|Château Chalon and Vin Jaune
The legendary "Yellow wines" of the Jura
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|The vineyards of the Jura go back to Roman times. Before the late 19th century phylloxera crisis (which only arrived here in the 1890's,
several decades after it had hit Bordeaux), the region had more than 40 grape varieties on 20 000 hectares. Today, there are 1 850 hectares
of vineyards, spread over four geographical Appellations d'Origine Contrôlée (Arbois, Côtes du Jura, l'Etoile, Château-Chalon), together with
two AOC products, Macvin du Jura and Crémant du Jura.
The wines come exclusively from five grape varieties: Chardonnay and Savagnin (white), Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir (red).
Château Chalon is the oldest and most famous of the 6 Jura AOCs. This single hilltop of just 19 hectares is home to the extraordinary Vin
Jaune ("Yellow wine"), made from the Savagnin varietal. The grapes are harvested late and then aged in small oak barrels for a minimum of
6 years and 3 months (although some producers age their Vin Jaune for up to 10 years or more in barrel). The slightly porous oak barrels
are, by design, not completely airtight, and a considerable portion - nearly 40% - of the wine therefore evaporates over the years (the
so-called "angels share). No topping up is done. A thick layer of flor yeast, looking like a white foam, develops on the surface of the wine and
helps prevent excessive oxidation. This aging method, similar to that used for fino sherry in Spain, but in France specific to the Jura, allows
the wine to acquire its distinct flavours, characteristic of walnut, almond, spice and apple, before release. This remarkable dry wine, at its
best immensely complex and very aromatic, is best appreciated after at least 10 years in bottle and has the ability, in good vintages, to age
for a century or more.
This unique wine is bottled in a unique bottle, squat with a deep punt, called a "clavelin". Each clavelin has a capacity of 62cl (0.62 litres) -
based on the fact that for every litre of newly made wine put into barrel, just 62 centilitres is left after nearly six and a half years of ageing. Vin
Jaune is the only wine allowed to be sold in France in a bottle of this capacity. The wines of Château Chalon are distinguished by an
additional escutcheon at the base of the neck.
Only Vin Jaunes are entitled to the appelation Château Chalon (ie all Château Chalons are Vin Jaunes), but Vin Jaunes are also made in all
three of the other Jura AOCs, Arbois, Côtes du Jura and l'Etoile.
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