Des montagnes, du Comté, et du Vin Jaune!

A month ago, in our cosy Little Clarendon Street shop, our restocking delivery was freshly dropped by one of our enthusiastic drivers. As the packages arrived, I noticed one particular box. Nestled within layers of paper and cardboard were three bottles with a label that bore the name Domaine de Savagny, Vin Jaune; the top of the bottle generously covered in a classy yellow wax. So many happy memories came back to me with these atypical bottles on the shelves here at the Oxford Wine Company.

Because when I was a kid, I visited Doubs and Jura, and while hiking in the forests and mountains, fell in love with this beautiful area close to Switzerland. I even stopped with my classmates at La Maison du Comté, to discover and taste the worldwide famous cheese, in Poligny. Unfortunately I was too young to put my hand on a “clavelin” at this time, the unique 62cl bottle containing exclusively the famous yellow wine from Jura.

A few years ago, during my short stint as a butler in All Souls College in Oxford, I had to make a presentation about the Sherry of Jerez de la Frontera. And it turns out that Vin Jaune is a Flor style wine (flor is a film of yeast that grows on the surface of the wine in the barrel). After 6 years and 3 months of ageing in oak barrels, the wine could almost be between Fino or an Amontillado sherry in flavour. Huge body, and nutty richness; flavours of walnuts, honey and almonds. A bit “marmite” as you love it or you hate it. Me and my friends hold it in adoration. Smooth and creamy on the palate, it’s a unique experience. The wine is made from 100% Savagnin Blanc, a grape which originates from this area.

You could pair this beauty with some mature and hard cheese, Comté being the number one; some chicken cooked in a creamy Vin jaune sauce with morels mushrooms; spicy food (incredible with south-east Asian food); or just as an aperitif.

And yes, you could probably keep it for 100 years in your cellar!

If you are looking for two other treasures of this wonderful terroir, you should try Macvin and Vin de Paille.

Macvin comes from a unique production process that’s traditional in France: it is made from unfermented grape juice – aka must – to which is added one-third of Marc, a local brandy matured in oak barrels and which must come from the same producer, Domaine de Savagny in this case. Macvin is the only French fortified wine to be made from grape brandy rather than wine, and it’s delicious! It reminds me of Pineau des Charentes from my family’s area.

Vin de Paille is a different process and even more rare. Grape bunches are laid on straw to dehydrate in the sun, and fermented only when they get to the desired concentration, then aged in a large barrel. Rich and sweet, with flavours of peach jam, nuts, citrus, honey and yellow plum, it is the traditional dessert wine for the Jurassiens (people of Jura).

To conclude, don’t forget that Jura is the smallest wine-producing area in France. Despite its diminutive size, the region boasts an abundance of character and complexity in every bottle, a testament to the passion and dedication of its winemakers. Have a breath of fresh air, imagine the mountains and the lovely cows eating the fresh grass of the green lands of Jura, and remember that greatness can often be found in the most unexpected of places. The spirit of Jura will forever linger in my memories and on my palate.