Wine from A to Z

AOC

The Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) is an official label that guarantees the authenticity and exclusive origin of a product from a specific terroir, made with specific know-how. It indicates high-quality vine cultivation that complies with strict rules and inspections. The 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres) of Jura vineyards are shared by six AOCs. Four of these are “geographical”: Arbois, Château Chalon, l’Etoile, and Côtes du Jura. The other two are based on products: Macvin du Jura and Crémant du Jura.

Variety

Each variety of vinestock has its own features: shape of leaves and grape bunches, colour of grapes when ripe, composition of fruit, etc. Variety is one of the main sources of a wine’s characteristics and personality: its taste, aromas and appearance, and the acids, tannins and alcohol it contains. The Jura’s vineyards are home to two white grape varieties (Chardonnay and Savagnin) and three red grape varieties (Poulsard, Trousseau, and Pinot Noir). Two are typically Jurassian: Savagnin and Poulsard. These six varieties, used both as varietals and in blends, yield a diverse array of wines: red, white, still and sparkling.

Blending

Some wines are “varietals”, made with grapes of just one variety. Others wed complementary flavours and characteristics by blending several varieties from different plots of vines, with proportions specific to each blend. The five grape varieties grown in the Jura – Chardonnay, Savagnin, Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir – happily team up to showcase winemakers’ creativity, thus offering a diverse line-up of wines and a very wide spectrum of flavours.

Growth cycle

Every year, vines change according to the seasons. From November to February, having lost their leaves, the vines enjoy a winter rest. In spring, the sap begins to circulate again and the plants wake up. This is the budbreak stage, when the buds develop. After the first leaves and rudimentary bunches appear, flowering occurs in June, with weather conditions playing a decisive role. Fruit set follows in July: the leaves grow larger and the flowers turn into grape berries. In August, the grapes swell and their colour and taste characteristics become more pronounced: this stage is called by its French name, véraison. Once mature, the grapes are ready for picking during the autumn harvest. Maturing dates vary: some varieties ripen earlier than others.

Floral

The Jura’s floral wines are white wines with fresh, subtle aromas combining hawthorn, acacia, lime blossom and camomile… but also peach, pear and even a hint of exotic fruits. Chardonnay is their favourite grape, either as a varietal or blended with the typical Jura variety Savagnin, each highlighting the other’s qualities. Well-structured, floral and full-bodied, these wines are aged in the traditional way (using the ouillage technique: see below) and become limpid, bright, and light yellow.

Maceration

A key stage in winemaking, conducted once the harvested grapes have been destemmed and crushed. The resulting white grape juice spends time in contact with the skins and seeds, and the skins colour the juice. The longer this period, the darker in colour – and the more tannic – the wine will be. Maceration time ranges from just a few hours for bled rosés to several weeks for red wines intended for cellaring.

Ouillage

A technique by which the wine is aged in barrels that are always kept full, and thus never comes into contact with air. To achieve this, the winemaker regularly tops up the barrel with wine of the same quality to keep it entirely full, and thus prevent any oxidation. This is necessary because some of the wine evaporates naturally or is absorbed by the barrel wood while ageing – a quantity known as “the angels’ share”. Ouillage stops this share from being visible in the barrel.

Terroir

A terroir is a collection of vine plots with the same natural and cultural characteristics: soil type (geological composition, drainage, fertility, etc.), topography (gradients, relief, nearby waterways, exposure…), climate, vine-growing techniques and local traditions. Terroir is a key factor in a wine’s personality, expressing a distinctive character and guaranteeing its unique identity, because a vin de terroir cannot be made elsewhere.

Traditional

Traditional Jura white wines (whose labels often carry the word tradition or typé), are generally golden yellow or vivid amber. These particularly aromatic wines are based around Savagnin, a variety with a typically Jurassian character, to which winemakers often add some Chardonnay. These traditional wines, also called oxidative wines, are aged in a distinctively local way: the winemaker does not seek to prevent contact between wine and air. A pocket of air forms at the top of the barrel, but is soon isolated from the liquid by a film of natural yeasts that develop at the surface and enhance the wine with unusual aromas.

Vin de Paille

The wine takes its name (literally, “straw wine”) from the bed of straw on which the grapes used to make it are dried – although nowadays the grapes are more likely to be suspended from the rafters or placed on wooden racks. A rare and precious sweet wine, Vin de Paille receives special treatment. At harvest, the best bunches of Poulsard, Trousseau, Savagnin and Chardonnay grapes are set aside for it. Once these grapes are dessicated and rich in sugar, they are pressed: the resulting elixir is then aged for three years in oak barrels to coax out intense aromas of candied fruits, prune, quince, honey and pineapple. Typical alcohol content is 14°-17°.

Vin de voile

Another term to describe oxidative wines, with voile referring to the yeast film (or “veil”) that develops on the surface of the wine in barrel. See “Traditional” above.