Eastern France

  • The departments of Savoie, Haut-Savoie, Ain and Isere, which compose the Jura, an area known for its Chardonnay, is at roughly the same latitude as Burgundy. The vineyards of the Jura are centered on Arbois, which is 100 km east of Beaune. The soil is fairly chalky, with some limestone and marl at Château Chalon. The vines are planted in the foothills of the Jura mountain range, where the climate is continental with very cold winters.

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  • Eastern France is largely known for Chardonnay (known locally as Melon d’Arbois) that is often blended with a local grape, Savagnin. Savagnin has thick skin and is consequently high in extract, with deep color and a nutty aroma. Other regional grapes include the red Trousseau, Gamay and Mondeuse, as well as the whites Poulsard, Aligote, Chasselas, Rousette and the tart Jacquère.

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  • The Savoie appellations controlleés or ACs may have a commune name attached, such as Abymes, Apremont, Ripaille or Chignin. Red, rose and dry styles are made, as well as lightly sparkling whites. Reds in the area (such as Bugey) can be made from Mondeuse and Gamay.

    The Jura is most well known for AC Château Chalon, which is the name of a commune rather than a single producer. This is a vin jaune, a wine from the late harvest Savagnin grape that is fermented and aged without topping off (“on the ullage”) for at least six years, during which time it develops flor, the same type of yeast that occurs in Sherry, that covers the surface of the wine and protects it from oxidation.

    Arbois is another Jura AC, with whites made from a blend of Chardonnay and Savagnin, rosé from Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot, and red wine from Pinot Noir. Other ACs in the area include Côtes de Jura, where another specialty is made, vin de paille, for which grapes are dried on straw mats, pressed around the New Year and aged in cask for two years. Finally, the L’Etoile AC produces whites from the same grape blend (often sparkling), vin jaune and vin de paille.

    Wines from this area can be difficult to find in the U.S. because not much of it is imported. The region is beginning to make a name for itself as a leader in the organic and biodynamic movements, with some very good producers testing the limits of the grapes and the region.

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