From a geographical standpoint, the Jura is not all that complicated. Just four regional appellations comprise this north/south swath east of Burgundy: Arbois, Côtes du Jura, Château-Chalon, and L’Etoile. Straight forward enough, but that is about where the simplicity ends.
The wines, on the other hand, can be confusing. All in one breath, they can be trendy and unknown, proper and quirky, recognizable and ridiculously flawed, overpriced, underpriced, intelligent and novelty. They can evoke profound reactions for both all the right and all the wrong reasons. Make sense? It doesn’t to me either.
So, a few basics: While Chardonnay is the principal white grape, Savagnin (not related to Sauvignon Blanc) is the region’s signature variety. Whites can be made tart, floral, fruity and fresh or oxidative (i.e. not protected from oxygen during processing and/or aging), which can be identified from a subtle, Sherry-like nuttiness, with the most ambitious version of oxidized Jura wine being vin jaune, a feather in the Jura cap that spends 6 years in old barrels, untouched.
Pinot noir stands with the two indigenous varieties, Poulsard (light-skinned and elegantly perfumed) and Trousseau (darker skinned, spicy, and red-fruit driven) that comprise red wine and rosé production in Jura. In top form, these grapes are bottled varietally, but more commonly are blended, as is the case with the Rolet Côtes du Jura Rouge.
Domaine Rolet is among the small handful of top quality producers in the Jura and I like these wines for two very specific reasons: they are a great value and, more importantly, consistently clean.
In a region where biological instability is fairly commonplace, or even embraced, I think these wines fill a bit of a niche. I know it might sound simplistic to say “I like these wines because they are routinely not fucked up,” because there is so much more to them than that, but it’s not a bad starting point.
Sure, wine flaws can to go hand-in-hand with natural and/or oxidized (especially unfortified) wines, and biological maladies do sometimes add to the rustic fabric of what the Jura is, but my sensory threshold for livestock fecal smells sometimes has limits. This wine pushes none of those limits, offering engaging tart red-fruit and a bit more polish instead. It’s acidic, minerally and light with some subtle forest aromas and spice. And, it’s just 20 bucks, so you should try it.