Weird Wines #1
The Pain and Pleasure of Drinking Jura
There are certain wines which require a certain reflection before casting judgement. Many of these wines have been around for hundreds or thousands of years, and have remained true to their roots, oblivious to the whims and scruples of changing tastes. I am speaking of the resin infused Retsinas , the aromatically challenged Bandols, the oxidized Grenache Blanc and Terret Blanc whites of the southwest, the Coulée de Serrant of Savennières and perhaps at the head of the pack, the Savignan based wines of the Jura. These wines are often not easy to drink, often needing an appropriate food accompaniment and an open mind. To this day, I have yet to find a wine that so well compliments garlic, yoghurt and oregano as a good Retsina.
So in defference to those who have remained unique in the face of the homogenization that is much of the world of modern wine, here is the first installment of wines to discover, understand and appreciate.
Arbois 2000, Béthanie, Fruitière Vinicole d’Arbois (saq..$23)
It is hard to think of the Jura without a mention of Vin Jaune, or ‘yellow wine.’ Made in it’s entirety with the local Savignan grape (a distant relative of the Traminer family), it is aged in old 60 gallon open casks in similar fashion to that of fino sherries, allowing a film forming yeast to develop on the surface. And there it rests for 6 years and 3 months until bottling. The result is a wine with a phenomenal richness, nuttiness and spiciness that accompanies a variety of strong cheeses and the classic vin jaune chicken.
A good way to enter the world of the Savignan is with this Arbois. Composed of 60% Savignan (aged for 3 years under the film) and 40% Chardonnay, it has the distinctive nuttiness of the vin jaune but with an added touch of browning apples, lemon and vanilla. Serve it at 15 degrees Celcius (around 60F) so as to bring out as much of the richness, spice and nuts that it has to offer. Any cooler, and the oxidized flavors are too strong and the wine becomes way too acidic. It will work wonders with terrines, chicken and with a strong, ripe cheese like Raclette. We serve it at L’eau with a fondue of Victor and Berthold Reserve, laced with cumin and nut bread as the dipper, a phenomenal mix and one which very few wines can handle. My first bottle took me a week to drink but I am now a convert.... So take your time, open your mind and mouth, and discover an extraordinary style of winemaking.