Arbois, Jura. Clavelin (620 ML)
Vin Jaune from the Jura, French Alps. Made from the Savagnin grape. Aged 6 years, 3 months, under its flor, in neutral Burgundy barrels. Boasts bracing acidity, salted caramel, lemon zest, crushed oyster shells, underripe kiwi, brine. First sip is way tart, then you get used to it. Will age forever and a day.
Vin jaune (French for "yellow wine") is a special and characteristic type of white wine made in the Jura region in eastern France. It is similar to dry fino Sherry and gets its character from being matured in a barrel under a film of yeast, known as the voile, on the wine's surface. Vin jaune shares many similarities with Sherry, including some aromas, but unlike Sherry, it is not a fortified wine.
Vin jaune is made from late harvest Savagnin grapes, a white variety in the Traminer family which is less aromatic than the better-known Gewürztraminer. The grapes are usually harvested in late October when the sugars have developed enough to have a potential alcohol level of 13–15% for the finished wine. The grapes are fermented slowly and then kept in small old oak casks that hold 228 liters (60 gallons). The casks are not topped up, as they are with most wines, so an air gap appears above the wine due to evaporation. A film of yeast grows over the wine, protecting it partially (but not totally) from oxidation. In Jura, this film is called the voile (veil), but it is similar to the more familiar "flor" in Sherry production. The voile yeast has many similar properties to "flor" but thrives better in a lower alcohol environment and develops less heavily and thickly than "flor" does.
The voile typically takes two to three years to develop fully. During this time the wine is exposed to slight levels of oxidation that provoke chemical changes that produce ethanal (as well as ethanol, standard alcohol) and the aroma compound of sotolon. These compounds contribute to the unique flavors and aromas associated with vin jaune. Winemakers must carefully observe the wine throughout the aging process as there is a risk of it developing the wine fault of volatile acidity.
The wine acquires its characteristic yellow color and nutty flavors as it ages for the requisite time of six years and three months, the time that must elapse between harvest and bottling, although at certain points during this time the wine is not necessarily in the cask. After the allotted time, only about 62% of the original wine remains. The vin jaune is then bottled in special squat bottles that hold 62 cl (21 ounces), called clavelins. Historically the bottle size alludes to the amount of wine left over after six years of aging and evaporation.