Jura and Poulsard Grape Wines

You might not have heard of it yet, but Poulsard can be seen as the king of red grape and red wine production in Jura. This tiny region East of France has managed to remain a mystery for many a wine lover; save for the popularity of Comté cheese, Vin Jaune (the Sherry like rarity) and Macvin du Jura (a blend of 2 parts unfermented (or barely fermented) grape juice and 1 part Marc). However, neither the region, nor the grape is anything short of formidable.  

Terroir and back story

Jura bestows its name to the Jurassic age. A nod to the ancient and rich terroir. Its rich soil remains predominantly Limestone with hints and overlays of clay peppered around the region to offer an interesting growing medium for its many indigenous grape varieties. Of which, they are speculated to have been over forty! The resulting wines are often complex and demanding patience from its growers. 

The region itself sits between Burgundy and Switzerland. Albeit wetter than the former (Hello Cheese!), Jura’s vineyards are perched on a high-altitude, limestone-rich plateau angled eastward. Just right to capture the sun. 

Enter Poulsard.

That’s ‘Ploussard’ to the natives. Of the 20,000 ha of vineyards, Poulsard is the most planted red variety and makes up 80% of the wines produced from the region. 

A specialty of Arbois (Northern Jura), it is a thoroughly black grape with thin skin and low tannin. 

Growers employ particular patience to ultimately produce the complex wines this region is renowned for. Its thin skin often becomes a vintner’s nightmare as it makes it more susceptible to mold and disease while exposed to the elements. The vine itself provides an unpredictable yield. It is this versatility in the winery that makes it worth the while. 

Although lending itself to long fermentation on skin, no amount of maceration will make the resulting wine any denser! That is the beauty of this grape. Poulsard wines are Gamay-like light red in their color. 

Poulsard remains an incredibly versatile grape producing pale, delicately perfumed wines renowned for their peculiar charm. Frequently mistaken for Rose, it lends its heady aromas to Blanc de Blancs and Crémants (Crémant du Jura) of the region. 

Vin de paille  

Another specialty of Jura is this “straw” wine. A blend of Poulsard, Savagnin and Chardonnay, this rarity is bottled in special half-size bottles. Poulsard is to thank for the wines red berry, yet un-overwhelming character. 

Grape bunches are laid out on straw mats basking in the sun or hung indoors to dry and concentrate their sugars before pressing. The resulting wine is a minute quantity of very sweet wine that goes into barrels for ageing. Several years later, one can delight in opening a deeply hued wine with complex layered flavors of raisins and walnut.  These wines have the capacity to age for decades when produced.

Recommendations.  

Spring in a bottle. Nothing is as vivacious and inviting as a bottle of Poulsard. Although there are so many great producers in the area, these are just two refreshing bottles worth checking out that we have recently had. 

  • 2015 Domaine de La Pinte’s Arbois Poulsard  
  • 2014 Domaine de La Borde’s Ploussard Cote de Feule Biodynamic