On the Trail

Jura in their Blood

Olivia Ragni

We first met Clementine Baud of Domaine Baud a while back at the first-ever Wines of Jura tasting in Los Angeles.  Immediately, Clementine stood out; she was being followed by cameras. It was the regional French news documenting her visit for all the Jura watchers back at home excited by America's new found interest in the region’s wines.  It’s not hard to see why they chose to follow her; her presence lights up a room. Clementine is captivating and full of passion about her family's domaine. It’s not just the enthusiasm that makes her so intriguing, it’s the authenticity in which she explains to me that “this (winemaking) is our pride, even our reason for being, our purpose in life.” Clementine’s family has been making wine for more than three centuries.  Clementine, only twenty-six years old along with her brother who is just twenty-four, is the family's ninth generation winemaker. The Baud passion for wine has managed to pass itself along from one child to the next; it’s as though winemaking is in their blood. Not only is wine important to the Baud family, it is weaved into the fabric of life in the region as a whole. 

Tucked in between Burgundy and Switzerland lies the region of Jura, nestled along the border of France and Switzerland. Wine is to the Jura what celebrities are to Los Angeles: it permeates the culture, one filled with festivals and traditions that celebrate the liquid. Traditionally, Vin de Paille, a local dessert wine made by drying grapes on straw mats, was given to women immediately after they gave birth in order to give them warmth and strength. Even the church is involved. Each year, in the beginning of September, Jura's Le biou ceremony the blesses the upcoming harvest in the hope that the heavens will help protect the vintage. Perhaps the most quirky festival is the La percée du Vin Jaune, which celebrates the opening of a barrel of the most distinct wine of the region: Vin Jaune. The La percée du Vin Jaune draws a crowd of over 60,000 people each year, to put that into perspective, the largest town in the department of Jura has a population of 25,051 people, so basically everyone in the region travels to see the unveiling of a Vin Jaune barrel. 

Vin Jaune is a big deal here, and for good reason.  Made from the most prized grape varietal in the region—Savagnin—the wine must be aged for at least six years and three months, meaning the most current vintage possible is 2009. While most producers in the world avoid allowing oxygen enter the barrel, in the Jura they do things entirely different, allowing the oxygen in the barrel to promote the growth of a thick layer of surface yeast, known as the voile, which protects the wine from oxidizing, similar to the aging process used in Sherry.  Vin Jaune must be aged for at least six years in barrel, under voile the entire time. Domaine Baud’s Vin Jaune is next level stuff, and actually originates from a château property. Château Chalon is the grand cru of Jura, a designated vineyard where the vines are all planted on blue marl, a type of soft, friable soil derived from compressed clay. Here the Savagnin grape thrives. Baud’s Vin Jaune is stored in attics in order to help cultivate the perfect environment for the the voile to survive. Clementine explains, “the environment is very important: the cellar needs to be alive surrounded by bacteria and yeasts.” The voile needs certain elements to survive such as humidity and a vast diurnal temperature, as Clementine puts it, “ the components (yeast and bacteria) can work (in the warm months) and then have a rest in winter.” This aging process makes Vin Jaune more resistant towards time and oxidization, these bottles can age for up to a century in the bottle and once opened have a shelf life for up to six months. In fact, Clementine’s favorite Jura wines are aged and told me she opened a bottle of 1929 Vin Jaune to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday recently, describing it as a “great and unrivaled pleasure,” best enjoyed with “foie gras au poulet de bresse with morilles.” I guess I know what I’ll be eating with my next bottle of Vin Jaune. 

The white wines of the Jura are truly special and one-of-a-kind, but don’t dismiss the reds. Made from local varietals, Poulsard and Trousseau (and occasionally Pinot Noir), these wines are just as distinct as the whites. They are light and ethereal, yet full of personality; loaded with crunchy fruits and earthy and savory qualities, these reds are the definition of terroir-driven. When talking with Clementine about Jura reds, she captured exactly why people love Jura reds, explaining they are, “unexpected, unusual wines with a very strong personality. This is part of our know-how and our traditions: producing unusual wines.” So if you’re looking to try something different, look to the Jura, there is no better place to start than with Domaine Baud, a producer who has been making unique wines in the Jura since the 1700’s, and might know a thing or two about producing classic Jura wine. Check out 

-Olivia Ragni