Yellow Wine (Vin Jaune)

Vin Jaune by Didier

When visiting Franche-Comté, and more precisely Jura, you will undoubtedly want a taste of the local products. Well, since you will be in France, cheese and wine seem like the obvious choice and this part of eastern France has plenty to offer!

But, among all the wines you may taste, one definitely stands out : the Vin Jaune (“yellow wine”) from the Jura wine region. A single look at its rich glowing color is enough to grasp the relevance of its nickname, the “gold of Jura”.

Vin Jaune aging in an observation barrel.

Vin Jaune aging in an observation barrel.

The wine-making process for Vin Jaune originated in Château-Châlons, a small village perched on a hill, 50 miles south of the region’s capital city Besancon (a Sojourner Tours base town). It is said that the discovery of a forgotten wine barrel led to the unusual process which has made Vin Jaune one of France’s most exceptional wines for almost three centuries.

Savagnin grapevines growing in the Château Chalon AOC

Savagnin grapevines growing in the Château Chalon AOC

Vin Jaune

Vin Jaune

Only the Savagnin grape variety can be used for this wine production (not to be confused with the more common Sauvignon grapes -Savagnin is very rare). Once they are pressed, the resulting must is poured in oaken barrels where it will mature for 6 years and 3 months, a duration which is a legal requirement. A veil of yeast appears on the surface and plays a full part in achieving the distinct taste of Vin Jaune. Over the maturing process, about a third of the wine will have evaporated: when the barrels are open, only 62 centiliters (cl) for each original litre remain! The 38 vanished ones are called the angels’ share.

The wine is then bottled and here again Vin Jaune distinguishes itself by using a unique model of bottle called the “clavelin” whose name probably comes from a priest who ordered this kind of bottles from a glass factory with his name (Clavelin) on them. And the capacity of a clavelin is….. 62 cl.

Vin Jaune is produced in four geographical AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) which translates as “controlled designation of origin” is a label guaranteeing the quality of wine): Arbois, L’Etoile, Côtes du Jura and Château-Châlons. But Château-Châlons is the only one to specialize exclusively in the production of Vin Jaune.

The Festival "Percée du Vin Jaune"

The Festival “Percée du Vin Jaune”

Since 1997, in early February, a weekend festival called “La percée du Vin Jaune” is organized by a village in the production area. The highlight of the festival is when a barrel of Vin Jaune is symbolically pierced open so people can taste the latest production before it is bottled.

As for the tasting part, Vin Jaune should be open several hours prior to the drinking so the wine can breathe and let out all its flavors of nuts and spices. It tastes like no other wine and it may take some time to fully enjoy it.  In order to do so, walnuts, Comté and Morbier cheese, smoked Morteau sausages are often recommended to match the taste of Vin Jaune, and will enhance a moment still regarded as unique by wine lovers.


One thought on “Yellow Wine (Vin Jaune)

  1. Pingback: Classic Cuisine: Northern French

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