When my family and I were visiting Burgundy, France one November, we realized we had an extra night that we hadn’t made arrangements for. My husband and I had been interested in visiting Jura since drinking a bottle of Jean-François Ganevat Côtes du Jura Chardonnay at the restaurant Caves Madeleine a few years earlier. It was only about an hour from where we were and so we decided to go. We did some quick research, made some wine tasting appointments and sent some emails to hotels.
As we ventured into the region on a Friday morning the temperature began to drop.
Jura is located in eastern France close to the border with Switzerland. We passed limestone cliffs topped with medieval villages and rolling hills covered in golden vines and green spruce trees. It was off season and the streets in the medieval cliff-clinging village of Château-Chalon were ghostly quiet.
We slipped into a tasting at Domaine de Montbourgeau, a family-owned winery with a female winemaker. We were relieved when Château de Germigney, a Relais & Châteaux property in a historic hunting lodge, told us they had one room left. That evening, the hotel’s Michelin star restaurant was serving a special game dinner celebrating the hunt. We enjoyed drinks by the hotel’s massive stone fireplace, but we opted to eat at a more casual bistro down the street. When we returned, a band of bugle players in traditional red jackets was performing on the terrace. This ended up being one of the most memorable days and nights of our three-week trip.
Jura is located in Bourgogne Franche-Comté. It’s just 2 hours and 40 minutes by train from Paris.
Here are five reasons to visit Jura on your next trip to France.
It Has An Envelope-Pushing Museum
Not far from the city of Dole, Visitors turn off of the A39 onto a country road to get to the Museum of Urban Art and Street Art, France’s first museum with a focus on both urban and street art. Located in a 19th-century factory village, MAUSA’s permanent collection includes over 100 works by artists such as Keith Haring, Banksy, and Shepard Fairey.
The countryside location might seem puzzling at first, but MAUSA owner Stanislas Belhomme, an art agent and collector, says the industrial site is the perfect place for a living museum. He hopes it will help the underappreciated region gain more notoriety.
MAUSA opened for its first full season in April 2018. A literary café, a local production workshop and an artist-in-residence program are also in the works.
It has Impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Culturally significant sites dot Jura’s rolling hills. UNESCO added Le Corbusier’s postmodern Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp to the World Heritage List in 2016 along with 16 other Le Corbusier buildings. The chapel’s thick masonry walls and curved roof give it the appearance of a stylized mushroom.
The 2,000-year-old city of Besançon’s citadel, city walls and Fort Griffonare UNESCO World Heritage sites. The military engineer of King Louis XIV constructed them in the 1600s.
Starting in the 15th century Jura was an important place for salt production because of its deep, underground saltwater springs. The Royal Saltworks of Arc-Et-Senans and the Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains are on the UNESCO World Heritage List as well.
Its Wines Have a Cult Following
Jura is considered France’s smallest wine region, but it more than makes up for it in quality. Vintners primarily produce four grape varieties including Poulsard, Trousseau, Chardonnay and Savagnin. The village of Château-Chalon, designated one of Les Plus Belle Villages de France, is the birthplace of vin jaune. The region’s concentrated white wine is made of late harvest Savagnin grapes and matured in barrels for over six years. It isn’t topped off, as other wines often are, resulting in a deep yellow color and an intense, nutty flavor.
Domaine Château-Chalon makes benchmark vin Jura. Domaine de Montbourgeau makes an excellent and affordable version. Sommeliers love Jean François Ganevat’s Burgundian style Chardonnays with minute amounts of added sulfites. Neighbor Domaine Labet is making excellent wines from parcels of old vines.
It’s France’s Outdoor Playground
Jura is located between the Vosges mountains and the Alps. In the winter, outdoor enthusiasts nordic ski in Métabief, Monts Jura and Les Rousses. In summer, visitors and locals hike and bike in Jura National Park, fish on Lake de Chelain and hike the Route de Absinthe. The tourist trail was officially launched in 2009. Other spectacular natural sites include the Saut du Doubs, the Hérisson Waterfalls, the Loue Hot springs, Baume-les-Messieurs, and the Poudrey Chasm.
Its Food is Fabulous
Jura’s most famous export, Comté, is a hard cheese similar to gruyère made of unpasteurized cow’s milk. 2,600 Comté dairy farms are located in the Jura Mountains. The Routes du Comté connects travelers to Comté dairy farms, cheesemaking facilities and aging cellars with eight different possible itineraries. Cured meats smoked with pine and juniper like Morteau Sausage and Montbéliard are specialties of the region. Morbier, Mont-d’or, and Bleau de Gex are other wonderful local cheeses.
There are nine Michelin-starred restaurants in Jura and Doubs. A young chef took over the kitchen at the two Michelin star restaurant Maison Juenet in Arbois in 2016. Chef Pierre Basso-Moro helms the kitchen at the one Michelin star gastronomic restaurant at Château de Germigney. The restaurant has had a Michelin star since 1999.
Have you been to Jura? What were your favorite spots? Let me know in the comments below.
Hi Casey, do you know how my sommelier partner and I can get in touch with Domaine Labet? We would love to visit on our upcoming trip to Jura, but have been unsuccessful in finding a contact. Thank you!
Hi Madison. I do not, unfortunately. We only had time to visit Domaine de Montbourgeau. We made a pretty last minute appointment and they were very accommodating. Have you tried contacting the importer Charles Neal Selections? And sometimes we simply stop by wineries we want to visit as we travel to various wine regions in France. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Best of luck.
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