The wine buff
There are some wines that are resolutely insider. These are the cult wines that sommeliers, or 'somms', hover around at a tasting, discuss in rapturous tones and tick off their 100 wines to drink before you die list. And one of the regions that has been receiving a huge amount of somm love is the Jura.
This offbeat region of rolling hills, lush valleys and wild forests between Burgundy and Switzerland, in eastern France, has picturesque pockets of vineyards that extend from Arbois in the north to Lons-le-Saunier in the south, flanked by verdant fields where herds of Montbéliarde cows graze on the rich pastures. You will probably be familiar with the cheese made from their milk, which is the world famous Comté, and in winter, milk from the mountain herds which are fed on hay in the barns, is made into the seasonal Mont d'Or, a soft cheese in a signature round spruce collar which is cellared for three weeks before it is released. The area is also famous for wild mushrooms, game and freshwater fish.
So it is not surprising that the unusual wines that come from this region are considered to be particularly gastronomic. Made in a traditional style, with low intervention in the vineyard and cellar, the familiar grapes of the region are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, similar to its close neighbour Burgundy, but there are also three lesser known varietals - Savagnin which is a white grape, and Poulsard and Trousseau which are black grapes. Hugely fashionable, you'll find them on the wine lists of some of the world's coolest restaurants, like Rene Redzepi's Noma in Copenhagen.
Although Chardonnay accounts for 25pc of the grapes grown in the region, and you're probably familiar with Crémant de Jura, which I've featured in today's line-up, Savagnin Blanc (not to be confused with Sauvignon Blanc), is the grape that is used in the most famous wine of the area, the deeply coloured vin jaune, meaning yellow wine. A sherry-like wine which is made in a traditional way, the grapes are picked when they are very ripe, fermented, and then aged in old Burgundy barrels for at least six years. Some of the wine evaporates, and rather than top up the barrels to prevent oxidation, the wine is left undisturbed and a thin veil or voile of yeast forms, similar to the flor that protects sherry. But unlike sherry, it is not fortified, so alcohol is kept at about 13pc.
Vin jaune has a rich nutty and oxidative flavour with tons of savoury umami that makes it the perfect partner with the local Comté cheese. Savagnin that has been aged for less time also has a lot of these characteristics and is a little less expensive, and most definitely worth trying. I have included a bottle today, and you will find others at good independent off-licences. Share the cost of a bottle with friends and try something really new and exciting. And don't forget the Comté cheese.
To celebrate its 85th anniversary, The Molloys Group has teamed up with craft brewers YellowBelly in Wexford to launch its own exclusive beer. Called 'Covert Operation' to tie in with their pub, The Fox's Covert in Tallaght, the label shows three generations of the Molloy family being led by the Fox mascot. Fruity with aromatic flavours from the Mosaic and Azacca hops, there's lively tropical fruit balanced with clean citrus notes.
Exquisite Collection Crémant de Jura, Brut
€11.99, 12pc, from Aldi
The more familiar side of the Jura, this award-winning, keenly priced bubbly is made from 100pc Chardonnay in the traditional bottle fermented style. Deliciously refreshing with a crisp wash of green apples and persistent bubbles.
Domaine de la Pinte Arbois Savagnin 2013
€49.99, 13pc, from Corkscrew and wineoline.ie
With light oxidised notes of nuts and a touch of artichoke on the nose, this biodynamic wine is broad, textural and mouth filling on the palate.