Resurgence in the Jura Mountains -- (Kayak Session Short Film of the Year Awards 2013 -- Entry# 32)
Jura, France is an underrated place to travel for wine-lovers
Still standing? The Jura's most likeable wines—light yet complex reds—are yet to come. Two signature grapes are planted here: trousseau, a once little-known varietal now making inroads in California, and the obscure ploussard, found almost nowhere else in the world.
The latter is used to make deliciously fruity reds, cherry pink in color and almost rosé-like to the untrained eye. They're often served chilled.
Equally intriguing winemakers
The other reason for the Jura's notoriety among wine lovers is its winemakers, who like to occasionally be a little provocative. Perhaps best known is Jean-François Ganevat, whose decision to once use erotic, nude sketches on his labelsforced some international distributors to sign waivers. The suggestive line drawing of a woman with her hand down her underwear on his 2014 vintage,J'en veux !!!(translation: I want some), even had to be replaced with atext label in Canada. These days Ganevat labels are a little more serious, mostly illustrated with pencil-drawn landscapes of the region, but many retain a distinctive red wax seal on top of the cork.
Stéphane Tissot has courted controversy in a different way, pioneering little-before-seen organic viticulture back in 1999, then embracing biodynamic winemaking in 2004. The latter is the equivalent of channeling "celestial energy, cow horns and howling at the moon" for some wine writers, but a sustainable, sensitive, and magical way to make wine for others.
Other winemakers keep a lower profile. Michel Gahier might be one of the Jura's biggest names, but he hasn't rushed to capitalize on the sudden attention and curious travelers showing up on his doorstep. Yet if you ask nicely, you might just find yourself tasting 10 wines before noon then being sent to help out with the harvest.
Similarly, many visitors don't discover the Jura's younger pioneers like Loreline Laborde, one of a small but growing number of female producers making inroads on a traditionally male-dominated industry. Her biodynamic wines, grown on a working farm of less than 10 acres, are among the Jura's most special.
You're likely to arrive in Dole, around two hours from Paris by high-speed train. But this isn't where you want to stay. The heart of the Jura is the pretty little town ofArbois, surrounded by countryside straight out of a French textbook.
If you're not sure about door-stepping smaller winemakers (many of whom don't have websites), you can start in the town's bijou tasting rooms where people are generous with their pours and their time; these include the caves ofBénédicte et Stéphane Tissot,Domaine de la Pinte, andDomaine de la Tournelle, which extend their boutique to a sweet riverside bistro in summer. A superb place to eat is theBistrot des Claquets, an unpretentious lunchtime-only spot much loved by visitors andvigneronsalike.
Heading out from Arbois, you'll see the countryside is lush and hilly. You can choose between continued gourmet adventures or more active pursuits. Don't miss a tasting tour ofFort des Rousses's pungent cellars, where more than 100,000 wheels of comté are slowly maturing, and the picturesque village ofChâteau-Chalon, the center of vin jaune production.
As you climb in altitude, you'll also come across turquoise-blue alpine lakes such asLac de ChalainandLac de Clairvaux,where you can swim and canoe, the latter close to the impressiveHérisson waterfalls. Further afield, it's just a few hours' drive north to the great cellars ofBurgundyor across the border to genteelGeneva.
As for when to visit, you'll find the Jura most pleasant to explore in late summer and early fall before the harvest, when winemakers aren't yet in the throes of picking. The most earnest devotees arrive in February for thePercée du Vin Jaune, the "piercing of the yellow wine," a 50,000-person-strong festival marking the opening of the year's vin jaune vintage.
This is probably best left to the most ardent of Jura wine fans—but you never know: After a first trip you might just find yourself one of them.
Video: a snippet of france (2018)
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