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France, Jura

Wine is being produced throughout France and has been done for over 2,500 years with certain Châteaux dating their history back to Roman times, around 6th Century BC. Ranking second in the world in per-capita consumption and first in total production quantity. More-so than the overall quantity of wine is the quantity of truly great wines coming out of France makes the nation the envy of wine-making nations worldwide.

Two concepts pivotal to the higher end French wines, in particular, are the idea of 'terroir' and the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system. Terroir refers to the way the geography, geology and climate find their way into the glass, telling a story of the origin of the wine. The AOC was set up in 1935 and has the primary goal of protecting the authenticity of the wines and the livelihoods of the producers. Appellation rules strictly define which varieties of grapes and winemaking practices are approved for classification in each of France's several hundred geographically defined appellations, which can cover entire regions, individual villages or in some cases, like in Burgundy even specific vineyards.

Classic wine regions in France include Champagne (home of Champagne), Burgundy (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot), Alsace (Aromatic varietals), Loire Valley (Chenin Blanc, Crémant) and the Rhône Valley (Syrah, Grenache Mourvedre)

The Bordeaux classification of 1855 is still in use, as is the Sauternes and Barsac Classification of the same year. Wines from certain regions can be bought En Primeur, which is when the wine is sold prior to it being bottled.
For many budding wine enthusiasts, the wines of one of France's smallest wine region are largely unknown, while others associate it only with the distinctive sherry-like vin jaune. However, the Jura is much more than that. Comprised of four defined appellations; Côtes du Jura, Arbois, L'Etoile and Château-Chalon, the wines of the Jura are often famous for their eccentric varietals such as their famed Savagnin grape.

The Jura region can be found in eastern France, between Burgundy and Switzerland. Between Burgundy and the Jura is La Bresse, flat land lying on either side of the river Saône. The vines here start when the ground begins to rise to the east and towards a large limestone plateau. The continental climate is one with long cold winters and hot summers but with more rain than their Bourgogne neighbours.

Although the two regions are only about an hour's drive away from one another, the feel is different. The Jura seems much greener, lusher even, which is often attributed to their increased rainfall; but also explains the extraordinary array of cheeses from the Jura. The land under vine occupies a very small area among the foothills of the Jura, amounting to about 2,000 ha, though prior to the phylloxera outbreak, it used to amount to ten times the size.

As one of the smallest wine regions in France, the soil, not surprisingly, is limestone but with overlays of clays of varying hues which account for both the number of grape varieties used and for the complex nature of so many of the wines. Vines are also trained quite high to avoid spring frosts, however, the growers in the region need plenty of patience and nerves of steel as the harvest can easily extend into November.
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