Daily Archives: July 1, 2009

Yellow wine, straw wine


Map courtesy of Charles Neal Selections

As promised, I want to touch on a few of the unique wine styles found in the Jura region of France.

Vin jaune (yellow wine) is one and it’s made in a purposely oxidized style.  The grapes are picked and fermented as normal, but then the wine is placed in old, 60 gallon casks that are not filled to the top in order to encourage the growth of a film-forming yeast called the voile (veil).  This process is similar to sherry production but there’s no fortification.  The voile is not as thick as the flor (the Spanish voile equivalent) in sherry production because the temperatures are lower here than in southern Spain.   The wine is not bottled until 6 years and 3 months after harvest and it’s full-bodied, mineral-driven and nutty.

The best vin jaune appellation is Château-Chalon, where the wine must be made using the local Savagnin grapes.  You’ll often see it in a distinct clavelin bottle, which is 620 ml, as opposed to the standard 750 ml wine bottle.   The locals claim that 620 ml is the amount left after leaving a liter in cask for 6 years.  Vin jaune from the best vintages will last 50 or more years.  A compound called sotolan forms during the bottle aging process and can give the wine spicy, curry flavors.  Try it with poultry dishes or a cheese course.  Here are some producers to look for: Jean Macle, Berthet-Bondet, Baud Père et Fils and Philippe Butin.

Another unique style in the region is vin de paille (straw wine), a long-lived sweet white wine made from grapes that have been dried on straw mats.  This style is called strohwein in Germany.  These wines are rare and only produced in very ripe vintages.  Once the grapes have raisinated, the yield is pretty small, so you’ll usually find these wines in half-bottles.

The Jura producers use Savagnin, Poulsard or Chardonnay to make this style and they often will place the grapes in boxes, rather than on mats, to dry them.  The grapes are pressed in January and are aged in cask for at least three years.  The resulting wine is rich and honeyed, with notes of dried apricots.  Try it with fruity or nutty desserts, with pungent cheeses or as a dessert on its own.


Filed under Lessons, Wine