Hidden charms | Monocle

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Jura has a long history considering that it is Switzerland’s youngest canton, having only been founded in 1979. The region is peppered with pretty, old towns such as Saint-Ursanne and Porrentruy, intimate hotels in period buildings and a culinary tradition that draws influences from neighbouring France as well as its own heritage, which dates back to the Holy Roman Empire.

Vines at Domaine Blattner

Jurassians are known for being hardy and proud folk with a distinct way of doing things. No one exemplifies this better than the Blattner family. Olivia Hänggi-Blattner runs Domaine Blattner, a seven-hectare estate near the town of Soyhières, with her partner, Sven Hänggi. She took over from her father, Valentin Blattner, a pioneer in developing robust grape varieties. Jura is not renowned for its wine but the estate’s work has taken on newfound importance as climate change affects traditional wine regions in Italy and France. “You could say that you can taste the wines of the future here,” says Hänggi-Blattner.

This part of Jura has a terroir that is rich in limestone, giving the region’s wines a characteristic minerality. Valentin was among the canton’s first winemakers when he began cultivating grapes here in 1991. “He was doing some experimental work and Jura was the perfect place for this because of its unpredictable weather and lack of regulation around viticulture,” says Hänggi-Blattner. Today, Domaine Blattner makes red, white, rosé and sparkling wines using its own grape varieties. It produces about 6,000 bottles a year and has plans to increase that to 30,000.

Jura's wines have a distinctive minerality
Rustic decoration
Pool at Manoir de la Côte-Dieu

“Ravel blanc is my current favourite grape variety,” she says. “It lends our whites an amazing flavour profile, like a New Zealand sauvignon blanc coupled with notes of elderflower and gooseberry.” Jura’s wealth of agricultural land and unspoiled nature means that you can find great produce here, from the trout in the Doubs river to herbs such as elderflower and sweet woodruff. Clément Bourgeois is one of the Jura chefs making a name for its food. After working in two of the canton’s most celebrated restaurants, the two-Michelin-starred Maison Wenger in Le Noirmont and La Teinturerie in Delémont, he took over Le Soleil in Châtillon. 

Mouthwatering dishes such as stuffed morel mushrooms, monkfish back, frog legs a la meunière and rack of pork from Jura’s Franche-Montagnes are a wonderful window onto the region’s food. The cheeses from the nearby Maison Sterchi are well worth trying too. “Jura has some of the best ingredients in Switzerland and the local people have huge respect for their regional produce,” says Bourgeois. Le Soleil has its own herb garden, which the patrons can admire while sipping on damassine (a damson plum spirit) on the terrasse. “What sets us apart is the wild plants that we use in our cooking,” adds Bourgeois.

The town of Saint-Ursanne
Out in the open

“Jura is largely undiscovered by the outside world yet it has immense potential”

Small-scale agriculture is still very much in vogue in this part of Europe and visitors should try local specialities such as tête de moine cheese and saucisse d’Ajoie. Many head south to Neuchâtel but Jura’s rustic inns and smaller hotels offer a warmer and more intimate experience. Manoir de la Côte-Dieu is a historic hotel that sits next to the imposing Château de Porrentruy. The manor house was built in 1750 as the home of the castle’s treasurer. It now hosts a five-room stopover run by Méryl Boulanger, who took over the property in 2016 and restored it to its former glories. The Manoir de la Côte-Dieu’s rooms have original wooden floors, antique furniture and old art from Boulanger’s family collection. “I used to work as a watchmaker in Bienne and I always dreamed of opening an intimate hotel that feels like a home,” she says. “There is a very strong sense of community in the Jura region. Everything I serve at breakfast comes from nearby. The eggs are from a farm just a few hundred metres from here.”

Elsewhere in the town of Porrentruy, the 12-room Auberge du Mouton is a mix of old and new, all exposed brick walls and stylish bathrooms. Rebecca Leaver and her partner, Samuel Tobler, took over this protected 18th-century building in 2023, attracted by its historic charm and Jura’s appeal as a destination. The couple enlisted the help of Zürich-based Studio Norma to rethink the property’s interiors, adding hints of modern design to the heritage elements. “We want the hotel to also appeal to a younger, more design-conscious clientele,” says Leaver. Despite hailing from Zürich, the couple had no qualms about relocating. “Jura is largely undiscovered by the outside world yet it has immense potential,” she adds. “There is an authenticity here that is hard to find elsewhere.”

Getting here

The canton of Jura in Switzerland’s mountainous northwest is accessible by car or train from the nearby cities of Basel, Bern and Geneva. Canton capital Delémont is 40 minutes south of Basel by road and its second city, Porrentruy, is a half-hour onward drive northwest. Saint-Ursanne is nestled between the two.

Monocle’s route:
Day 1: Basel— Delémont—Porrentruy
Day 2: Porrentruy— Saint-Ursanne—Basel

Jura address book

Le Soleil:
Rue Principale 9, 2842 Châtillon

Auberge du Mouton:
Rue du Cygne 1, 2900 Porrentruy

Domaine Blattner winery:
Sur la Fin 103, 2805 Soyhières

The medieval town of Saint-Ursanne

Manoir de la Côte-Dieu:
Cras Mouche 2, 2900 Porrentruy

Auberge du Mouton:
Rue du Cygne 1, 2900 Porrentruy

Manoir de la Côte-Dieu:
Cras Mouche 2, 2900 Porrentruy

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