Oxidative wines – vin jaune – Domaine Berthet-Bondet, Jura

Oxidative wines are an essential wine tasting reference point. Too much oxygen during winemaking (or bottle aging) and a wine becomes oxidized, a flaw; just enough and it is oxidative, a sort of nutty character that people generally love or hate. In my multi-week wine classes, I always try to pour one, usually a sherry, just to provide the distinctive tasting experience. Since we’ve been talking about reductive wines and screw caps recently, the other side of the coin (barrel?) should receive a little love here too. And why not a vin jaune from the Jura?

berthet-bondet-vin-jauneLocated about half way between Dijon and Geneva, the pocket-sized region of the Jura makes some of France’s most distinctive wines. At a recent trade tasting, I sampled a few of the wines from Domaine Berthet-Bondet, a winery founded by Jean Berthet Bondet on the relatively New World time frame of 1985. The Cotes de Jura Chardonnay 2006 is matured in neutral oak barrels and has a vein of minerality so rich it would out Chablis out of business if the world craved minerally chardonnay.

But the piece de resistance was the 2000 vin jaune (a type of “vin de voile” ) from the micro-appellation of Chateau-Chalon. Made entirely from the Savignan grape, the wine is matured for six or seven years in small neutral barrels, which are intentionally not filled all the way nor replenished (as barrels usually are to replace the “angels’ share” that evaporates). This creates further exchange with oxygen. But a film of beneficial yeast forms on the surface to moderate the oxygen exchange and prevent it from heading on a crash course to becoming vinegar. The aging happens in a well-ventilated room so there are wide temperature fluctuations through out the long aging. A complex wine emerges from the process, with aromas of walnuts, dried apricots, daisies. The nutty finish lingers for hours. Really. Truly a wine of contemplation. The oxidative process girds the wine for decades or centuries in the cellar.

Unfortunately, the wine sells for north of $100 for a 62cl bottle (find this wine). Their Cotes de Jura Tradtion 2003 provides the oxidative wine character, but at a fraction of the price (about $22; find this wine). I’d try both with Comté cheese.

Now if only we could come up with a sexier term than “oxidative”!

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7 Responses to “Oxidative wines – vin jaune – Domaine Berthet-Bondet, Jura”

  1. I’d never heard of a 62cL bottle before, but apparently it’s called le clavelin and is required by law for this type of wine in this region.

    The joy of wineblogging: you learn something new every day.

  2. Tyler, you certainly picked an excellent Château-Chalon to discuss – it is consistently good from year to year – Jean Berthet-Bondet, ex-mayor of the beautiful hilltop village of Château-Chalon does a wonderful job, though I’m less fond of his other traditional whites.

    The term ‘vin de voile’ is used in the Jura not just for Vin Jaune but for all their oxidative whites to differentiate them from the ones that are made non-oxidatively, i.e. less traditionally for the Jura (many Chardonnays these days and a very few Savagnins and even fewer blends).

    As for the 62cl clavelin bottle – it only exists in the Jura (the only wine region in the EU permitted to use this size) and is exclusively used for Vin Jaune (which includes all Château-Chalon), which by French AC law must be bottled in that size. It is a very old-style bottle, which used to vary between 60 and 65cl roughly equivalent to the British pint. At present the Jura region is trying to persuade the EU to convince the USA and elsewhere that as a traditional/historical size it should be properly recognized.

  3. Last Sunday I drank a Berthet Bondet Chateau Chalon vintage 1990 (100 euro in Italy). I love this wine, but call it “wine” it’s not enough. Tasting a Chateau Chalon it means to make a unique experience. you love it or you hate it. In 2006 I’ve tasted for the first time this chateau chalon Berthet Bondet vintage 1986 and after 2 months I recognized the bottle covered of Chateau Chalon. It’s impossible to forget it. last Saturday i’ve tasted also Chateau Chalon Mackle 1988, the same elegance, but I think that Berthed Bondet have more worthy than the Mackle.
    sorry for my english 😉

  4. What a unique method. I remembering first walking into our winery’s cellar, learning about angel’s share and how we wanted to limit oxygen in each barrel for our own process. I see there’s a fine line to walk with oxidation that can either cripple the wine or make it truly expressive. Thanks for that, Tyler.

  5. Jura wines are interesting in general but Vin Jaune in particular. The last time I had some was in France. Unfortunately it isn’t sold anywhere in Maryland. Even the representatives for the distributors say to go to another state to find it, but the nearest retailer with Vin Jaune is in New York City! So here I sit, remembering a rare taste, but unable to indulge. Thank you for writing about a world class wine that should be better known and distributed.

  6. […] grape often found in the Jura region of France (who in Australia will be the first to make it in an oxidative, vin juane style?). The Australian authorities confirmed this earlier this year, after the harvest but before […]

  7. […] the Jura is mostly known (if at all) for their oxidative vin jaunes, from the savagnin grape. Normally, Jura producers make just one vin jaune, similar to the way that […]


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