July 30, 2010 Domaine André et Mireille Tissot
Domaine André et Mireille Tissot Vin Jaune
Vin jaune for the maillot jaune!
Indeed, the Tour de France 2010 gave plenty to excite the spirit – including the last minute accelerations of Cavendish, the mountain duels of Schleck and Contador. It is only fitting that the taste buds share in the excitement.
On stage is a wine that comes from well back of the peloton, and little known to the rest of the world. It is unique to the Jura region of east-central France (scene of stage 7 of this year’s Tour), near the border with Switzerland. It even has its own bottle, squat and holding 62 cl, called a clavelin.
Vin jaune is made from very ripe savagnin grapes, generally harvested in late October, by which time the sugar content has increased to allow for a potential alcohol level nearing 15%. Slow fermentation follows, with the wine then transferred to old 228-litre oak barrels, and stored in well-ventilated rooms, where the temperatures often fluctuate considerably over time. As the wine level decreases due to evaporation, the barrel is not topped up. Meanwhile, within a couple of years, a firm crust of yeast has formed over the wine, called the voile (veil). It protects the wine somewhat, though not entirely, from oxidation. By the end of the requisite 6 years and 3 months before bottling, the wine has taken on its distinctive characteristics.
Stéphane Tissot and his wife Bénédicte assumed control of the operation of this 35 ha estate from his parents, André and Mirelle, following Stéphane’s stints in Australia and South African wineries. Biodynamic practice was initiated. The Tissot domaine produces a range of 28 wines, each with strong personalities, but his outstanding vin jaune is certainly one of the most highly prized.
Stéphane Tissot is an intrepid advocate for the wines of Jura. His belief in the diversity and value of local terroirs, and the importance of seeking authentic expressions of what they offer, is unequivocal. He is also an experimenter, driving forward with new approaches to further improve his wines. He offers wine made with passion and commitment, and the opportunity to experience in a wine (to quote him) “the personality and character of those who made it because each gesture, each operation, each decision has its importance.”
Domaine André et Mireille Tissot Vin Jaune 2002
The colour is indeed yellow — a clear, golden yellow. As you would expect, given the process it has gone through, this is a concentrated wine. Somewhat like a dry fino, but fresher, showing more acidity. It is a wine for sipping, certainly with strong cheeses. (French comté is often recommended, though vacherin mont d’or from Québec would do nicely.) It is pleasantly assertive, more than willing to make a statement about its origins. Don’t expect an easy, commonplace ride, yet savour the nuttiness, the caramel tones, the undertow of marzipan. This is a young vin jaune. Connoisseurs of the wine would likely not approach it until it had at least another dozen years in the bottle. It is said to age to 50+ years.
But, youth, as witnessed in the Tour de France, does bring its own rewards.