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The little town of Arbois is the centre of the Jura wine region. It has justifiably proud independent producers making delicious wines with a distinctive character all of their own. Jura wines are making the headlines on the wine pages around the world, and because of the small supply, they are often difficult to find outside the region, although hip wine bars in London and New York have caught on. Some of the growers have cellars and wine outlets on the main street of the town where you can browse and do a tasting. Wine tourism is relatively undeveloped in comparison with its Burgundy neighbour but visit the wine shops such as Jacques Tissot, Henri Maire and André and Mireille Tissot, now run by son Bénédicte and his wife Stephane, for an overview. There are five grape varieties and the acclaimed Vin Jaune and Vin de Paille should not be missed. Tucked away in the town is Château Pécauld which houses the wine museum.
Good wine and good food go hand in hand in France and Arbois is no exception. Jean-Paul Jeunet is the chef of the two star Michelin restaurant-hotel. Be careful in your trip planning however - many restaurants are closed on Sunday evening and all day Monday. La Finette, open seven days a week, is a rustic country tavern serving regional fare such as chicken in Vin Jaune, salads with local Comté cheese and sausage, and cheese fondue throughout the year. Not to be missed on the main street there is a master chocolate maker, Edouard Hirsinger, recipient of top awards, a must for afternoon tea and an irresistible gateau delighting both the eyes and the tum.
home of Louis Pasteur
Spend an hour or so in the home of Louis Pasteur on the main street of town. Pasteur went to school in Arbois and later he inherited his father's tannery which was turned into his family home. Here he set up his laboratory with an incubation chamber, running water and a gas line, advanced ideas in the mid 1800s. Here he studied micro-organisms, developed vaccines for rabies and anthrax and came up with a way to treat milk and wine to stop bacterial contamination, now known as pasteurization. While clearly dedicated to his work, Pasteur seemed to have a happy family life, reflected in his home here.
Places to visit around Arbois
Arbois is a good base for exploring this area of the Jura. There are spectacular views and scenic walks which are well mapped out, often passing waterfalls and caves. But the joy of this area is the undulating landscape covered in vineyards. The Jura wine region stretches over 80 kms from Champagne-sur-Joue in the north to Saint-Amour in the south, a region known as Revermont. There are four AOCs (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) - Arbois, Côtes du Jura, L'Etoile and Château Chalon growing five grape varieties - Chardonnay, Savagnin, Poulsard, Pinot Noir and Trousseau. In addition there are three other AOCs, Macvin du Jura, a liqueur; Crémant du Jura, sparkling wine and Marc du Jura, an amber coloured brandy.
Visit the medieval village of Château Chalon, famous for Vin Jaune, which stands perched on a rocky outcrop. From the belvedere there is a panoramic view across the valley and the vineyards. This is one of the villages in the region classed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. The other is Baume-les-Messieurs with the ruins of its abbey, crouching in the valley framed by the rocky limestone cliffs. Driving around this area to the north-east of Lons-le-Saunier you will go through forests and tiny hamlets to viewpoints such as the Cirque de Ladoye
and Cirque de Baume.
Poligny, a ten minute drive from Arbois is labelled the capital of Comté cheese. There are fromageries in the centre of the town and many fruitières fromagère, or cheese producers, often co-operatives, in the surrounding area.
One of the highlights of the region is the visit to the salt mines at Salins-les-Bains, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here you can take a tour through the caverns and underground galleries, see how the salt water was extracted and processed. Salt was mined here for 1200 years in unbelievable conditions, with work only ceasing in 1962. In 1774 much of the manufacturing was transferred to La Saline Royale Arc-et-Senans, also a UNESCO site.
Ornans on the river Loue is a charming town to the north-east of Arbois set in stunning scenery.
A-Z Franche-Comté - some highlights at a glance
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