Château-Chalon is a picturesque medieval village of Jura that has given its name to a tiny and unique Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée producing only Vin Jaune.
The climate is cool and wet in Jura. The 50-hectare vineyards are located on well-drained marl slopes between 250 and 400 m altitude with a southern-west aspect. This enables the vines to benefit from afternoon and evening sunlight as well as protection against the cold northerly winds.
The local grape is Savagnin, a green-skinned offspring of Traminer, cousin of the more aromatic Gewürztraminer and Viognier. In Château-Chalon, the density of planting must be at least 5000 plant per hectare and the vines must be Guyot trained.
Savagnin is a late ripener and gives tiny yields (Max 30hl/ ha) of grapes picked at around 14% of potential alcohol in November or December.
The alcoholic fermentation is conducted traditionally, and the wine is then aged in 228 L oak barrels without “ouillage”. Ouillage is a term used to describe the usual refilling of barrels after natural evaporation due to temperature fluctuations. Barrels destined for Vin Jaune are NOT refilled. As a result of high temperature fluctuation between summers and winters, evaporation occurs and the level of wine decreases in the barrels. This provokes chemical reactions in the increasing airspace and a veil of yeast forms on the surface of the wine. This veil partially protects it against too much oxidation. Aging without “ouillage” must occur until the 15th of December of the 6th year after harvest with a minimum of 60 months under the “veil” of yeasts, which results in typical scents of walnut, curry and maple syrup.
The wine is then bottled in 62 cl “Clavelin” a glass flask of Spanish influence designed in the 1500’s. The finished white wine is golden in color, offers intense aromas of nuts, over-ripe apples, candied fruits, spices (curry, maple, cinnamon). On the palate, the wine is bone dry with bright acidity, full body, mineral, with pungent flavors of lemon zest, golden delicious, dried fruits, walnut, almonds, and spice flavors building across the palate to make a complex, long lasting impression.
To fully appreciate the flavors of this wine, don't serve it too chilled!
If served with other local wines in a meal... consider serving Vin Jaune after the reds...
For a local match, serve it with Comté cheese.
Among the 80 growers of Château-Chalon, 45 transform their own grapes into wine, 30 sell it to cooperatives and the rest to négociants (merchants). Vin Jaune is made in other places in the Jura. Some worthwhile examples can be found in Bangkok: Wine Garage has some in their portfolio. To learn more about French wines, enroll the upcoming French Wine Scholar with Wine & Spirit IQ at J'aime by JM Lorain, Michelin Starred Restaurant in Bangkok. To learn more about other grape varieties and other wine regions of the world, check out our WSET courses.
Anderson K. & Nelgen S. (2020) Which Winegrape Varieties Grow Where? A Global Empirical Picture Revised Edition Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press
Clarke, O. & Rand, M. (2015) Grapes & Wines. New York: Sterling Epicure
Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins du Jura (2021) Cahier des Charges de l'appellation D'origine Contrôlée "Château-Chalon" Retrieved from: https://www.jura-vins.com/aoc-chateau-chalon.htm
Robinson, J. (2015) The Oxford Companion to Wine. New York: Oxford University Press Inc