Domaine de la Tournelle - Jura

Domaine de la Tournelle fact sheet

While only about 80 km east of Burgundy, the Jura and the wines from the appellation of Arbois offer the curious, a unique and fascinating collection of white and red terroir driven wines made nowhere else in France or the world for that matter. With names like Savagnin, Ploussard (or Poulsard) and Trousseau, these wines, vinified and aged in a variety of styles, provide new palettes of flavor and offer a multitude of unique food pairing opportunities.

It’s hard to know where to begin in describing the area. Notably unlike the Côte d’Or to the west by the polyculture of its landscape, in these rolling hillsides vineyard plots are interspersed between pasture land, fruit orchards, wooded patches, grazing land and set against lush and stark panoramas of the hills to the east which form the frontier between France and north-west Switzerland. Like Burgundy, the Jura vineyards are a mix of clay and limestone soils that include outcrops of marl, with plenty of marine fossils dotting the vineyards and evidence of the area once lying under the sea. So why are the wines, in particular the white wines, so decidedly different from those of Burgundy?

Pascal ClairetThe first answer of course lies in the grapes, which are not found in other winegrowing regions, with the exception of Chardonnay. The next set of answers is location, climate and exposition, what the French collectively call terroir. All of these are of course unique to the Jura as they are to every wine growing region. The climate is decidedly cooler than it is in the Côte d’Or with the majority of vineyards lying at higher elevations and generally exposed to the south and to the southwest. After that, the individual nature of the grapes takes over and much more can be said of that. 

Domaine de la Tournelle, created in 1991, with not even a full hectare of vines, was and continues to be the product of its proud founders Evelyne and Pascal Clairet, both consulting winemakers before Tournelle and both with a strong orientation toward viticulture outside of the winemaking culture which came to rely heavily during the 1960’s and 70’s on chemical treatments. Since the time of its creation, the domaine has grown to encompass 6 hectares, planted in the Jura’s unique varietals.

While no discussion of the wines from the Jura can go far without considering it’s most unique and celebrated wine, Vin Jaune, a semi-oxidized wine made from the Savagnin grape, Pascal has also been a strong voice in the promotion of traditionally made wines from Savagnin, which showcases nothing other than grape and terroir. In this same vein, there are no blended varietal wines to be found at Tournelle, Pascal affirming his commitment to promote the wines of the region around its distinct varietals and terroir. 

Other things not to be found at Tournelle are herbicides, chemical fungicides, insecticides, chemical yeasts and new oak barrels. Foudre de Chêne and older Burgundy barrels are the only ageing vessels one will find upon a visit to their cellar. They bottle without the introduction of SO2 or when it is necessary, they employ miniscule amounts. The Clairet’s remain steadfastly committed to raising grapes in harmony with the surrounding natural players in the vineyard and in producing and consuming naturally made wines which express the regions rich winemaking traditions and unique terroir.


Mercurey, La Chassire, 1er Cru

Terre de Gryphes, ChardonnayThis wine is issued from two patches of Chardonnay, planted on clay and grey marl with the historical record of marine shells to be found dotting the vineyard…

Fleur de SavagninThis wine lies at one end of the spectrum marking the range of style that Savagnin, the region’s most celebrated white varietal, can produce.

Savagnin de VoileThe same process which produces the Vin Jaune is employed here to produce a sort of half way house to its more famous sibling.

Vin JauneAged for 6 years and 3 months in 5 year old Burgundy barrels which are purposefully not topped off as the wine slowly evaporates.

L’uva ArbosianaThe thin skinned Ploussard (Poulsard) grape makes a faintly colored red wine, more floral than fruity, with little or no tannin and although certainly red, inhabits the soul of a rosé wine.

Trousseau des CorvéesAnother of the Jura’s unique red varietals, the Trousseau grape makes a slightly darker and more structured wine than does Ploussard while still maintaining a bright personality…