Château-Chalon, l'Etoile and the southern Côtes du Jura
By Wink Lorch
This Guide was last updated on 25 June 2014
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Savagnin vines on the steep vineyard terraces below the hilltop village of Château-Chalon. © Wink Lorch
The main wine town of the Jura may be Arbois, but there is plenty of spectacular, craggy mountain scenery to bring you to the southern part of the Jura wine region, around the departmental capital of Lons-le-Saunier. One of the principal attractions, not to be missed, is the stunning hilltop village of Château-Chalon that produces the most famous wine of Jura, the quintessential, long-lived Château-Chalon, a Vin Jaune produced from vines on the steep, marl hillsides. The traditions of Vin Jaune production in Château-Chalon and the nearby village of Etoile mean that many wine producers here are known for their somewhat old-fashioned attitudes in making white wines in the oxidative styles. Yet, some of my selected producers are making wines that are positively Burgundian-like in terms of quality, but with the individuality of Jura terroir evident and at a more reasonable price than their Burgundy equivalents.
In just one day, you might fall for the exotic, spicy flavours of the legendary Château-Chalon, as well as discovering the best value-for-money, minerally Chardonnay you've ever tasted. On the other hand, you might just get stuck taking photographs of the fabulous views, particularly in the Coteaux de la Haute-Seille, ranging from the heights of Château-Chalon to the depths of the amphitheatre of Baume-les-Messieurs.
The Jura, France's smallest wine region with around 1,850 hectares lies 80km (50 miles) directly east of Burgundy's Côte d'Or. The vineyards run northeast – southwest on the western foothills of the Jura Mountains. As in Burgundy, the soil is largely based on clay-limestone, but it is the outcrops of black, grey-blue, red and yellow marls, and the cretaceous fossil beds that form some of the highly prized vineyard sites of the Jura.
In this southern micro-region of the Jura, running 30km southwest from Poligny to Lons-le-Saunier and then a further 15km towards Bourg-en-Bresse, vineyards are more scattered and include the fantastic vineyard bowl below the hill of Château-Chalon. Here the soil has plenty of the famous grey-blue marl so beloved of Savagnin and the vines are often trained on single posts as the slopes are impressively steep, though altitudes remain below 400m. This is an extreme continental climate with warm, long summers, fairly late harvests, and very cold winters. The most southerly vineyards have more limestone resembling the soils of Burgundy.
The Jura is in Eastern France, south-east of Dijon, and north of Bourg-en-Bresse, close to the A39 Motorway. From Paris and the north, Lons-le-Saunier is best reached from the Poligny motorway exit 7, from where it is about 20 minutes’ drive. The TGV train line stops at Lons-le-Saunier and trains take around two hours from Paris.The closest major airport is Lyon St-Exupéry which is less than two hours’ drive from Arbois; Switzerland’s Geneva airport is also within two hours’ drive.
Office de Tourisme des Coteaux de la Haute Seille, Place de la Mairie, 39210 Voiteur
Office de Tourisme de Lons-le-Saunier, Place du 11 Septembre, 39000 Lons-le-Saunier
Vins du Jura,
Château Pécauld, BP 41, 39600 Arbois
Route des Vins du Jura
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