The Jura is a cool climate alpine wine region that can be found between Burgundy and Switzerland. It has for centuries remained a truly unchanged wine region; one that refuses to make concessions to modernity. Somehow the wines manage to stay current. Perhaps its the value we now place on terroir or how we view the importance of craft. Truly this is a place where terroir and tradition mix in an interplay that one can only witness in the region’s wine and food. We’ve recently explored the region’s red wines in the Dirt club. It’s time to take a look at the whites. Chardonnay is the lens through which we’ll examine both the unique terroir of the Jura and the region’s two competing winemaking traditions, each producing radically different wines.

Buronfosse is a small, husband and wife domaine producing some of the region’s top wines. They enjoy close proximity to – and a friendly relationship with – Jean-François Ganevat. Ganevat is widely celebrated as the region’s most important winemaker. His wines top the list of Unicorns in the United States. Jean-Pascal and Peggy Buronfosse have sought him out for advice. The couple makes wine ouillé. As it ages, the wine lost to evaporation is replaced in the barrel with more wine preventing oxidization and encouraging a freshness, purity and sense of place that can often be lost to those working in a less reductive style (e.g.: sous-voile – see Domaine de la Pinte, below).

2013, Côtes du Jura Chardonnay ‘Les Ammonites’, Buronfosse
This wine is made from chardonnay planted in 1998 to grey marl soils in a single-vineyard plot. The wine is aged in 500-liter demi-muids, sur lie, for 18 months before being released. It is a round, voluminous bottling loaded with green apple, apricot, honey and almond aromatics.

2013, Côtes du Jura Chardonnay ’Varron’, Buronfosse
Varron is an old-vine parcel of chardonnay planted in 1956 to limestone and clay soil. The limestone’s low PH encourages the development of acidity in a grape. After fermentation, the wine is aged for 18 months in barrels ur lie. The results are spectacular. The Varron is tightly knit white with incredible aromatic depth. Here you’ll find layers of minerality surrounded by burnt hay, citrus and honey – and an incredible finish.

La Pinte is another small domaine, this time in the Arbois Pupillin sub-district. Pierre Martin, the proprietor and winemaker, chooses a decidedly different path for his wines. He produces them “sous voile” or under the veil. This is a winemaking style by which wines are intentionally oxidized. Throughout the aging process, as wine evaporates, barrels are not topped off. As a result a layer of yeast forms on the wine’s surface. This is the veil. In addition to preventing complete oxidization, it adds a layer of richness and complexity to the wine, highlighting an unusual mineral component and amplifying texture and aromatics.

2012, Arbois Pupillin ‘Fonteneille’ Domaine de la Pinte
Like the wines from Buronfosse, the Fonteneille is aged for 18 months in barrel before being bottled. It is a textural marvel, with a rich mouthfeel pierced by linear acidity. The aromatics come in waves. First you’ll be hit with a steely minerality. It’ll give way to nuttiness that reminds me of almond skin and toasted hazelnut. This will be followed by ripe pear and rosemary aromas.