Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What is Château-Chalon?

The Wine Advocate has selected Domaine Jean Macle’s 2007 vintage of Château-Chalon as one of its top 50 wines of the year. Reviewer Luis Gutierrez rated the wine 98 points and says, “the nose is explosive and complex with strong aromas of morilles, green walnuts and perhaps a rancid touch; there are also spices, curry and cardamom. The palate is both sharp and has volume, is full with great acidity, makes you salivate and leaves a salty tasty on your lips.” This is Vin Jaune, described as no other wine in the world could be. What is this extraordinary wine, and what makes it so special?

The short answer is voile. Often compared to Sherry’s layer of flor, this is a layer of yeast that naturally forms over the surface of the wine when it isn’t topped up while in barrel (as most wines are).  Voile, unique to this part of France in the Jura, also thrives in a lower alcohol environment, isn’t as thick as flor, and also takes two to three years to develop properly, during which time the wine acquires its signature oxidation. Vin Jaune must be aged for a minimum of six years and three months, making it one of the longest aging requirements in the wine world. Only after this amount of time does the wine take on its distinctive nutty flavor and deep color.

Though Vin Jaune can be produced in several appellations, Château-Chalon is its spiritual home and the residence of the most prestigious wines. The brix level requirement at harvest is higher in Château-Chalon, and the grapes, while picked late, are never botrytized. The winemakers of the appellation are notoriously quality-driven, and will not produce Vin Jaune in sub-par vintages.

The resulting wine is often paired with local cuisine, most notably chicken with morels (where is it used in the recipe) and Comté cheese. In addition to our Château-Chalon from Domaine Macle, Langdon Shiverick’s other Jura producer, Les Chais du Vieux Bourg, has also acquired land in the appellation and will begin exporting Vin Jaune, bringing even more of this singular wine to the U.S. market.

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