Thursday, March 24, 2005

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.


Anonymous said...

Today I wish I was filthy rich and could hop a flight to your restaurant. I've always wanted to taste Vin Jaune. Odd, small, out of the way appellations intrigue me to no end.

As an oxidated wine aside: At what temp would you recommend drinking Fino Sherry?


caveman said...

Hey Beau,

A fino affeciando friend of mine says 10 Celcius(50F) is optimal...

Bradley Cooper, Winemaker said...

What kind of grape is Savignan? Traminer related? What altitude are these grapes cultivated at?
Are you familiar with the picking practices? I'm wondering if they're bringing these in at late harvest type Brix. Funny how some 'accidents' become localized custom over the centuries. I've heard of this wine. Felt a little sad for the poor buggers who have to manage the sanitation issues in a cellar full of open tanks/vats/drums et cetera. I heard of it being produced in a similar fashion in Switzerland and of course, served with the raclette.

caveman said...

Hey Bradley,
While not an expert in cépage geneology, I believe I have read somewhere that it is in fact traminer related.. In terms of altitude, Jura is pretty mountainous and you are correct that it is picked quite late(apparently into november).
Accident or not, it is quite an extraordinary drink though many of the New world loving, Classic Chardonnay Cab types that I have served have a hard time with this type of wine.
You thinking of trying it out?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bill. Into the Fridge the Sherry goes!

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Fortrel said...

I'll be in the area of your restaurant early next week so I might show up and try this Vin Jaune. Sounds interesting. I'm the kind of guy who enjoy tasting special wines.

Anonymous said...

I recently enjoyed glass of Chateau-Chalon M. Pichet 1996...if you asked me if it tasted good, I'm not sure I would know how to answer you. I do know that it was the most interesting wine I've ever tasted. And, I know that I want more. My knowledge ends there. I've been unsuccessful in trying to find it in the States. Suggestions?


caveman said...

Hi D.
Chalon is the king of the wierd Jura's..100% Savignan that has passed over 6 years under the voile (yeast formed film)...It is never easy to find and is an acquired taste... If you drank it too cold then I don't doubt that that it was tough (too much acidity and not enough richness).. I drink it at room temperature. It goes with either strong, firm cheeses or the famous poulet au vin jaune...but way to go trying it..

Jameson said...

Jura wines? You need to purchase a cheese from the Jura, Comte. It is a dream wine and cheese pairing. It's like manchego and a manzanilla sherry.

Tim said...

If anyone is interested this is how I cook Chicken in Yellow Wine.
Serves Four:
Get four chicken legs with thighs still attached. Get a pair of scissors and cut away the chicken from the bone but leaving it as a sleeve around the bone. When you get near the top (leave about one inch of bone at the end of the leg) chop out the bone (apart from the one inch at the end of the leg).
Now for the rich part!! Finely chop mushrooms (about 4 large ones)and cook in butter and one crushed clove of garlic. Cook for about 5 mins. Now mix half the mushrooms with some super thick cream (about 1 tablespoons). Reserve the other half of the mushrooms. Divide this amongst the chicken portions and use it to stuff the leg/thighs.
Now roll up the leg/thighs so they each become long boneless stuffed legs (apart from the small bone at the top that was left). This is the tricky bit. Get about 12" of cling film (ie polythene film wrap) and put the leg/thigh at one end. Roll very tightly till you get a long sausage shaped thigh/leg. Knot or tie up each end.
Place the wrapped thigh/legs in some boiling stock and simmer for 10 mins. After 10 mins put the in a hot oiled roasting tin for another 10 mins (oven should pretty hot) to brown.
Whilst this is happening warm through the reserved mushrooms. Take the brown thigh/legs out of the oven and keep warm. Meanwhile, pour a glass of Yellow Wine into the roasting pan and boil whilst scrapping up all the chicken juices. Boil down so only half a glass is left. Add a glass of the chicken stock you boiled the thigh/legs in. Boil down for a further 3 to 4 minutes. Turn down the heat a bit and add the mushrooms. Cook for a minute or so more as the pan gets slightly less hot. Now pour in a cup of thickish cream and simmer for about three to four minutes.
Place a puddle of the thick crean sauce on a plate. Place a thigh/leg on top and pour a little cream over it. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and served with boiled wild rice and a glass of Yellow wine.
This is very rich....but very wonderful.

Stan Julien said...

I had a bottle of Vin Jaune 1992 the other night. I can't remember the name of the producer. It tasted like a sort of farmhouse sherry which I suppose it is. The oily texture made swilling it around my mouth almost indecently pleasurable. It had an almost cheesy smell and i mean that as a compliment. It is certainly unusual but i don't think that difficult. Anyone who likes wine should enjoy this. I was lucky to get 3 bottles in a bin-end sale for about £12 each. I think they normally sell for 2 or 3 times this price. I want more!

I like your blog by the way.

Anonymous said...

hey just so you know the grape of the yellow wine you speak of is spelled "Savagnin" not Savignan. Love the wine!