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We can’t help but think of the Jura as the days get colder. From this tiny region, earthy Vin Jaune and punchy, brandy-enhanced Macvin are two specialties; but it's the dry, fresh ouillé styles of many whites and reds, along with the bubbly Cremant du Jura, that have brought it increased attention in the modern market. Today we’re highlighting a few truly dynamic producers, all focused on natural production, and all offering wines to suit the chilly months ahead.
Ludwig Bindernagel and his wife first went to Burgundy in the hopes of a future in winegrowing. However, the price for land was too high, so they looked east to the Jura. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, those Burgundian essentials, had long before migrated there. Since purchasing Les Chais du Vieux Bourg in 2000, they’ve produced a roster of very Jura-centric styles (along with very Burgundian styles of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). Even in the early vintages, these wines were recognized as being unique and beautiful. Now in 2019, they’re known as Lulu Vigneron, and their class is undeniable. No chemical fertilizers, pesticides or machinery touch the vineyards. Native yeasts are used in the cellar, and very low doses of sulfur are used in production. The ouillé Savagnin is zesty and savory, and the ‘MicMacvin’ is a warm glass of spices and roasted orchard fruits. My original tasting notes for Lulu’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay stressed their elegance and purity. There is something special going on here, no doubt about it.
Jean-François Ryon is the 14th generation winemaker at Domaine Les Coteaux du Val de Sorne, in the village of Vernantois, and creates wines of a more rustic quality. From his 2.7 hectares, he harvests Poulsard for a burly red, full of earth and spice, along with Poulsard and Chardonnay for a multi-layered, savory/sweet Cremant. Like Lulu, he farms organically and focuses on non-interventional cellar methods. Everything Jean-François does here is also an ode to the Jura’s past. His cellar is inside a 17th century building, his vineyards were once part of an estate belonging to the abbey of Saint-Claude, and even his label hosts an old image of Saint Vernier (once the Jura’s patron saint of vintners) picking Poulsard grapes. There is seemingly no disconnect between culture, land, and wine in Ryon’s approach.
So, as you consider what to sip as the days get shorter, or if you’re looking for the perfect treats for your Thanksgiving Day feast, think of the Jura. Exceptional winemaking has created products of great versatility and flavor, with influences coming from both tradition and the individual characters of those doing the work. Enjoy and stay warm! David Hatzopoulos
Jean-Francois Ryon comes from a family steeped in the methods of organic farming. He started selling his wines from the village of Vernantois, in the far southern reach of the Jura, in 1992. This sparkling is an evenly-split blend of Chardonnay and Poulsard that come from Ryon’s 2.7 hectares of vines. It carries with it a touch of residual sugar, which helps structure the flavors of subtle red fruits and orange rind. Also, the regionally specific blue marl soils give it a spark of smoky flint. Being slightly sweet, it is extremely versatile and would pair well with baked deserts or spicy/well-seasoned vegetarian or meat dishes. David Hatzopoulos
This is an ancient style of winemaking in the Jura, recognized in 2014 with its own French AOC. Macvin is produced when brandy is added to partially fermented wine, a practice that is used in many other winemaking regions of the world. The Micmacvin is then aged two years in barrel. The result of this fortified blend of 50% chardonnay and 50% savagnin is a bold set of aromas and flavors. On the nose, there is fresh pepper, pumpernickel, and spiced pear. The palate is slightly deeper, with lengths of honey, rye, pear and warm herbs. David Hatzopoulos
This might be your last chance to snag a bottle with the Chais du Vieux Bourg label. You’ll notice that more recent vintages are boasting the simplified Lulu name. The grapes for this savagnin were picked by hand from organically farmed vineyards, rooted in marl and calcareous soils. After 8 hours of skin-contact, the wine is fermented in barrel. The nose fits the bill for those seeking mature fruit (soft apple, pear, and dried lemon) with hints of salt, spice, and smoke. But if we’re talking structure, the wine is lightning fresh. The mouthwatering acidity boosts the orchard fruit on the palate with essences of green herbs, dry honey, tea and salinity. Looking for a more sherry-like profile? Keep this bottle cellared for a few more years. David Hatzopoulos
Lulu's Vin Jaune ages under voile (flor) for 8 years, which is two more years than required by the region's winemaking regulations. It is 100% Savagnin coming from marl and calcareous soils. Only 900 of these bottles were produced.
The Lulu Sous le Cerisier (100% chardonnay) is more upbeat and lean than broader expressions of the grape coming from Jura’s close neighbors to the west in Burgundy. That said, there is something flirtatiously Burgundian about it. On the palate, the wine is focused but savory, with brioche, roasted orchard fruit, and almonds. The nose has scents of white flowers and fresh apple. The grapes were hand harvested from two plots of 30-55 year old vines planted on marl soils in the Cotes du Jura AOC. Fermented naturally and aged in old barrels for 18 months before bottling. David Hatzopoulos
All of Ludwig Bindernagel’s wines are fermented naturally and see very little sulfur during the winemaking process. The strain of pinot noir used in this bottling is known as savagnin noir and is unique to the slopes of the Jura, though there are very few parcels of it left. The grapes were hand harvested from massale selected vines grafted to pre-phelloxera rootstock. The vineyards are planted on marl and calcareous soils. Its a rather rustic wine, with woodsy aromas of smoke and black cherry, and flavors of blackberry, cherry, dark flowers and a hint of roasted meat. Pair this pinot with roasts of white or red meat and starchy root vegetables. David Hatzopoulos
Like all of Jean-Francois Ryon’s wines, his 2017 Trousseau was made from his small holdings in the village of Vernantois in the southern limits of the Jura. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts and sees a minuscule amount of added sulfur. The nose is that of dried dark flowers, fresh soil, and forest fruit. There are red and black berries on the tongue, which are assertive and tart. Because of this dynamic of rustic aromas/flavors and mouthwatering structure, a bottle of this Trousseau would lend itself to a drier meal of roasted poultry or pork. As the pairing suggests, this is a perfect wine for the colder days of autumn and winter. David Hatzopoulos