Salins Les Bains, Jura. Sunday, feb. 4th.
There's something special with Jura wines. Everything seems different here, the grape varieties' names sound strange (Savagnin, Poulsard, Trousseau), the bottles have a unique shape (clavelin) found nowhere else, and they even manage to have the most vibrant wine festivity of the french wine regions (50 000 people in 2 days), an authentic, popular, unpretentious celebration of wine with strong bacchic undertones...That all, for a relatively small Appellation (1800-hectare surface today__20 000 before the Phylloxera) whose wines are not very familiar to many of us.
The "Percée du Vin Jaune 2007" was the 11th such meeting organized to celebrate the uniqueness of Jura wines, and foremost of the Vin Jaune (yellow wine), this odd oxidized golden-yellow Savagnin wine which has to stay at least six years in a cask before being released, and this, without any top-up wine additions to compensate for the evaporation : A layer of unique indigenous yeasts, named "Saccharomyces Bayanus" develops at the surface of the wine and protects it along the years, giving it also this inimitable taste of nut, almond, cinnamon and caramel [pic on the left : the very first Vin-Jaune glass filled at the cask, held high by Jean-Charles Tissot...]. The casks with the Vin Jaune must be kept in dry cellar. But the Vin Jaune is so particular : even an attic (hot in summer, ice-cold in winter) can make great Vins Jaunes, as long as it is dry...
The Percée was held in Salins Les Bains this year (different place every year). It lasted two days as usual, saturday-sunday feb. 4-5th. The Percée's focal point is when, on sunday, a Vin Jaune cask with the millesime-2000 is shoulder-carried to the church for the mass and benediction, and brought after then to a large square, where someone from the "Confrérie des Nobles Vins du Jura" solemnly drives a wooden tap into it with a big mallet for the first official release to be shared with the crowd [pic on right : I got the pic of the very first glass filling ! ]. 5000 to 8000 were crammed on a square that day to watch the event and to drink this 2000 Vin Jaune, with dozens of sommeliers walking in the crowd to fill the glasses.
I just came for a few hours to feel the beat of the day and take in the energy of the Jura crowd : that's what you need in the middle of winter, and the Vin Jaune not only cures colds better than vitamin C, but it clears up the winter gloom.
I tasted several Savagnin, and Savagnin-Chardonnay wines and liked the specific aromas and mouthfeel. I should have bought some, they were at about 9 Euro usually, but my main motive was to mix in the crowd and feel the pulse. Most people were locals or came from Besancon (major regional town) or Dijon (Burgundy is close), especially the many students that gave their imprint to the whole thing.
I tasted wines from several wineries among the 61 who took part to the event. I did not go to the best-known estates but rather to small wineries, like this 4-hectare, organicly-farmed Domaine du Pont de Breux, owned by Jean-Charles Maire [pic on left]. Liked the two wines I tasted there, his Savagnin 2004 (12,5 Euro) and his Tradition 2003 (Savagnin-Chardonnay) at 9 Euro. He will have a stand at the coming organic-products fair "Vivre Autrement" in Paris (march 16-19) and I'll taste all of his range there.
Another nice one was the Vin Jaune 2000 at 21,75 Euro (first release of course) by Domaine Morel-Thibaut. This 100% Savagnin had a very long, intense mouth with a good acidity. It will also participate to the "Vivre Autrement" fair and I'll taste their other wines there.
The mountain city was not accessible by car for this event, but dozens of free buses made the commute between Salins and Mouchard 8 km away where people could rejoin their car (in big parking lots) or take a train. The party was not over for many of the departing visitors, if I can judge from this non-isolated scene [picture above] observed aboard a train heading for Besancon or Dijon...