All Châteaux are not in Bordeaux!
Updated: Jan 27
Château-Châlon 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 60-hectare vineyards are located on well-drained slopes between 250 and 400 m altitude with a southern, southern-west orientation to receive more sun exposure and benefit from the protection against northern cold winds.
The local grape is Savagnin, a green-skinned offspring of Traminer, cousin of the more aromatic Gewürztraminer and Viognier. The density of planting must be at least 5000 per ha and the vines must be Guyot trained.
Savagnin is a late ripener and gives tiny yields (Max 30hl/ ha) of grapes picked at 13 to 15% 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 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). The palate is dry with high acidity, moderate alcohol, pronounced complex flavors of fruits, nuts and spices and the finish is long.
Personally, when I don't have Comté, I love to pair this wine with a Panaeng or Khaeng Massaman!
Among the 80 growers of Château-Châlon, 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 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.