Lifting the Veil on Vin Jaune

Continued from Savagnin: Grape & Wine of the Jura

The prized wine of the Jura region in France is Vin Jaune. Meaning yellow wine, this is wine made entirely from Savagnin grapes and aged for at least 6 years and 3 months in oak barrels. Vin Jaune is non ouillé; the barrels are not topped up with wine to replace the liquid lost during evaporation.

What sets this wine apart from any other long aging wine is “le voile.” Meaning the veil in English, this is a layer of yeast that forms on top of the liquid over time as the wine mixes with air. Wine for Vin Jaune is aged above ground, not below in caves. This is best for cultivating the yeast that forms the veil.

It may not be the prettiest thing to look at with its grayish-brown color and bubbles, but le voile is what makes Vin Jaune — and the Jura region — so special. The veil is something that can only happen with Savagnin, and only with the yeasts that are naturally occurring in the Jura. It is a tradition of winemaking that goes back many generations.

Why go through this long and somewhat unusual process? Think of Vin Jaune like a dry aged steak. When beef is dry aged it develops a layer of mold on the outside, similar to le voile. The meat shrinks in size as moisture evaporates, just like wine aging in barrels. But when it is finally time to eat that dry aged steak the taste is phenomenal.

Like a dry aged steak, Vin Jaune has savory nutty and ripe cheese flavors. Yet at the same time Vin Jaune is dry, with bright acidity and fresh citrus notes. The combination of these seemingly opposite flavors is what makes Vin Jaune so exciting to drink. You could spend hours discussing this wine.

Vin Jaune can range in color from straw yellow to gold. The wine is clear and is 14% alcohol.

Savagnin wine is like a baby Vin Jaune because its aging ends sometime before the mandated 6 years and 3 months. Because of Vin Jaune’s longer aging its flavors are similar to those in Savagnin wine, only more intense.

Flavors in Vin Jaune can include ripe Camembert cheese, green and golden apple, candied orange peel, lemon and lemon peel, ginger, nutmeg, curry, vanilla, sandalwood, almond, hazelnut and walnut. There’s a touch of rancio, a wine term often used with Cognac that describes the mix of woodsy, earthy and musty flavors.

Oxidative flavors are present in Vin Jaune, yet the acidity keeps the wine fresh. This acidity makes Vin Jaune great for aging. If you taste a Vin Jaune that is 5, 10 or 20 plus years old it will still have those fresh notes.

A traditional way to enjoy Vin Jaune is after a meal with Comté cheese and walnuts. Other pairings include curry or saffron based dishes, foie gras, coq au Vin Jaune, trout, shellfish or morels. Vin Jaune should be served chilled, between 57ºF and 60ºF. Winemakers in the Jura suggest uncorking a bottle of Vin Jaune an hour before drinking.

The finest Vin Jaune comes from the AOC Château-Chalon, located in the heart of the Jura. A picturesque perched village gives the AOC its name.

Related Articles:
Savagnin: Grape & Wine of the Jura
An Introduction to the Jura
Harvest in the Jura Video

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