The extraordinary Vin Jaune

Feb 16th, 2010 Jayne Pearce

Vin jaune by literal translation means yellow wine. It makes its home in the Jura region of north east France. All four of the AC’s in this region make this incredible wine. The late harvested savignon grapes are then aged in small oak barrels for a minimum of six years, although some producers are known to age them even longer. The oak barrels are deliberately porous to ensure gradual oxidation and evaporation of up to 40% of the wine where there is no topping up. A flor yeast develops on the surface of the wine rather like the fino sherries of Spain. This aging method creates a distinctive flavour reminiscent of bitter nuts and some spice as well as green apple. Producers recommend leaving in the bottle for a further ten years before drinking.  The bottles themselves called ‘clavelins’ are 62 cl in volume. This is because for every litre of wine placed into barrel and left for six years, only 62 cl of the resulting wine is left.


I tried a bottle of 1994 vin jaune from producer Berhet Bondet of the Chateau Chalon AC. After a bit of research we drank it with a fondue while in Savoie and they did go very well together. The full flavours and acidity of the wine cut through the fattiness and balanced the richness of the melted cheese. Appearances can be deceptive though. The golden hues suggest a late harvested wine with high residual sugar but this is not the case as the style was definitely on the dry side. It was a wonderful experience if you are able to locate a bottle that has had lots of good bottle age.

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