Lookin' Good at 58

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Savagnin Grape and Vin Jaune

Not to be confused with the Sauvignon Blanc grape , Savagnin is grown only in the Jura region of France and not anywhere else in the world. This region's climate is continental with hot summers and cold winters and there is the mountainous region of Savoie nearby that can cause temperatures to fluctuate. There is however a moderating effect from Lake Geneva and Lac Bourget. With Savagnin there is always the threat of coulure also so it is not a grape that would just grow anywhere. In the Jura is where it grows best.

By the way coulure is a vine disease caused when upon bud break alternating sunny and damp conditions occur that creates excessive foliage when the temperature heats up. By doing this the foliage takes away the nutruients destined for the grapes themselves causing minute growth in them and to fall off later.

In some years the grape does not ripen at all as it may not be ready to pick until December causing the resultant wine to be declassified.

On the gravelly soils around Chateau Chalon is where you find the best Savagnin grape that is small and the wine high in colour with a nuttiness about it.

A vin jaune wine , or yellow wine in English , the nuttiness really comes through because of the way the wine is aged. After a normal fermentation the wine is left to age in wooden barrels for 6 years without any topping up much in the same way sherry is aged. As in a fino sherry , without topping up a yeast flor will develop in the barrel with vin jaune causing a nutty , oxidative smell.

Then the distinctive wine is even more given it's own identity by being bottled in a special 62 cl bottle instead of the normal 75cl because the difference is what they estimate the amount of wine that evaporated during those 6 years.

Best opened long before sipping , this wine can be aged for up to a century without losing any quality whatsoever and it goes well with the local Poulet de Bresse. Poulet is chicken for those who are searching for the meaning.

Savagnin is also used for table wine and there are now stricter rules for making sure that it is not vin jaune wine that has failed the test. These wines that winemakers were passing off were heavily oxidized , but with new regulations there are some nice table wines coming out that are fresh and crisp with no oxidative aromas.

These wines are hard to find and taste. Has anyone out there tried a vin jaune?

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