Vin Jaune, the delicious and intense traditional wine expression of the Jura is mostly unknown or misunderstood. This wine, made in the appellations of Arbois, Cotes du Jura, L’Etoile and Chateau Chalon, is the product of the Savagnin grape varietal, a member of the Traminer family. Lacking the aromatic fireworks of its “Gewurz” cousin, Savagnin is a late ripening, temperamental grape, with low yields and high sugar content.
The winemaking techniques for Vin Jaune go back many centuries. Legend says that the abbesses of Chateau Chalon discovered that the wine from half empty barrels forgotten in their cellar was incredibly balanced, nutty and had an amazing longevity. That wine was given to the Abbey’s noble patrons, and the “Vin de Garde” from the Jura became famous throughout Europe.
Nowadays, Vin Jaune is made in a fairly standard way. Very ripe Savagnin grapes are slowly fermented in wood barrels, those barrels are never toped off, and with time and the right environmental conditions a layer of yeast or “veil” forms in the surface of the wine, creating a living lid that protects the wine from total oxidation and infuses it with aromatic compounds. For at least seven years the wine is aged and tested frequently. During this extended period significant evaporation occurs and alcohol and flavors concentrate, creating a wine that reminds you of hazelnuts, beeswax, herbs and curry.
Unlike Sherry, Vin Jaune is not fortified. Vin Jaune is certainly not a dessert wine, as a matter of fact is bone dry, but accompanies perfectly Alpine cheeses like Comte. Vin Jaune is great at the table, use it in a traditional way, with chicken, morel mushrooms and cream (one glass for the pot, the rest of the bottle for you!) but is also wonderful with vegetarian and Indian foods.
At Eli’s List we are proud to introduce the whole line of 2008 Vins Jaunes from Benedicte & Stephan Tissot, one of our favorite producers from the Jura, farmed biodynamically and made in a very natural way.
Arbois Vin Jaune En Spois Planted in clay soils, younger vines, peaty $98
Arbois Vin Jaune Les Bruyeres From a South facing slope, classic and elegant $130
Arbois Vin Jaune La Vasee From the oldest vineyard of the domaine, refined $115
Château Chalon From a lieu-dit called Sur Lya, ethereal, silky and salty $140