Jura wine is produced in the Jura département of France, which is located between Burgundy and Switzerland. Jura is France's smallest wine region with around 1,600 hectares lies 80km directly east of Burgundy's Côte d'Or. The vineyards run northeast to southwest on the western foothills of the Jura Mountains. As in Burgundy, the soil is largely based on clay-limestone, but it is the outcrops of black, grey-blue, red and yellow marls, and the cretaceous fossil beds that form some of the highly prized vineyard sites of the Jura.
The northern part of the Jura, around Arbois has more clay and is stonier; hence it is more suitable for red varieties. The wine region has vineyard altitudes that are similar to those in Alsace, varying between 250m and 400m.
However, the influence of the nearby mountains brings cold winters and in some years also untimely frost, hail or rainfall. Grape ripeness levels are always a concern for winemakers of the area and harvest times are often delayed as long as possible to try to achieve the highest levels.
The continental climate does bring warm, long summers, ideal for Savagnin, the classic grape responsible for Jura’s famous Vin Jaune. The six AOP wine areas within the Jura wine region include: Arbois, Château-Chalon, Crémant du Jura, Côtes du Jura, L'Étoile and Macvin du Jura. The main grapes of the region are Chardonnay making up 45%, known locally as Melon d'Arbois, Savagnin, also known locally as Naturé, Poulsard, Pinot Noir and Trousseau among the 40 other grape varieties that were prevalent in Jura for most of its winemaking history.
Jura's most famous and distinguishable wine is the sherry-like vin jaune. The wine is produced by picking Savagnin as ripe as possible, in some cases a sort of late harvest wine, and after fermentation it is aged in Burgundian oak barrels for over 6 years. The barrels are filled to the top and allowed to evaporate, reducing the volume in the barrel and creating an air pocket at the top of the barrel. During this time the wine oxidizes and grows a film of yeast that is similar, but not the same strain, as the Jerez region flor. Vin jaune is an intensely flavoured wine that often requires decanting prior to drinking.
Other wine styles to be found in the Jura includes a vin de paille made from Chardonnay, Poulsard and Savagnin, a sparkling Crémant du Jura made from slightly unripe Chardonnay grapes, and a vin de liqueur known as Macvin du Jura made by adding marc to halt fermentation.