Jurassic Wine in Arbois

Arbois, France

Tasted September 25, 2011 by honest bob with 413 views


We tried a lot of wine during a four-day holiday in Arbois, but found very little worth recording. The Crémants were very rustic, particularly the rosés; the emaciated Chardonnays at best clean and acidic; the dry whites from local grapes mainly severely lacking ripeness, concentration and complexity; the reds simply unneccesary. I soon gave up taking notes and decided not to publish any of my opinions on CT. Those that actually like Jurassic table wines will probably be able to make fine distinctions and will certainly do more justice to the winemakers' labours than could I.

The exception for my palate are the remarkable wines known as "Vin Jaune", matured like sherry under protective yeast in small barrels for 6 years before release. We tried perhaps a dozen different kinds in various restaurants, ranging in taste from the driest, raciest Manzanilla to a rather musty, stale, bone-dry genuine Palo Cortado (a 1976). The common factor is the reminiscence of fine sherry. I must confess that I would actually prefer to drink sherry, given the choice, not least as an entry-level, freshly released Vin Jaune, which needs another 5-10 years in the cellar, sells at about €35 retail in Arbois (and that for a traditional 62cl bottle, so the "real" price is well over €40/75cl, four times the retail price of Tio Pepe in my local supermarket in Germany).

But such comparisons are inevitably invidious - I was sufficiently intrigued by the seriously delicious combination of Vin Jaune with Coq au Vin with lots of cream and wild mushrooms in the sauce to buy several bottles from Domaine Tissot. The restaurant sommeliers we consulted advised drinking Vin Jaune with cheese, but failed to provide a pairing anywhere near as convincing as that with the Poulet (au Bresse, of course...)

Flight 1 (3 notes)

2004 Tissot (Bénédicte et Stéphane / André et Mireille) Arbois Vin Jaune France, Jura, Arbois
88 points
From 62cl, open 2 days. Typical pale urine colour. A blend of juice from 6 terroirs. 14,5% alc. €33,50 au chai. Intense fino sherry/sercial madeira scent with a touch of honey. As so often with vin jaune, I found the dry entry a disappointment; it developed oddly in the mouth into a slightly squished, stale mid-palate (like water from an old plastic jug). Medium-long, warm finish. 88P, higher if the mid-palate opens up with time.
2004 Tissot (Bénédicte et Stéphane / André et Mireille) Arbois Vin Jaune En Spois France, Jura, Arbois
88 points
From 62cl, open 2 days. Made from young vines, a blend from two terroirs. 15% alc. €40 au chai. Lighter colour than the same producer's generic Vin Jaune. Slender, slightly spirity nose; clean, dry, linear taste, consistently very acidic from entry to finish. Body like a 2/3 fino 1/3 amontillado sherry mix. Shortish finish. 88P
2004 Tissot (Bénédicte et Stéphane / André et Mireille) Arbois Vin Jaune Les Bruyères France, Jura, Arbois
90 points
From 62cl, open 2 days. From 50-year old wines. 15% alc. €45 au chai. Very slightly darker colour than the same producer's generic Vin Jaune. Roasted note on the nose; the entry also sherry-like, but in this case a blend of 1/3 fino, 1/3 dry amontillado and 1/3 bone dry oloroso. Fat, round mid-palate and promisingly long finish. 89-91P depending on how it develops and - inevitably - on personal prejudice or affinity for this very unusual style of wine.


I also tried a very odd 2004 Vin Jaune at Domaine Tissot, matured in whisky casks and boasting 16% alc. I record it here only by way of a warning to check the right-hand side of label if you consider buying from this producer: the effect is weird and to my palate distinctly unpleasant. Although there is kind of poetic symmetry in finding a sherry-like wine matured in a whisky cask, after all those (fine, good and mediocre) Scottish malts matured in sherry casks...

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