Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Château-Chalon, extraordinary wine made in the jura region of eastern France with its own small appellation named after the hilltop village where it is produced. In the 17th century or even earlier the abbesses from the Abbey of Château-Chalon may have been the first in the region to make a vin jaune style of wine, historically named ‘Vin de Garde’. Unlike other Jura appellations, Château-Chalon must be a Vin Jaune and thus must be made exclusively from savagnin grapes grown on the local grey marl. (Other wines produced by local growers are entitled to the Côtes du Jura appellation.) In 1952 the appellation was the first in France to instigate vineyard inspections pre-harvest before the vintage is approved. The noble decision was made not to bottle any wine under the appellation in 1974, 1980, 1984, and 2001. Like all Vin Jaune, the wine must be kept for at least six years and three months before bottling, most of this time spent in partially filled, untouched casks under the famous voile, or local benevolent film-forming yeast. The resulting wine is exceptionally spicy and mineral-rich, pale to deep golden, and long lasting. It must be bottled in a special clavelin bottle containing 62 cl, supposedly the amount of wine that remains from a litre of wine kept in a cask in Ch-Chalon for six years. The result is a wine that shares some taste characteristics with sherry but has more finesse, working well as a gastronomic partner (especially with the local Comté cheese and poultry of Bresse, also appellation contrôlée products) and as a candidate for extended bottle ageing. It is said to develop ‘curry’ flavours in bottle, thanks to the compound sotolon. With only 50 ha/125 acres planted, production volumes vary wildly from zero to around 2,000 hl/52,835 gal in a good year.