Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jura Winemakers Seek Breakout Strategy

I just got back from a week in Jura - the French wine region, not the Scotch island - and I met some great winemakers, tasted many fine wines, and ate a lot of lovely traditional and modern food. In short, it's a great place to visit with its panoply of towns and villages stretched out over 50 miles or so of rolling foothills of the Jura Mountains west of Geneva.

Jura's problem is not its wines, but its image, or lack thereof. Many stores in the United States carry no Jura wines, and there are some fascinating Jura winemakers who would love to have an importer to bring their wines into this country. Jura's blessing and curse is that it makes both modern and traditional wines, so a lot of people in the trade have difficulty in wrapping their heads around the challenge of how to present all this to wine drinkers. As a writer, I have the same challenges.

OK - after my week in the wineries and in the vineyards (I still have mud on my shoes to prove it), here is my take about what the "story" should be on Jura the wine region:

A few great wine regions have red, rose, white and sparkling wines. So does Jura. But the others don't have vin jaune.

Vin jaune is the golden, oxidized wine that spends ages in the barrels under a web of flor similar to sherry and is not topped up as the wine evaporates during aging. It's not unusual for a winemaker to have multiple vintages spread over a couple of decades ready to sell - great to taste, but confusing to the uniformed consumer.

Vin jaune is delicious - nutty, apply, dried fruits, great acids - but you have to be mentally ready for it. If you're expecting a fresh Chardonnay or Savagnin and take a sip of vin jaune, then your mind wants to call 911 and report a disaster. Yet, when you are ready for it, vin jaune is delicious with a wide array of foods.

So that is what I'll be writing about over the next week for several publications.

One of the great winemakers whose wines are in the United States is Jean Berthet-Bondet. Jean is the guy in the one photo, and he lives in the village of Chateau Chalon atop the hill in the other photo. (Go to Chateau Chalon is the most famous Jura cru and has perhaps the best wines.

Other wines to look out for in your wine stores are Domaine de Montbourgeau (Nicole Deriaux rocks), Jean-Francois Bourdy, Stephane Tissot, Philippe Tissot, Cabelier and Daniel Dugois.

And don't just look for vin jaune. The fresh Savagnins and Chardonnays are lovely, the cremant de Jura sparkling wine has great quality, and the light reds can have the spiciness of Beaujolais crus but with more complexity.

Drink up!

Until next time...

Roger Morris