Sunday, February 5, 2012

That's Poligny with an "o," the one in the Jura

Last week's post departed from Puligny-Montrachet in Burgundy. This week we move an hour east of Puligny-Montrachet to Poligny, a town of about 4300 people in the Jura that's most famous as the capital of Comte, a nutty cows' milk cheese very close to Gruyere. Poligny is also the home of Ludwig and Nathalie Bindernagel, who in recent years have become darlings of the biodynamic wine crowd here and in France. I went to a tasting of Bindernagel wines on Friday and was most impressed by their 2008 Cremant de Jura, a sparkling wine made entirely from pinot noir, which along with Poulsard and Trousseau is one of the three red grapes grown in the Jura. Much as I love the Jura whites, I usually find the reds a little expensive for what they are - light, delicate, pleasant wines often priced around $25. You can get a lot of Loire red for that money. The Bindernagels also run a reasonably priced B&B in Poligny ( where Nathalie reputedly sets a most impressive table at gentle prices. 

The Bindernagel wines were overshadowed by an unforgettable nip of vin jaune from Chateau-Chalon, the village where the best wines of that type are made. Vin jaune is made from savagnin (a different varietal than sauvignon blanc) that's aged in casks that aren't filled to the top with the fermented grape juice, which allows a veil of yeast to form on the surface of the wine. Sherry is made in a similar way, and vin jaune has that same nutty taste and smell. Vin jaune from Chateau-Chalon must age for six years and three months before bottling, with most of that time spent in the casks. The wine can age for decades more in its distinctive, squat bottles that hold 62cl rather than the standard 75cl.

Said nip of vin jaune was the 2003 Macle, which had an entrancing nose that incorporated sweet, rich, creamy and walnut notes and varied in intensity. Wines made from savagnin can often be unremittingly heavy and nutty, but this one bobbed and weaved with elegance. One taster suggested pairing with with scallops and bacon, which seemed an inspired suggestion, perhaps to be followed by a chicken in cream sauce or the Jura specialty chicken with vin jaune and then some Comte. This is a wine to be consumed over the course of a three-hour meal, or even over several days; the importer pouring the wines hid the vin jaune toward the end of the tasting because she was taking it to Restaurant Daniel three days later. 

Chateau-Chalon is expensive stuff given the length of time required to produce it, but frugal drinkers can search out the regular wines of Macle and Berthet-Bondet, two of the appellation's best producers.   


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