Located smack dab in the middle between Geneva and Beaune, the little town of Arbois is a delightful secret found in the mountains of Jura. The wines and indeed the town remain unchanged by the test of time. This home to Louis Pateur is also home to spicy and light red wines made from Pinot Noir, Trousseau and Polsard along with bracing and crisp whites fashioned from Chardonnay and Savagnin, though you may be hard pressed to find them outside of Jura.
The winters of Arbois are very cold, which can sometimes make it difficult to acheive ripeness on the vine. However, the wines of Arbois were at one time very popular. The ravages of phylloxera, the movement of rail systems to more popular growing regions, and the use of traditional grape varietals have all taken a toll on this sleepy region in the foothills of the Alps. At one point the wines of this region almost faded away entirely, though they are making a slight comeback today.
Along with a large quantity of red wine Arbois is known for producing excellent dry Rosés. Sparkling wines made from Chardonnay are known here as Arbois Mousseux. The sub-appellation of Arbois-Pupillin refers to wines from the small commune of Pupillin.
The most popular wines of this region remain the Vin Jaunes and Vin de Paille produced here. The Vin Jaune (Yellow Wine) is made in a process very similar to Fino Sherry in that a yeast forms on the surface of the wine as it is kept in large open vats. Under this flor the wine oxidizes and takes on a yellowish hue, along with notes of almonds and bitter herbs. These wines can be very long lived.
Gaining in popularity are the unctuous Vins de Paille, which are made by allowing the grapes to dry on straw mats before fermentation. The wine then spends long periods of time in barrel where it can take on a slightly oxidized character, but also extreme depth and richness. The process may be the same as Amarone, but the end result is a wine heavy in character, weight and residual sugar. A lovely treat if you can find one.
France → Jura → Arbois