[This article was written as part of a paid partnership with Jura & Trois-Lacs.]
A secret collection of old distilling equipment, hidden in a Delémont warehouse for decades, has found a new home at Ô Vergers d’Ajoie. Located just outside the city of Porrentruy, this agritourism site opened in 2018 and has several different functions. It serves as Switzerland’s museum of fruit and distillation, as well as a center of information for Damassine AOP (appellation d’origine protégée), an eau-de-vie made with the Damasson rouge plum. You’l also find a wealth of culinary specialties from the Jura for sale at its Halle aux gourmandises.
Hangar ô alambics and Grange aux fruits
Obtained by the federal liquor control board from 1930 to 1966, you can view some examples of these alambics (stills) at Ô Vergers d’Ajoie. Many of them made with copper, each of these historic stills has their own unique shape.
The control board bought thousands of these stills over the years with the intent of destroying them, and the vast majority of them have met this fate. Its goal was to improve public health by reducing alcohol production and ultimately, its consumption. In Delémont, however, the warehouse of the Régie des alcools kept 166 of these stills until 1987. They were finally revealed during a visit by members of Switzerland’s Federal Council. The Hangar ô alambics at the museum now houses a portion of this collection.
In the Grange aux fruits, you can learn about the five most cultivated fruits in Switzerland: apples, pears, apricots, plums and cherries. This interactive space also provides detailed information about the signature distilled product from the Jura, Damassine AOP.
Damassine, an eau-de-vie with a long history in the Jura, earned its AOP designation in 2010. In order to have the AOP label, this alcoholic beverage must be produced in the Jura with local ingredients. Before this designation, people referred to these plums as Damassine, but now this name only technically applies to the beverage. The fruit has received a new name: Damasson rouge.
Harvested by hand, generally between mid-July to the end of September, these delicate little plums are then put into barrels. After a period of fermentation, the distilling process takes place, and no later than December 31 of the year of their harvest. Producers cannot sell Damassine AOP until November 11, the day of Saint-Martin of the year following the harvest.
The Swiss typically consume Damassine AOP as a digestif after a meal. It’s traditionally served in a stemmed, fluted glass. You’ll immediately notice the distinct sweet smell and taste of these special plums.
Halle ô gourmandises
The Halle ô gourmandies at Ô Vergers d’Ajoie provides you with an opportunity for one-stop shopping of regional foods from the Jura. Not surprisingly, this large market has a wide selection of fruit-based liquors, such as Damassine AOP, Abricotine and more. The market also sells fresh fruit picked from the surrounding orchards. During my visit, I saw wooden bins filled with pears, plums and apples. It also has other culinary specialties available for purchase, such as the Totché (a savory yeasted cake), Tête de Moine AOP and Saucisse d’Ajoie IGP.
Planning your visit to Ô Vergers d’Ajoie
How to get there:
Public transit – Take bus 72 from the Porrentruy train station to the stop marked as “Porrentruy, Ô Vergers d’Ajoie.”
On foot – From the train station, you can walk the Sentier de la Damassine. It will take you approximately 15 minutes to reach Ô Vergers d’Ajoie.
Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00
It takes approximately one hour to visit the museum.