested primarily from Quivira’s three certified Biodynamic and organic estate ranches.

The wine was aged for 14 months in a combination of French, American and Hungarian oak barrels, less than 20% of which were new.

In the glass the 2009 Quivira Zinfandel has a lot going on. Deep violet in color, the wine has aromas of ripe blackberry and boysenberry. These flavors continue to develop in the mouth, layered with intense notes of dark plum, leather, tobacco, cedar and a touch of black pepper. Chewy tannins give the wine a round and pleasant mouthfeel. The finish is extremely satisfying with lingering spicy dark fruit.

Full bodied and well balanced, this is a wine you’ll want to drink now – and often.

Pair this wine with steak, grilled lamb or chicken, pizza or spicy tomato-based dishes. Quivira’s favorite local pairing is wild pig sausage – a nod to their love/hate relationship.

A bottle of the 2009 Quivira Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel costs $20.

alcohol 14.8% by volume

More Red Wines | White Wines | Under $20

Harvest in Jura

The month of September brings splashes of color to the vineyards in the Jura. The grape leaves start to turn orange and brown. Large yellow and purple grape clusters wait to be harvested. Men and women move up and down the rows picking fruit while red tractors wait nearby to transport it.

Jura is a department in eastern France in the province of Franche-Comté which is east of Burgundy and west of Switzerland.Burgundian grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are grown in the Jura, along with local varieties Savagnin (white), Poulsard and Trousseau (red).

In the video below take a look at the beginning of the harvest in Jura, filmed during the second week in September 2011.

Return to the main page of The Amateur Gastronomer in Jura

AG Pick: Dark Lady Pinotage 2010

Pinotage, whether it deserves it or not, is one of the most notorious New World grapes. Those who have tasted this South African red wine either love it or hate it, with many American wine drinkers falling into the latter category.

South Africa’s signature varietal, Pinotage was created in the 1920s by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault (known locally as Hermitage). Done well, Pinotage can have flavors of chocolate, coffee, red fruit and smoke. Done poorly, Pinotage can taste gamey with notes of burnt rubber and rusted metal.

Forget what you’ve heard or previously tasted. Just try the Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Dark Delight Pinotage 2010 and you will never think the same way about Pinotage.

This red from Doolhof Wine Estate is soft, supple and elegant.

Doolhof Wine Estate is located in the Bovlei Valley northeast of Wellington. Its name, meaning labyrinth, is meant to evoke images of the valley’s topography. Doolhof Wine Estate is a member of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative, a partnership between the South African wine industry and the conservation sector.

A lot of care was put into the Dark Lady Pinotage during and after fermentation to tame the wine. Wood played an important role in softening the wine and enhancing the desirable flavors; malolactic fermentation took place in oak and the wine spent time in heavily toasted French oak barrels.

While most Pinotage is big and bold like a Petit Sirah or Zinfandel, the Dark Lady Pinotage is lighter and more nuanced, like a fuller-bodied Pinot Noir.

The wine lures you in with intense aromas of cherry, chocolate and spice. The taste unfolds gradually, with flavors of black plum, cherry and boysenberry mixed with chocolate, coffee, white pepper, licorice and cedar. It is velvety in texture with a long and satisfying finish.

Lush and layered, the Dark Lady Pinotage is a real surprise — and a treat. Before you make up your mind about Pinotage you must give this wine a taste.

A bottle of the Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Dark Delight Pinotage 2010 costs $20.

alcohol 13% by volume

Earlier: What’s the Deal with Pinotage?

More Red Wines | White Wines | Under $20

Kickoff Party for Ponce City Market

Get your first look at the Ponce City Market on October 1st at Party at Ponce, the ultimate kick off party for Atlanta’s next premiere shopping and dining destination.

The event will feature big names in food and music in a benefit for the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership and Georgia Organics.

The former Sears, Roebuck and Co. distribution center (also known as City Hall East) is being transformed with local and national retailers, restaurants, apartment buildings and offices. The two million square-foot structure is located on Ponce De Leon Avenue Northeast at the crossroads of the Midtown, Virginia Highland, Poncey Highland and Old Fourth Ward neighborhoods, along the Atlanta Beltline corridor.

Headlining Party at Ponce will be musical performances by The Indigo Girls, Shawn Mullins and Francine Reed.

Be sure to bring your appetite — the biggest names in Atlanta’s dining scene will be offering savory bites including Kevin Rathbun of Rathbun’s, Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia, Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene, Shaun Doty of Yeah! Burger, Jay Swift of 4th and Swift, Hugh Acheson of Empire State South, Ford Fry of JCT Kitchen, Duane Nutter of One Flew South, Brian Jones of the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta and Joe Truex of Watershed. And if you’re still hungry, Atlanta’s popular food trucks will serve their signature dishes.

Guests at Party at Ponce will have an exclusive opportunity to take a tour of the future Ponce City Market. Ticket holders who can’t wait until October 1st will have the chance to tour the building from September 22nd to 25th. Signing up for the tours is on a first-come, first-served basis, and may be done when you purchase tickets.

In addition to benefiting the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership and Georgia Organics, Party at Ponce will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Green Street Properties, the company developing Ponce City Market. Green Street’s projects have included Chelsea Market in New York City and White Provision in Atlanta’s Westside Provisions District.

Tickets to Party at Ponce cost $90 per person and may be purchased online. When you purchase your ticket you will have the option of reserving your tour time.

The development of Ponce City Market is expected to be complete in early 2014.

Party at Ponce will be held on October 1, 2011 from 7pm to 11pm at
Ponce City Market
, 675 Ponce De Leon Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30308.

photo of building’s exterior from Ponce City Market’s Facebook page
illustration of interior from Ponce City Market’s website

AG Pick: Waterstone Study in Blue 2007

When trying to describe the fruit flavors in a red wine it may help to start with identifying the color that best matches the taste. You might think of a lighter bodied wine like Pinot Noir as being “red,” and from there say it has red fruit flavors of cherries, strawberries or raspberries. A medium bodied wine might be “purple,” with flavors like plum and boysenberry. A full bodied wine might be “black,” with black cherries, blackberries and black currant.

“Blue” would be the descriptor for the Waterstone Study in Blue 2007 — though of course the name gives it away. This red blend from California’s Napa Valley was so named because of its blueberry aromas and blue-purple color.

The Study in Blue 2007 is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah and 10% Merlot sourced from hillside vineyards throughout the Napa Valley. The wine was fermented in stainless steel, then aged for 24 months in 80% new small French oak barrels.

Blueberry aromas hit your nose first, followed by blackberries and woodsmoke. These smoky berry flavors are further expressed on the palate, layered with flavors of ripe black plum, cedar, nutmeg and black pepper. Elegant and silky in the mouth with gentle tannins, the wine finishes smooth with lingering berry flavors.

Rich without being heavy, the Study in Blue has the finesse its artistic name suggests.

The Waterstone Study in Blue pairs well with grilled meats, lamb shank, steak au poivre or braised duck.

A bottle of the Waterstone Study in Blue 2007 costs $45.

alcohol 14.5% by volume

More Red Wines | White Wines | Under $20