Wines from the Jura are one of the hottest ticket items in wine bars across the globe at present. Why has this obscure wine producing region known mainly for the aged, yellow, savoury Vin Jaune become so popular?
Perhaps it was the flavoursome Savagnin white wines or the delicious Chardonnays that brought it to the forefront, or perhaps it is a reaction to the heavy reds of Australia and the United States with drinkers preferring the lighter, more expressive styles of the Ploussard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir wines from here.
Regardless, we are delighted to be working with Philippe Bornard, one of the region's most exciting natural winemakers. He produces a wide range of wine styles and we order most of them to let you work out which ones you prefer.
Philippe lives in the quaint village of Pupillin which is quite close to Arbois near the Swiss border. He inherited the vineyard from his father and decided to make wine himself rather than sell his grapes to others. He makes his wine under his house which overlooks the village.
The wines cover two appellations. The first is the broader Cotes du Jura and then most of the wines are from the tiny Arbois Pupillin which only applies to grapes grown in the commune of Pupillin. You will notice that in this appellation it is permitted to name the grape variety on the label - which is unusual for France.
In the Jura, red wines are often released years before the white wines because the winemakers want the whites to develop the oxidative characteristics that make them so food friendly.
Philippe Bornard Arbois Pupillin Trousseau Le Ginglet 2015
This light, lively, red wine made from the Trousseau grape is as easy to drink as the Le Ginglet tag suggests. However this is not to say that it is a simple wine - there is quite a lot happening in the glass. You can discern the influence of the limestone and marl soils in this wine and there is a hint of spice on the finish making it perfect as a food wine. This is a delightful example of what can be achieved with this delicate, little-known grape variety.
Here is what Chambers Street Wines in New York said about this wine:
"A delicious vintage for this lovely Trousseau from Philippe Bornard, the wine has an absolutely gorgeous rose petal-y texture, especially after some time in a decanter. The wine definitely shows the richness of the vintage and is soft and open with warm, generous red fruits, sweet cherries, cranberries, and herbs. This is natural wine, but clean, expressive, and pretty from start to finish. "
Philippe Bornard Arbois Pupillin Ploussard Point Barre 2015
If you are smitten by big, robust, Barossa shiraz wines then please don't buy this one.
The Point Barre is made from the Poulsard (aka Ploussard) grape and is a light, delicate almost translucent red wine that gives off aromas of red currants, citrus and saddle leather with a touch of cinnamon.
There is a purity and silkiness to this wine that makes it quite ethereal. It matches with just about any food you care to think of.
Philippe Bornard Arbois Pupillin Ploussard La Chamade 2005
This Ploussard is exactly the style of wine we have come to prefer. Darker in colour than other wines made from this grape, long on flavour and with a soft and silky mouth feel. There is an earthiness about this wine but the finish is reminiscent of cherries that have been lightly spiced. The grapes are macerated for three weeks in fibreglass tanks and the wine is then aged in one of the large wooden foudres that line his winery for a year before the wine is bottled.
"La Chamade" literally means 'wildly' but in the context of the pounding of the heart when drinking a good wine.
Wine iconoclast Lou Amdur of Lou's wine bar in Los Angeles had this to say about La Chamade recently:
"Bornard´s Ploussard is, nevertheless, hardly a wallflower, but a very pretty wine that insinuates itself into the conversation and before you know it, you are staring sadly at an empty bottle."
RRP: SOLD OUT
Philippe Bornard Arbois Pupillin Chardonnay Le Blanc de la Rouge 2012
The Blanc de la Rouge is an intense, concentrated, very dry Chardonnay that shows characteristic mineral characters derived from the limestone soils in which the vines thrive.
This wine shows how Chardonnay expresses itself differently at this higher altitude than nearby Burgundy. Philippe is particularly pleased with this vintage. The yields were down (hence the price increase) but the quality is the highest it has ever been.
RRP: SOLD OUT
Philippe Bornard Arbois Pupillin Melon Le Rouge Queue 2012
The first thing you notice about the label on this wine is that Philippe regards Melon as a different grape variety. This is not Melon de Bourgogne but a variant or cousin of Chardonnay that has 'evolved' in this region. The local name of the grape is Melon-Queue-Rouge which refers to the red stems of the vines. Bornard thinks that people just forgot about this grape but his father and a few others kept growing it even though it was a smaller grape and somewhat susceptible to disease. However the INAO which officially controls French appellation law does not recognise its existence.
There are some oxidative notes in this wine which makes it very appealing to those of us who crave this experience. It is a big, fruity wine but with a razor-sharp streak of acidity offsetting the sweetness of the fruit. As is the case with many of the Bornard wines, the finish is incredibly long.
Chambers Street Wines in New York said this of the Melon recently:
This Melon-Queue-Rouge (a variety related to Chardonnay) is fermented in fiberglass and then aged in old Burgundy barrels and demi-muids. The wine is minty and green apple-y with the characteristic generosity we associate with Bornard's wines and a riveting streak of acidity that carries through to the finish.
Philippe Bornard Cotes du Jura Savagnin Ouille Les Chassagnes
This lovely wine is made from 100% Savagnin which is a white grape that is native to the Jura region. It is named after the lieu-dit or plot of land where the Savagnin is grown. As with many wines from the Jura this wine has been made with a slight oxidative edge which gives it a beautiful, nutty, savoury, umami quality that makes for compelling drinking.
You will get notes of grapefruit. almonds and hazelnuts and even salt before you notice the long, long finish. This is an incredibly exciting wine that is unlike any produced in this country. You have to try it to see what we are raving about.
Note that the term ouillé refers to the technique of topping up barrels as the wine evaporates to ensure that minimal oxygen gets in contact with the wine.
RRP: $56 for 2010 and $64 for 2015
Philippe Bornard Cotes du Jura Savagnin Les Marnes 2012
This wine will grab the attention of the oxidative crowd even though it is, to our taste, relatively minor. Let's explain about sous-voile wines. These are wines that evaporate in the barrel (usually a very large cask) during the four years of ageing and a 'veil' of yeast forms on the surface of the wine to protect it from the more negative effects of oxygen. The resultant wine develops nutty characteristics and a savoury palate that is quite compulsive.
The wine was produced with native yeasts and very little sulphur has been added to the bottle. The old casks that the wine is matured in impart little if no oak flavour. This is an intriguing and beautiful wine that will appeal to lovers of the Jura experience.
Philippe Bornard Cotes du Jura Chardonnay Les Gaudrettes 2015
Les Gaudrettes was a stand-out at our tasting in Philippe's cellar. It is a fresh-tasting Chardonnay of some complexity and with a beautiful mouth-feel. It exhibits the same characteristics as his other wines on the finish - long and lingering.
The different varieties of marl that are found in the Les Gaudrettes vineyard provide a complex minerality to wines made from grapes grown in this location.
Read a review of Les Gaudrettes by Dave Brookes, a respected South Australian wine writer on his blog Vinofreakism*:
We would urge you to read the entire review but in part he says:"Pale gold in the glass with aromes of ripe, snappy citrus and stone-fruits�..grapefruit, lemon, white peach and a touch of crunchy pear. There are hints of spice, hazelnut, marzipan, white flowers and almond�.it really is a very pretty smelling wine.
On the palate the wine is bright and energetic with a terrific entry on the palate awash with vibrant citrus, apple and pear fruits. The soft spice inflow starts on the mid-palate with hints of minerals, white flowers and grilled nuts. Great energy, freshness and persistent finish�..a gouleyant wine �..a thirst-quencher and one with great appeal at that!"
Philippe Bornard Vin de Table Vin de Pagaille
This wine is made in the Vin de Paille style and is aged for years before bottling. This wine is a blend of Ploussard, Savagnin and Chardonnay (it is permitted in Arbois Pupillin to add red grapes to white wines provided they don't exceed 20% of the mix). The technique sees very ripe grapes being picked and then left to dry out on straw mats to increase the concentration.
It is classified as a Vin de Table because there is a requirement for the Vin de Paille designation for the wine to be at least 14.5% alcohol, wheras Philippe prefers a lighter, less alcoholic style.
Here is what ace wine writer Dave Brooks had to say about this wine on his Vinofreakism blog.
Unctuous and weighty in the mouth it initially labours on the front palate before a wave of minerally acidity kicks it onwards with great energy. Rich flavours of apricot and stewed stonefruits. There are hints of gingersnaps, candied orange peel, jasmine, rosewater, fresh rich buttery biscuits, fruit cake, cinnamon, baking spices, marzipan, dried honey and nut praline. Great clarity and concentration, lip-smacking sweetness and a defined, energetic acid line - this is one wine that is a joy to drink.
You'll be in toy-town trying this wine with any dessert, cheese or a piece of foie gras the size of your head. Wicked!
500 ml format
Philippe Bornard Arbois Pupillin Ivresse de Noe 2011
The fascinating Ivresse de Noe (named after the biblical story of the drunkeness of Noah) is a November harvest Savagnin. Because Savagnin has a hard skin the grapes can withstand the drying process as they wither on the vine and concentrate the flavour inside the grape.
The bunches are then hand-picked and pressed then moved to 400 litre tonneau to mature for two years. The barrels are kept topped up during that time.
A little residual sugar linked to high acidity gives this non-oxidative Savagnin an unusual flavour and texture; it is a beautiful, vinous wine with a very long finish. It is often drunk in the Jura as an aperitif but can also be matched with a wide range of foods.
This is what Chambers Street Wines said in their recent newsletter:
This is the magical wine that stole my heart a year ago when I visited the cellar of Philippe Bornard. The Savagnin grapes that make this wine are harvested in November and some residual sugar is left in the wine after fermentation, resulting in a lightly sweet yet concentrated Savagnin that offers aromas of honey, quince, and orchard fruit. This wine has never been seen in the US before and, frankly, if I had the luxury of a Christmas stocking this year, this is the wine I would want to find in it.
500 ml format
Philippe Bornard Cremant du Jura NV
The Bornard Cremant is a sparkling wine made from 100% Chardonnay. Cremant wines are made in the same style as Champagne wines must adopt the name Cremant because they have not been made in the geographical area designated for Champagne.
This wine is full of stone-fruit aromas and has an appealing minerality and savouriness on the palate. The baked apple aromas and dry finish of this delicious and affordable alternative to Champagne make it a perfect aperitif or a wine to drink right through a meal.
RRP: SOLD OUT
Philippe Bornard Vin de Table Petillant Naturel Rose Tant Mieux NV
This gorgeous, pink sparkling wine made in the Petillant Naturel style is made from the Ploussard grape. The wine completes its fermentation in the bottle and no sugar is added. Nor is it disgorged so you will find some residual yeast remaining in the bottle. It is very low in alcohol at around 9% and has an appealing residual sweetness. There is not much of it made and we have only a small allocation. However, it remains one of our all time favourite wines as it is just so versatile. You can drink it in the afternoon in the sun, it works well with snacks as the sun is going down and after a solid night of enjoyment it is a perfect drink to put a full stop to the night!
RRP: SOLD OUT - SORRY!
Philippe Bornard Vin de Table Petillant Naturel En Go-guette NV
The Bornard En Go-guette is a lovely white sparkling wine made in the Petillant Naturel style is made from the Chardonnay grape. The wine completes its fermentation in the bottle and no sugar is added. Nor is it disgorged so you will find some residual yeast remaining in the bottle. It is very low in alcohol at around 10%.
This is a beautifully made wine that works perfectly as an aperitif and also as a matching to a range of foods. Philippe is a master of the petillent naturel style and any of his wines of this type are absolute treasures.
RRP: SOLD OUT
Philippe Bornard Vin de Table Petillant Naturel Ca Va Bien NV
"Things are going well" when you are drinking a bottle of the Bornard Ca Va Bien which is a lovely white sparkling wine made in the P�tillant Naturel style made from the Savagnin grape. The wine completes its fermentation in the bottle and no sugar is added. Nor is it disgorged so you will find some residual yeast remaining in the bottle. It is very low in alcohol at around 10%.
RRP: SOLD OUT
Philippe Bornard Jo Liqueur
This sweetish wine has been fortified and runs to 17% alcohol. It is made in the local Macvin style but not strictly according to the rules required for it to sport the appellation "Macvin du Jura" on the label. A marc or eau-de-vie style alcohol made in the Jura and matured for 18 months is added to the wine to stop the fermentation and to ensure that the sweetness is retained. Macvin has been produced in this area since the 14th century even though the appellation was only proclaimed in 1991.
Philippe Bornard Arbois Vin Jaune 2008
There are strict rules relating to the production of Vin Jaune or 'yellow wine' in the Jura. It is matured in old 228 litre cask which are not topped up. The maturation must continue for a minimum of 6 years and 3 months. This means that a film of yeast develops on the surface of the wine (known as a voile) thus protecting it from the oxygen in the gap in the barrel. However some oxidation occurs giving the wine some sherry-like characteristics even though it is never fortified like sherry.
Vin Jaune is very much a cult wine with 50000 people attending the annual festival in Arbois to celebrate the bottling of the current Vin Jaune.
620 ml format