Tag Archives: Savagnin

Wine Mine: January 2016

Christian Drouhin, Cidre du Poiré, 375ml 

A spontaneous combustion of pear magic.  Refreshing, courageous, a good start/middle/end to any day. Even for non pear fans thanks to the gentle funk.

A blend of 5 pear types: Plant de Blanc, Muscadet, Tricotin, Avenelle & Poire de Grise

Unfiltered, just pears.

 Vin Jaune d’Arbois, Jacques Puffeney, 2006


For only 14%, this vin jaune has decidedly strong weight to it and no flab. Toast, nuts, caramelled honey (is that a thing?) lingering acidity to balance, giving great mouthfeel. Not for the fainhearted.

A rare wine, made only the very best years, of Savagnin aged between 6-8 years in foudre before being aged further in bottle.

BARBARESCO, Produttori del Barbaresco, 2011

The Queen is in good form. Classic co-operative Produttori del Barbaresco offers a shining example of elegance, a ruby of Piedmont. Nearly herbaceous aromatics, surprisingly structured yet subtle. Climbs the walls of your mouth, builds energy the longer it’s open. Detailed.

Domaine Grand Guilhem “Fitou”, 2014

A blend of indigenous vines in Languedoc, averaging around 60 years old: Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre. Grown in the hot, dry sun on gentle slopes. From the oldest AOC in Languedoc (Corbieres), considered a royal wine of the 17th & 18th century.

Concentrated, intense body, prunes, nuts and rugged caress. Let it air for an hour before drinking, definitely will age well over several years. No added sulfites.

Vermouth di Torino, “Rosso”, Alessio 

Banned by the church in the Dark Ages as it was considered a self-serving tonic that drew people away from religion as the keeper of knowledge. Considered a luxury wine. Originally created by Girolamo Ruscelli (alias Alessio Piemontese), this vermouth has made been modeled after his recipe and is one of my go-to when feeling sickly. Seamless concoction of herbs and roots, perfect all on its own. Way better than Echinacea.

Chateau Chalon “Voile N•12” François Rousset-Martin, Nevy-sur-Seille, 2000

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 conform 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.

Chateau d’Arlay Vin Jaune, Vin de Liqueur Macvin, et Vin de Paille 2002


An incredible way to taste the Jura, aged white wines (that border on liqueurs), and most importantly the sensibility of Alain de Laguiche. The Chateau has been classified as an historic monument that carries a family tradition of wine making for centuries, honoring and elevating the taste of terroir into an almost ethereal experience. Their tradition is marked by the use of aging on subterranean lees, and southern sun exposure to the vines. Each wine is a world unto itself, with a quality that can seemingly only be described as uniquely personal. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to taste these wines side by side at Bar Vivant, in a city I didn’t know, while reading “The Third Policeman” by Flann O’Brian. It was a rare evening, all around.

From left to right, Vin Jaune to Vin de Paille, the progression went from a heavy mineral, slightly nutty, manzanilla-like character to deep, brooding maple, smoked cherry and straw butter. Concentrated, intense, powerful, but all totally different!

le Vin Jaune: 100% Savagnin. Traditional methods apply, where wine undergoes 2nd fermentation allowing yeasts to form a protective layer at the top of the barrel. Over a course of 6 1/2 years, this develops into the bouquet that is so characteristic of Vin Jaune (and quite similar to that of some sherries).

le Vin de Liqueur Macvin: Chardonnay (50%) et Savagnin (50%). Aged for 7 years in brandy casks followed by 3 years in old oak barrels.

le Vin de Paille:  Chardonnay (30%), Poulsard (20%), Trousseau (20%) et Savagnin (30%). Vine clusters are hand picked and placed on straw mats for 3-4 months. The drying process naturally concentrates the fruit, elevates the sugar level and reduces acidity levels. After a light pressing, the liquid is put into small barrels and aged for 3-4 years, with no sugar added.

Domaine de Montbourgeau, Vin de Paille 2009


Mind blowing. Magical. What dreams are made of. Everything and nothing like it. Chamomile, straw, cedar, smoke, almond, maple, clay, sea shells, eau de groseille rouge?….I can’t even.

What makes this magic? From the producer:

“Montbourgeau produces only a tiny amount of a vin de paille.  This ‘paille’ is composed of 60% Chardonnay, 20% Savagnin and 20% Poulsard.  The grapes are left to raisin in the open air until the January following harvest, effectuating a high degree of concentration.  In effect, it takes 100 kilograms of grapes to produce a mere 10 liters of Vin de Paille at Montbourgeau.  A total of five hectoliters are produced in the years that Montbourgeau makes a Vin de Paille”.

Which is not every year… obviously this has very limited availability. Bottled exclusively in 375ml size.


Michel Gahier, Vin Jaune, Arbois, 2005


Drinking this gave me incredible powers of lucidity and future recall. I also spoke in prose and saw the world in blue and yellow hues. Absinthe? No, just good old Vin Jaune.

“In the hundred thousand millions of worlds dispersed over the regions of space, everything goes on by degrees. Our little terraqueous globe here is the madhouse of those hundred thousand millions of worlds.” -Voltaire

What to Drink Now: Orange Is the New Rosé

Summer. As it takes hold, you find yourself craving a cool glass of something tasty to ease into the heat. Friends offer you rosé or white wine, but it always gives you a head ache and it’s too sweet, so you skip grapes altogether. What if I told you there was something else to try?

First stop: remember sherry. You may be familiar with Spain’s answer to every party, meal, beach break or study session. Deliciously dry and high in alchohol (upwards of 17%), it’s an easy alternative when faced with the “beer? wine? or liquor?” predicament (referring specifically to Fino and Amontillado). But you’re getting a little bored with sherry, since there are only so many times you can have La Gitana before feeling like she’s been played out, and drinking fortified wine when you have several hours in front of you has its limitations.

Hello, orange wine.

Consume chilled, sip slow, and gawk at the crazy weird tangerine-burnt gold-auburn as it glows in your goblet (yes, your glass has been transformed into an epic symbol). Have another glass, kick back in the sun, share with friends, have some Cheez-Its, veggies, fish, or pork loin. It doesn’t matter how you rock it, orange wine can take it. The other day I made a plate of asparagus with tabbouleh, soft-boiled egg and shavings of truffle salami, opened a bottle of Domaine Jean Macle Château-Chalon, and it was truly amazing.

So what makes wine orange, and how is it different than white or rosé? Mainly, it’s the crushed white grapes left to age in barrels with their skins intact for a prolonged period of time. Unlike white wine, which is in contact with their skins for a matter of days, these grapes stay in contact for weeks, months, sometimes even years, drastically increasing the level of astringency and tannin. This process, called maceration, paired with time in the barrel, creates an intentional and carefully crafted effect in the wine, similar to oxidation (although there is no actual exposure to oxygen), visually recognized as the orange color. Depending on the producer and their method, these wines may look cloudy in the glass as well (don’t be alarmed).

And how can you be sure you won’t run into the old wine phobia again? Whereas rosé often runs the risk of being too thickly sweet with a lingering throat burn, orange wines will meet you where you want to be: curiously dry, delicately sharp, floral but bitter, and twinges of cedar, spice, fermented apples, minerals, or a “what IS that?”, depending on your bottle. If rosé is Stop & Shop, orange wine is the open air farmer’s market. It’s what real life is all about: a confusing but provocative mixture of knowns and unknowns, challenges and soft moments. There’s a lot of room to explore since there is an incredible amount of variety between bottles, but here’s a few I recommend:

  • Philippe Bornard, Cotes du Jura Savagnin
  • Frank Cornelissen, Munjebel Bianco
  • Domaine Jean Macle, Château-Chalon
  • Chateau Richard, Osé Blanc Sec
  • Domaine de Montborgeau, L’Etoile
  • Vina Cravonia, Crianza
  • Donati, Malvasia dell’Emilia
  • Ca’ de Noci,”Notte di Luna”
  • La Stoppa, Ageno

Chateau Chalon, Domaine Macle, 2009

Sherry wearing a honeysuckle hat while reading essays on existentialism. From an under appreciated area (Jura) often mislabeled as Burgundy, this, ladies and gentlemen, is unusual and lovely. Everything I’ve had from this region is delicate and unique, but this was a special treat as this was hard to import, had limited availability, and is temperamental.

Jura never makes me feel like I “should know what I’m drinking” as many people tell me when sipping a Burgundy or Bordeaux- as if my brain’s supposed to convince my sense receptors that I enjoy it when I just don’t, because of it’s hype. It goes without saying that it’s hard to appreciate something unfamiliar or hard to locate without having some experience searching. So is drinking wine from Jura, which can really open you up if you’re able to taste the subtleties. If not, but you like it anyway, good for you. If not, try again after the rose has burned a hole through your esophagus.