A few years ago I was in Paris for a short vacation and together with a friend, had dinner one evening at a recommended restaurant. It was the Bistrot du Sommelier on Boulevard Haussmann. The restaurant is a Paris institution having served up wonderful food and wine for nearly twenty years.
At dinner we opted for the degustation menu with matching wines, which is really the only way to go in a place like le Bistrot. The meal was stunning (as expected) and the choice of wines superb, in particular one white wine which was unlike anything we had ever experienced.
Upon quizzing the sommelier he told us it was vin de jaune (yellow wine) from the Jura region of eastern France, near the Swiss border.
He further explained the Jura was famous for other unique wine styles, including vin paille, or straw wine.
This was all new to us and as luck would have it we had no commitments for the next few days so we hired a car the next morning and headed off to the Jura.
We based ourselves in the wonderful little town of Arbois at the center of the wine area, and were pleasantly surprised that Arbois was famous for matters other than amazing wine. Amongst other things, it was also the birthplace of Louis Pasteur who owned a local vineyard which is still producing wines today.
But back to the wines. What delight!
The vin jaune comes from the only allowed grape type, Savagnin which is similar to traminer. The wine has similar characteristics to sherry with a unique yeasty flavor. It is truly superb.
The Jura also produces some lovely red wines based on the local pinot noir grapes, and a very unique liqueur called Macvin. The latter has been produced since the 14th century and is a late harvest specialty.
The Jura straw wine is blended from the local Chardonnay and Savagnin white grapes and the red Poulsard grape, using only the ripest fruit. The fruit is left to dry on straw mats for up to three months before the wine making process begins.
However the vin jaune remains my favorite, not that I get to drink it very often. Depending on personal preferences, it can be drunk with almost anything given its distinct earthy body and aroma.
All wine lovers should make a pilgrimage to the Jura and if you have not already done so, give it some serious thought. I have subsequently been back to Arbois three times and will do so again as soon as time and finances permit!