Posted by: ankneredelstein | February 28, 2009

La Percée du Vin Jaune – Passenans & Frontenay Jan. 31-Feb 1 2009

perceeduvinjaunelogo1The “La Percée du Vin Jaune” is one of the famous wine festivals in France. Literally translated as the “Opening of the Yellow Wine”, the La Percée du Vin Jaune is held during the first week of February to celebrate the new vintage of yellow wine traditionally made in the Jura region of France.  A different village is chosen to host the festival each year and can attract 30,000 visitors in two days.  Wikipedia has a good definition of Vin Jaune, but basically it is a yellow wine, somewhat liquor-like (some say sherry-like) in flavor, created by harvesting Savignin grapes very late and fermenting the juice in oak casks with a judicious airspace to allow a yeasty film (“Voile” or “Veil”) to develop over a couple years in the 228 liter cask. The yeast film provides an environment to develop the wine’s unique flavor and colors.  Tradition dictates the Vin Jaune MUST age at least 6 years and three months before bottling.  During that time, the cask looses much of its volume to evaporation and sometimes failure, making the finished, acceptable product very precious and valuable each year.
Special bottles called “clavelin” are used (21 oz) for bottling,Clavelin bottles for Vin Jaune

Clavelin bottles for Vin Jaune

and the wine can (and some say must) age at least 10 years after bottling…making the wine nearly 17 years old after its vintage.  Vin Jaune can age for 50 to 100 years and should be served at cellar temperature (55–60 °F) after decanting for exposure to oxygen.  Of course, you drink your Vin Jaune with Comté cheese from the Franche-Comté region.

The village is completely taken-over by the festival, with local inhabitants providing their garages, courtyards and street-facing openings as temporary tasting stations for the more than 80 vendors of various Vin Jaune, Savignin, MacVin, red, white and other wines.  You pay €11 and get a tasting glass emblazoned with the logo of the festival, a handy necklace-glass holder to prevent any droppage and a handful of tasting tickets for different types of wines.  You get a collection of tickets for the “yellow” wines, the “regular” wines and special tickets for the MacVin wine.  Of course, you can always buy more tickets if you run out during your tastings….after all, there are more than 80 vendors offering tastings!


Typical price list from one winery

There are makeshift restaurants you can eat at, and vendors selling regional cheeses, sandwiches, snacks, arts and crafts. The highlight of the festival is the ceremonial “piercing” (“Percée) of the new vintage yellow wine cask which has been waiting for 6 years and 3 months.

Vin Jaune cask with the voile (veil) of yeast

Vin Jaune cask with the voile (veil) of yeast

We did not attend the ceremony, but you can find photos of it if you search.  Of course, there are wandering musical troupes, presentations, displays and general good spirit all around as people wander the streets of the small village closed to vehicular traffic.  The crowds build up and the cheer gets palpable as the day wears on.

A 62cl bottle of Vin Jaune from Domaine Benoit Badoz retails for about €25

A 62cl bottle of Vin Jaune from Domaine Benoit Badoz retails for about €25

For those who have not tasted Vin Jaune or its cousins the fortified MacVin wine liquor, sweet peachy-apricot-like Vin De Paille (wine made from grapes dried on straw mats for up to 3 months) and nutty Savagin wines (from which Vin Jaune is made), they are truly unusual and extremely distinctive (and expensive!).  Truly remarkable and quite addicting once you taste several versions by several winemakers and get the subtle differences understood.  I personally found the Jura Chardonnay blanc and Jura rouge wines somewhat unremarkable (but I am biased living in Burgundy), while I was completely enthralled with the Vin Jaune, MacVin and Vin de Paille at nearly every tasting station. The exception was the Savagnin whites which were extremely interesting and wanted to be sherry-like

If you get the chance, visit the La Percée du Vin Jaune at the first week in February.

Compared to a "normal" bottle of wine (on the right), the small bottles of Savagnin de Gellee and Vin de Paille are tiny!

Compared to a "normal" bottle of wine (on the right), the small bottles of Savagnin de Gellee and Vin de Paille are tiny!

Some Photos:
(click to enlarge)


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