Salins les Bains to Poligny
By Wink Lorch
This Guide was last updated on 25 June 2014
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The 'capital' of the wine area, Arbois is the real heartland of the Jura vineyards and a beautiful little town, famed for being where Pasteur grew up – you can visit his house (see ‘Other Attractions’). There is a short, leisurely walk along the pretty River Cuisance signposted from the Maison Pasteur or the main church Eglise St-Just, which gives a flavour of the town. It's an ideal base for visiting the region, especially now that the accommodation offering is improving with a fine new hotel and restaurant Les Caudalies opening in 2009, and growing numbers of chambres d’hôtes. The centre can be explored in a short time on foot and has some excellent gourmet shops and a wide variety of restaurants. Trap doors on the pavements indicate the presence of a wine cellar, usually for ageing barrels of Vin Jaune – well worth exploring if you get the chance. There are several wine shops, many owned by producers, so if you only have a short time, you can taste and buy right here. One of the best ways to appreciate the true flavour of the town is to attend the Fête du Biou, held every September (see ‘Local Events’).
Today Salins is a sleepy town with one main street which used to be on an important strategic and religious route, guarded by the two forts towering on the hills above it. Once extremely important as a salt production centre it became a spa town in the late 19th century and thermal baths and spa treatments are still available today (see tourist office website listed above for full details). The saltworks, which can be visited, are in the UNESCO World Heritage list of French monuments. They make a good twin visit with the Saline Royal (see 'Other Attractions'). In the north of the wine area, it is not far to visit the vineyards of Arbois (indeed there are even a few vignerons based in the hills around Salins).
A town on a major crossroad to Switzerland and the Alps with the main road from Dijon to Geneva running through it, the centre can be very busy with traffic. As well as being surrounded by vineyards, it is also the centre for the production of Jura’s most famous cheese, Comté, a hard Gruyère-type of cheese, which you can buy from several shops there. The centre has some interesting buildings, notably the Clos des Ursulines, a cloister that is all that remains of a 17th century convent. For a simple meal, Les Platanes in the centre is reliable, or try Le Casta pizzeria in Grande Rue. A very comfortable chambres d'hôtes has recently been opened here too, Les Jardins sur Glantine, where you can also taste the interesting wines of Les Chais du Grand Bourg and arrange both a convivial meal and vineyard visit.
Just a few kilometers outside Arbois, perched above a vineyard bowl, the little winegrowers village of Pupillin styles itself as 'World Capital of Ploussard' beacuse it grows more of this unusual pale red grape (also called Poulsard) than any other village in the Jura - Poulsard is only found in the wine regions of Jura, and nearby Bugey to the south. There is a good viewpoint over the vineyards with a picnic place at the southern end of the village, clearly marked. Apart from visiting a few wine-growers, the village is definitely worth a visit for Le Grapiot restaurant (see 'Places to Eat'). There are five chambres d'hôtes in the village if you want to stay overnight, with a couple offering evening meals too.
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