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Thursday 7 May 2015

Vin Jaune with Wink Lorch

A tasting of Jura's vin jaune introduced by Wink Lorch
For the uninitiated, vin jaune is Jura's answer to sherry; a wine aged extensively in barrels over which a voile (film) of yeast grows giving the wine a pungent, nutty tang.
Like sherry, it is one of the world's great wines with curious, distinctive flavours of cidery baked apples, nuts and spice, for which an affection creeps up over time with greater acquaintance.
Unlike Fino sherry, the wine is not fortified and the barrel is not topped up. It is sold in a  62cl clavelin (1l of initial fill results in 62cl of vin jaune, apparently) whose shape is, like the wine, curious yet distinctive and satisfying,
Recently arrived back in the UK from New Zealand (via the Americas), Jura expert and author of Jura Wine, Wink Lorch gave us a deeper dive into the world of vin jaune.
Like sherry, vin jaune is defined by its production method, but it is not homogeneous; the barrels are stored under varied conditions, open to the elements to promote the growth of the voile and so some develop more reliably and consistently than others.
There is no science to the storage conditions - it may be production-method led, but the scale is not industrial. However, the CIVJ provides a monitoring service, checking barrel samples every six months to indicate which barrels are developing better than others.
Given that vin jaune is such a niche product (making up only 4% of all Jura wine), this allows lesser barrels to be bottled or sold for blending for cash flow purposes, leaving only the best to kept for the minimum six years and turned into the much more expensive vin jaune (it is around double to treble the price of ordinary Jura wine).
The free-pour tasting of a dozen bottles of vin jaune from 2007 back to 1988 was the largest collection of this type of wine that I have ever seen in one place and certainly the most extensive in terms of age.
All the wines had a distinct family resemblance - the sharp, cidery acidity, baked / preserved apple fruit and a nutty-yeasty tang. Within this, there were variances of emphasis by bottle and also due to the effects of air - for each newly-opened bottle, there was one that had been opened earlier in the day and which had generally opened up and rounded out as a result.
Finally, there were variances by chronology - the younger wines (2000 - 2007) were sharper and fresher, whilst the acidity in the oldest wines ('80s) had softened revealing more of the complex nutty flavours beneath.
With this many wines of a distinct style in one place, there were no particular favourites that stood out (as Jancis Robinson note) - except to say that, for me, the very oldest wines were superb.
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