Off the beaten rack: The French Comté

Categories: Expert guidance

In a new series, wine expert, author and regular Borough Market columnist Jane Parkinson explores the international wines available at Borough’s specialist traders. This month: the Jura wines of The French Comte

If there’s one French wine region that is bang on trend at the moment, it’s the home of comté cheese—the Jura—whose wines suit today’s food and drink-obsessed nation a treat, thanks to artisanal producers and limited production.

As we all know though, low volume doesn’t necessarily equate to better quality: any artisanal product still has to earn its reputation among peers and for Jura wines it cemented that reputation in the UK only recently following a spate of very crowded, very delicious annual wine tastings in London.

Cute as wine regions go, not only in appearance with fairytale-esque wooded hillsides but in dimension too, the Jura wine region is just a 50-mile strip of land sandwiched between Burgundy and Switzerland with warm, reasonably dry summers and cold winters. To compensate for this coolness, vineyards are usually planted facing south to maximize exposure to sunlight. However, coolness is also part of what makes this region’s wines so unique and attractive.

Perky dry pinks 
Light bodied but concentrated in flavour, Jura’s wines are often modest in alcohol and bold in character, which makes for a very intoxicating wine experience across all its styles: white and pink fizz, ethereal dry reds, perky dry pinks, distinctive dry whites and hedonistic sweet white wines, all of which are made mainly using five grape varieties, three red and two white.

First up, the reds. Poulsard (called ploussard in some of the Jura sub-regions) makes distinctive, slightly earthy, light dry reds, but it can also make some pink fizz. Trousseau is also savoury and gentle in red fruits. It likes the warmth especially, so it’s planted in warmer spots like the revered sub-region of Arbois. Pinot noir seems like a no-brainer to have in the Jura considering its proximity to the king of pinot noir regions, Burgundy. It also makes flavoursome but elegant wines. Sometimes you can find good blended wines of all three of these red grapes, although they are equally delicious when made alone too.

Next up, the whites. Chardonnay is of course the king of white grapes in Burgundy, so just like with pinot noir, it’s unsurprising that the Jura makes a real success of this internationally popular grape. Savagnin (called ‘nature’ locally, sometimes) is a fascinating grape. It’s responsible for making the region’s most famous wine, vin jaune. Vin jaune often comes in a different shaped bottle and is famous for its sherry-ish saltiness. The region’s specialist sweet wine, vin de paille, is also usually made from savagnin.

Domaine Grand Tradition 2011, £19
Made by a family of winemakers dating back to the 17th century, this blend of savagnin and chardonnay has an appetising dried fruit aroma with a mellow yellow fruit and nutty-flavoured palate.

Domaine Grand Vin Jaune 2008, £44 
Vin jaune is distinctive in appearance and flavour. It comes in a special squat bottle called ‘clavelin’ and its flavours are similar to a fino or manzanilla: rasping acidity with almond nuttiness and salty refreshment.

Domaine Grand Crémant de Jura Millésimé 2009, £19.80  
Crémant is the name for French sparkling wines made just like champagne, except not in the Champagne region. This is made purely with chardonnay and it tastes of baked apples and toast with perky bubbles.

Domaine Grand Château Chalon 2007, £44 
Château Chalon is a special version of vin jaune, made in a specific area of the Jura. Grapes are harvested late and the wine is aged for several years in barrels. Its flavour profile is just like a vin jaune, but even more intense. This would definitely benefit from being decanted.

Domaine de la Touraize Pinot Noir 2016, £15.50
Only created in 2010 but already with a good reputation, this domaine’s vineyards are currently undergoing organic conversion and this pinot noir has a lovely fresh red berry fruitiness, perfect with duck or game.

All wines are available at The French Comté, Borough Market