Salins les Bains to Poligny
By Wink Lorch
This Guide was last updated on 12 September 2012
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Naturé, percée, ploussard, voile – there's a whole new language to learn in the vineyards and fascinating cellars of the Jura, for France's smallest wine region is undoubtedly also the most complicated. To get to grips with these wines requires a steep learning curve, but the effort can pay off if you have a passion for unusual flavours, intriguing food and wine matches and spectacular countryside. Alongside the most famous and curious Vin Jaune and Vin de Paille speciality wines are increasingly good dry whites and light reds, not to mention great value sparkling Crémant du Jura. The latest generation of wine producers here know that the best way to get their wines known around the world is to offer a good welcome and some careful explanations over a tasting. As the preferred home of Louis Pasteur, the first real wine scientist, it's only to be expected that there are some fascinating wine finds here.
The little town of Arbois provides the perfect base to unravel the mystery of the wines of the Jura. Close enough to explore the caves of the vignerons in villages such as Montigny les Arsures or Pupillin, it is also the best centre to discover the handful of switched-on restaurateurs who have developed menus to partner these unusual wines. Poligny, one of the main crossroads to the Alps, is the centre of production for Jura's most famous cheese, Comté – the surrounding rolling hills, beyond the vineyards, are home to the attractive and sturdy Montbéliard breed of cows. Their cheeses just happen to make a perfect match for Vin Jaune, Jura's most celebrated wines.
The Jura, France's smallest wine region with around 1,600 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.
The northern part of the Jura, around Arbois has more clay and is more stony, hence it is more suitable for red varieties. Considered by many to be a mountain wine region, in fact the vineyard altitudes are similar to those in Alsace, varying between 250m and 400m. However, the influence of the nearby mountains brings cold winters and in some years to untimely frost, hail or rainfall. The continental climate does bring warm, long summers , ideal for Savagnin, the classic grape responsible for Jura’s famous Vin Jaune.
The Jura is in Eastern France, south-east of Dijon, and north of Bourg-en-Bresse, close to the A39 Motorway. From the Poligny motorway exit 7, it is just 15 minutes’ drive to Arbois. The TGV train line stops at Dole, just half an hour north of Arbois 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. In 2013 Ryanair launched a service three times a week from London Stansted Airport to Dole, and this small airport is slowly expanding.
Arbois Tourist Office,
Rue de l'Hôtel de Ville, 39600 Arbois
Salins les Bains Tourist Office,
Place des Salines, 39110 Salins-les-Bains
Vins du Jura,
Château Pécauld, BP 41, 39600 Arbois
Route des Vins du Jura
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