Friday, 24 July 2015

Discovering the Wonderful Wines of the Jura

There are areas of the wine-producing world that probably go unnoticed by most of the wine-drinking population, but take on mythical status for those people like me who classify themselves as wine-geeks.

Some examples of these areas are Priorat in Spain, which produces majestic and powerful red wines; and the Rheingau in Germany, which produces steely, electric Rieslings that make the mouth dance. They may not be the first wines that people look to when they're in the supermarket, but their qualities are extraordinary. To this group I would add the wines of the Jura, in eastern France.

Juran wines

The Jura is an AOC very close geographically to Burgundy, a region much more renowned for its wine production. Juran wines are permitted to have five grape varieties in their wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Savagnin, Poulsard and Trousseau. From these grapes they make some impressive still wines, as well as a sparkling wine (Cremant du Jura).

They also make a legendary wine called vins jaune ('yellow wine'whereby Savagnin grapes are allowed to mature as long as possible on the vines before being matured in vats for over six years. The wine is then allowed to oxidise in a sherry style before being bottled into a special 620ml bottle called a clavelin.

Vineyards in Jura tend to be very small (under 10 hectares) and production levels are quite low. Couple this with the fact that they are very much in demand and the result is that Juran wines tend to be quite hard to find - and expensive. So, when I saw a wine tasting featuring wines from Jura at a local wine bar to me, 161 Kirkdale (a wine bar who specialise in biodynamic and natural wines) in Sydenham I was very keen to go along.

The tasting

The session was a nice intimate affair with six of us at the tasting, which was led by Alex from 161 Kirkdale who had just come back from a trip to the Jura himself.

We started with a 2011 Michel Gahier Les Crets Chardonnay (Arbois, Jura) which was a little smokey with a touch of green apple and lemon to it. On tasting it coated the mouth nicely and had a nice, bright and fresh zingyness to it. Interestingly it seemed to have a slightly salty after-taste, which is something that Alex said characterises the Jura region. Quality 6.5/10.0

This was followed by a 2010 Philippe Bornard Les Chassagnes Ouille Savagnin (Cotes du Jura, Jura) which had a tremendously funky nose - in a good way! It reminded me of comte cheese and red apple - an odd combination, but I liked it... On the palate it was noticeably fresh and acidic again, with some melon notes. Quality 7.5/10.0
Our third wine of the evening was the first red, a 2014 Marie et Dennis Chevassu Granges Bernard Pinot Noir (Cotes du Jura, Jura). This was a very young wine for a Pinot Noir and what was immediately noticeable was how light this was in the glass - almost translucent (see right). On the nose and the mouth this was fresh and clean with characteristic red cherry notes. This was a lovely, uncomplicated Pinot Noir. Quality 7.0/10.0  

Next up was a 2012 Hughes Beguet Cote de Feule Poulsard (Arbois, Jura) which was a very interesting wine. This was a classically reductive wine. On smelling it at first we all remarked this absolutely ponged! We left it for a good half an hour and came back to it, the sulphur-like aromas had diminished and it had quietened down quite a lot. On the mouth it had a smokey bacon meets redcurrant taste, which was interesting if not particularly enjoyable. This was my least favourite wine of the evening. Quality 4.0/10.0

We finished with a 2013 Domaine des Cavarodes Trousseau (Arbois, Jura). This was a much more pleasing wine than the last - on the nose it was redolent with red cherry and bramble aromas. It did possess a slight funk to it too, but nothing compared to the last wine. On tasting the acidity of the wine was noticeable with sour cherry notes. It also possessed noticeably more body and structure than the last wine. Quality 7.0/10.0

There were definitely some interesting and unconventional wines in this tasting - just the kind of tasting that I like to go to as it allows me to learn more about the wonderful world of wine! Also at £10 a person for the tasting, I think this represented tremendous value.

161 Kirkdale doesn't have a website, but you can find them on Twitter @161kirk or on Facebook. They also collect canned goods for a local food-bank, so you can do a good deed whilst you sip your wine!         

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