WINE O’CLOCK: Red or white? Or how about a glass of yellow?
In eastern France, up near the border with Switzerland, they have been celebrating La Percée du Vin Jaune, the Opening of the Yellow Wine.
The festival is usually held in February; the exact date varies to coincide with the release of the new vintage of this region’s unusual wine.
I was inroduced to it down in the south of France, a long way from its home, by the ower of a beutiful cheese shop. She was enthusing about the Comté cheese which also comes from that eastern region, a place of rollng hills and rich pastures.
Vin Jaune, she assured me, was the only authentic accompaniement. I don’t know about that – but it was certainly an excellent match for this range of smooth, nutty cheeses, made from raw milk and aged in stone cellars.
The wine is similar to dry fino Sherry and gets its character from being matured in a barrel under a film of yeast.
It is made from the Savagnin grape (not to be confused with Sauvignon) and comes in red, whie and rosé varieties, but mostly white. Unlike Sherry, Vin Jaune is not a fortified wine, so the alcohol content is relatively low, around 13%.
The grapes are picked when they are very ripe, fermented, and then aged in old Burgundy barrels for at least six years. Some of the wine evaporates, and rather than top up the barrels to prevent oxidation, the wine is left undisturbed so that the yeast film forms.
Vin Jaune has (like the Comté) a rich nutty flavour that would go well with any semi-firm cheese. If you can’t get a Comté, substitute a Gruyère.
Château-Chalon AOC is the name you are mostly likely to see on a bottle of Vin Jaune. You are not likely to spot the unusual, squat bottle on your supermerket shelf but your wine dealer may be able to help.
If you can’t find it, don’t let the cheese go to waste. Substitute an Amontillado sherry from Spain or an oaked Chardonnay.