by Emily Harman
In so many conversations with other wine folk over the past twelve months, there is an increasing concern for the future of Burgundy – mother nature has dealt some unscrupulous hands for the Burgundian Vigneron. There have been successive vintages yielding smaller and smaller crops (that’s not to say that the quality has also faltered!) due to various reasons but mostly the weather! The prices are increasing at such a rate that many many of our favourite producers are moving further and further from all our grasps. Is the fate of these coveted bottles that they will be hidden away from our unsatisfied palates and locked away into the darkest corners around the world?
What happens next for the Burgundy lover? What will we ever be able to drink once we can no longer reach our favourite parcels of the Cote d’Or? As Oscar Wilde said ‘One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards’ – and true to those words, there is a winning alternative that I would like to share with you.
When it comes to Burgundy I look for energy, purity, freshness and expression of both place and varietal. The vineyards of Burgundy are a patchwork quilt with each part offering its own personality. This makes it so easy for any lover of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to attempt to unravel all the distinct differences -and expression from each little piece of the Burgundian puzzle.
As with Burgundy, Jura offers a plethora of mineral rich soils, the ace of the pack being the blue and grey Limestone Marl that protrudes through the surface of vineyards in the highly prized Chateau Chalon. Further to this, Jura has remained untouched by the Global market trends, to such an extent that the humble and warm growers rarely saw a visitor from outside of Jura (let alone France!), before the last decade. Years upon years of tradition are soaked into the culture and the winemaking styles. Tradition and culture is something I have always felt also contributes to the terroir of wine, the Sherry culture in Jerez is a great example of this.
In terms of quality comparable to Burgundy, it is also worth noting that some of France’s oldest Chardonnay vines belong to Jura, this is due to the fact that there was never enough money in this region to pull up old vines and replant with more productive clones - meaning many of the wines deliver a good level of intensity. Alongside this there are many growers such as Jean-Francois Ganevat and Julien Labet bottling up to and over 30 different cuvees – many showing different vineyards and different sites within particular vineyards – and better yet these vineyards often have different growers producing wine from the same site too. Sound familiar?
The climate is cooler here, so much so that in some vintages it can be a struggle for the grapes to ripen fully. Due to this, Jura wines offer relatively low alcohol levels, healthy acidity and oak is rarely new or dominant – this produces wines that are ethereal and pure. The use of sulphur, filtration and fining is at a minimum too. The winemaking style does fluctuate between heavily oxidative styles (that lean close to the style of a dry Sherry), to ‘topped up’ styles that bring a clear expression of fruit, the latter offer all the expression of site as well as the minerality and power you would expect from Burgundy but for around half the price.
Whilst the wines from Burgundy are irreplaceable and there will always be that part of our hearts that yearns for them. Next time you consider ordering your glass of Premier Cru, why not consider a bottle from Jura as it is likely to be selling for the same price. Given the choice, I know which hand I would be playing…