The Jura wine world is a fascinating, mysterious, and at times confusing one. The region’s recent surge in popularity on American wine lists lies in contrast with how strange its wines come across to the uninitiated, with many of its indigenous production methods and quirky winemakers requiring more than an introduction for one to fully savor their virtues. We firmly believe, however, that the pleasure at stake is well worth a slight detour to study the wild world of Jura.
Jura tradition calls for aging whites sous voile, or under a fine “veil” of yeast that grows over wine in barrel that has not been topped-off (non ouillé) to compensate for evaporation. The voile effectively slows the process of oxidation, while chemical reactions between these microorganisms and the wine below give rise to a highly distinctive and complex set of aromas. Often hinting at walnuts, beeswax, oriental spices, cheese rind, and brine, wines aged sous voile can come as a shock to the unhabituated palate. Their textural and aromatic singularity naturally sets them in a category of their own at table, perhaps the best setting in which to gain an appreciation for such wines.
Many Jura producers also produce more conventional whites in an ouillé, or topped-off style, as is practiced in Burgundy–or for that matter, in essentially all the white wines we are accustomed to. This method preserves fresh fruit flavors without the rather rustic, often funky oxidative notes typical of wines aged sous voile.