Macle's Extraordinary 02 Chateau Chalon
"One of those wines that seems to riffle through a repertoire of the natural worlds as you sniff and sip."
Andrew Jefford, The New France
A wine that we strongly endorse ...
...and that requires a serious warning!
This week, we're on the geek wine freight train, plowing from one eccentric superstar to the next. Yesterday, the impossible-to-find Beaujolais of Yvon Metras, the long-absent member of Kermit Lynch's "Gang of Four."
Today's stop is at the stony door of the grand wiseman of Chateau Chalon, Jean Macle for his best, and most challenging offering.
Today we are happy to offer to a select few of you who have supported our weirder side in the past very sharp pricing on Macle's "new" release - the great 2002 Vin Jaune.
Those of you that know the shocking pungency of Vin Jaune well, all you need to know is that Jean Macle’s Chateau Chalons have long served as the benchmark for this illustrious appellation.
For those of you not familiar with Vin Jaune, we must issue a strong endorsement, with a serious warning: Chateau Chalon is one of the most compelling, amazing and bizarre vinous experiences on earth. However, the broad, aggressive pungency of these wines can be a slap in the face to the uninitiated palate. Macle's Vin Jaunes are rich and earthy, with an oxidative tanginess that calls to mind Sherry, though the heft of the wine and the blazing mineral-driven acidity gives these wines a signature that is unique to the appellation.
Andrew Jefford's description, above, is incredibly apt. Macle’s Chateau Chalons offer up a seriously mind-twisting spectrum of flavors: Marmalade, burnt orange, lemon pith, plums, mushrooms, celery, pine needles, moss, walnut, baking spices, and pure rocky minerality.
Macle's ability to weave this nearly endless list of flavors into something of pristine elegance and harmony is absolutely extraordinary. Chateau Chalon is a very flexible friend at the dinner table, and *the* classic pairing is Chateau Chalon with Comté cheese.
The 2002 vintage in the Jura is already placed firmly within the great vintages of the past twenty years, along with 1990, 96, and 99. 2002 delivered what every winemaker prays for - good hang times, healthy ripe grapes, great acidity. The longevity of Chateau Chalon (and any Vin Jaune) is legendary; the lucky few are still singing the praises of 1934 and 1947.
The real virtues of Chateau Chalon begin to flesh out 10-15 years following the vintage. For those of you not quite as patient, if you do open the wine in the next five years (which is still a lot of fun), we suggest opening a bottle 24hrs before you plan to drink it. Once open, the wine will easily maintain for 7-10 days. Just keep it in the fridge.
Though Chateau Chalon is fairly unknown in the U.S., this is an area that has been showered with accolades since Roman times. Curnonsky, a famous 20th Century Parisian gourmet known as the "Prince of Gastronomes," included the wines of Chateau Chalon among "the five great white wines of France," along with Montrachet and Yquem.
Jean Macle farms only 4 hectares in Chateau Chalon; his yields hover around 25hl/ha and he has a reputation for being the finest the Jura has to offer.
Macle's Chateau Chalon's are difficult to find in any quantity (our initial allocation a few years ago was hand carried home in a suitcase) and today we have a limited amount of this great vintage at an 'en primeur' price of $89.95 (compare to previous great vintages at $120-140+)
This is a wine from a great vintage that you can watch evolve over your lifetime. If you are at all interested in locking down your allocation of the wine at the lowest price that you'll likely ever see, we strongly encourage you to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the store at (212) 980-9463 by Thursday morning. All orders are subject to confirmation - please give us your maximum order and we will allocate accordingly.
Crush Wine & Spirits
Special Email Price: $89.95
(compare to previous great vintages at $120-140+)
Wine arrives in Winter 2009/2010
Net / No further discounts
Vin Jaune flies in the face of viticultural orthodoxy. It is a rebel, a wine that must somehow miraculously weather the slings and arrows of time to gain a depth and complexity that makes it unlike any other wine on earth. Though the most obvious comparison is with Spain's oxidized Sherry, Vin Jaune is denser and more robust, and also has a strong tail of acidity that Sherry simply does not.
Made from the pugnacious Savagnin grape, Vin Jaune is fermented like any other wine. But that's just the beginning. After the fermentation, the wine is stored in large barrels that are never completely filled and are basically abandoned (meaning they certainly aren't topped off) as the wine goes through a period of existentialist soul-searching for a minimum of 6 years and 3 months. It's lonely being a Vin Jaune.
As you can imagine, a tremendous amount of the wine evaporates over this time (angels drink well in the Jura). Legend has it in the Jura that the squat 620ml bottles - called clavelins - are all that remain of a liter of wine after its journey.
At the beginning of the aging process, a thin veil of yeast cells forms, protecting the wine from severe oxidation. In contrast to nearly all other wines, temperature fluctuation is important to Vin Jaune. Barrels are often stored in attics and radical temperature fluctuations frequently occur, often exceeding 22 degree differentials.
Suffice it to say that making Vin Jaune is risky business. If everything goes perfectly, you're destined to lose about a third of your product! If anything goes haywire, entire barrels can be lost - and this happens a lot (chaos is, well, chaotic). The rejection rate of Vin Jaune varies from producer to producer and vintage to vintage, but can be a high as 75%.
The major enemy of a successful barrel of Vin Juane is volatile acidity. The bacterias that form acetic acid, the major component in volatile acidity and vinegar, thrive in Vin Jaune's oxygen-rich environment. As such, frequent laboratory analysis of Vin Jaune occurs to monitor acetic acid levels. That said, if a barrel of Vin Jaune emerges alive from its 6 years and 3 months (or more), it's nearly indestructible with bottles capable of aging well over 100 years.