Curds & Nerds: Exploring the Unique Wines and Cheeses of France's Jura
“I welcome you for your first visit in the Jura. Thank you for picking my vineyards to see but first, I must take you to the cheese.”
This, the broken English and smiling eyes of Xavier Reverchon when we stopped in for a visit to his tiny Domaine in Poligny, a village in France’s Jura region located at the base of the Swiss alps. It was a chilly and rainy April afternoon but no amount of rain or dark ominous skies could deflect from Xavier’s enthusiasm for the wines and Comte cheese of his beloved region.
My three other travel companions and I pulled our scarves tight around our necks, piled into our luggage-stuffed car and followed Xavier’s car down the road to the local creamery co-op. The rolling hills green and lush, the cows, their massive bodies seemingly undisturbed by the constant pelting of icy rain drops as they walked about the fertile pastures.
I could hear the tiny pebbles of gravel crunching beneath our tires as our car pulled up to a, mildly cheesy, (pun intended) looking store with a cartoonish sign of a big smiling cow out front. As we climbed out of the car we watched as other cars pulled in and drove off, families out to pick up some local cheese for dinner. Entering the shop we saw a counter where you could taste cheeses in various stages of aging as well as a handful of other local products. There were low-sitting tables scattered with toys cut from wood and painted in bright colors, something to keep the kids busy while the elders noshed on samples and gossiped about local politics.
We were given shoe coverings and white lab jackets before being ushered into the back of the creamery where all the cheesy magic was made then tucked away on high shelves to slumber into perfection. We walked from the cheese making area to the varying aging rooms, the aromas going from freshly cleaned metal drums, or vats, to highly pungent, almost nose stinging intensity.
We were taught that one of the things that made the nutty and fruity Comte extra unique is that there is not one owner of the many creameries in Jura, they are all co-ops, so all the village's farmers contribute milk from their cows, the ones that graze on the local grasses and flowers so much like the wines there is an exclusive sense of place, or terroir to each village's cheeses.
And people have very strong opinions as to which villages produce the most outstanding quality.
Standing in that creamery in Poligny, Xavier Reverchon beaming from ear to ear, we were assured that the very best Comte came from that very spot. Lucky for us right? With cheeses and local goodies stuffed into our already bulging luggage, snacks and gifts for visits down the road, we were on our way back to Xavier’s winery to partake of his organically grown, less than 3,000 cases production wines.
I had tasted two or three of the Reverchon wines back in California at the shop and an importer dinner, brought out to get our opinions whether this was a wine that ought to be imported. But this was to be my first tasting through the entire range, which is still just about five or so different bottlings.
The Reverchon wines had, before that trip, not ever been exported. Not just to the United States but anywhere outside of France, even. Xavier and wife Isabelle making so little wine that most was sold to visitors, or fans, of the winery or at wine fairs that couple would attend.
Xavier was positively vibrating with excitement and pride that we had all come to taste and select wines to stock in our shops in California. He couldn’t wait to show us the special room where he aged his wines, his extensive vintage record keeping system, the one scrawled onto a large piece of cardboard, kept his labeler and even the, “fancy” twelve bottle wine boxes, instead of the standard six bottle ones, that he bought just to ship wine to The States.
The initial, “tour” over, we headed into the dining room where Isabelle was waiting with wine glasses and set table, the smell coming from the kitchen drawing us in even deeper. Local Comte, Poulet au Vin Jaune, and splash after splash of the Reverchon’s charming wines. So very proud to be able to share these, as well as a few new Jura favorites with you all.
Be sure to check our cheese case next time you’re in; we try to always have at least one Comte to offer, usually in the tender 15-18 months of age range. Grab a hunk of that mild, densely packed, nutty cheese and one of these wines and get your palate nerd on.