One of the most incredible wines ever, the “N•12” special cuvée from Chateau Chalon was absolutely mind blowing. Bottled in 2000, the cork had a funny cap pinned on it but I could see the color was the deepest yellow even through the green glass. The bottle itself is called a “clavelin”, and is a particular weight, shape and volume that dates back to 1506 under the law of Marguerite de Bourgogne.
Clearly this was a wine that would be challenging so I was careful to try it at varying temperatures (started chilled and let it warm in the bottle over a course of hours). Maybe challenging isn’t the right word, I mean that it deserved respect and focus, otherwise the many layers of flavor and texture might go unappreciated. Maybe it was because I was looking at Pierre Bonard paintings, but I felt the similarity: instant gratification from lush, vibrant colors that with pause open into permeating depth and subtle movement.
The colors reverberate at different intensities, the layers stringing together a whole bunch of sounds. It was like that with this wine: epic, erotic, historic. Almonds and honey, second cutting hay and some kind of incense, maybe turmeric, chamomile and genet. Finesse, but dank.
It turns out this bottle was from a special harvest from grower François Rousset-Martin, who has been working with Chateau Chalon more recently on vins ouillés (topped off, non-oxidative wines) previously unheard of for this AOC. But this wine rests for an extended élevage in barrels of 228 liters (Burgundy barrels) in ancient cellars, for a period of 12 years without topping off before bottling! The “voile” refers to the veil of yeast that forms along the top of the wine as it sits in the barrel, slowly building the character of what are considered some of the best wines in France.
In order to adhere to the regulations of the Chateau Chalon AOC (subregion of Jura made up of 4 parts: Ménétru-le-Vignoble, Domblans, Château-Chalon et Nevy-sur-Seille), there are several other strict requirements, including that the wine must bottle at a minimum of 12% ABV, it must be 100% Savagnin, and if the weather is deemed unfit or subpar, it is recoiled and no wine can be made/sold under the AOC from that vintage.
Given the nature of the restrictions and history surrounding the appellation, it’s no wonder the vignerons of Chateau Chalon are referred to as auteurs. It really gives you a sense of the expectation that each winemaker is an artist in their own right, cultivating grapes with unique and expressive character. Do I enjoy the wine more knowing that it’s extremely rare and almost impossible to find? Yes, yes I do.