A Gift from the Giant of Vin Jaune

In the Jura, there are two pinnacles.

Among terroirs, there’s Château-Chalon. Nearly a century ago in Paris, the “Prince of Gastronomy” Curnonsky counted Château-Chalon among the five pillars of French white wine, alongside Montrachet, Ch. d’Yquem, Coulée de Serrant and Ch. Grillet.

The second pinnacle, among producers, is Macle, which for seven generations has made transcendent versions of Château-Chalon using the classic sous voile method. Here, a veil of yeast—similar to the flor found in casks of Fino Sherry—develops on the surface of the pure-Savagnin wine as it ages a minimum of five years in barrel.

Consequently, Macle’s Château-Chalon is the quarry for collectors. Yet, it can be nearly unobtainable. 

Fortunately, Macle makes a Côtes du Jura cuvée that mirrors the Château-Chalon in quality and longevity. To create this small masterpiece, old-vine Chardonnay and Savagnin are aged in barrel for just three years. Sadly, it is nearly as scarce as the grand vin. But if you’re fortunate to lay your hands on some, it can be had for a small fraction of the price.

Yet, once again, our library has yielded a remarkable treasure: a 4-vintage vertical of Macle Côtes du Jura: two bottles each of 2014 & 2013, and one bottle each 2012 & 2010. Offered as a 6-bottle set at just $239.95—an incredible $40 a bottle—it affords the unique opportunity to experience this amazing wine through time. 

Shadowing Château-Chalon

How great is Macle’s Côtes du Jura? Here are a couple of perspectives.

The author of The New France, Andrew Jefford, calls Macle’s Château-Chalon “magnificently dense and complex.”  Yet, he notes that “the Côtes du Jura, here, can be every bit as good.” 

And The Wine Advocate’s Luis Gutiérrez, who has tasted multiple vintages of well-aged Côtes du Jura chez Macle, describes the 1983 as having “the complexity and weight of some of the best Vin Jaunes” while the “off the charts” 1971 had “the freshness of a Chenin Blanc and the volume of a Hermitage blanc. Really amazing.”

Back Story

The Macle family have farmed land in the Jura’s microscopic “Grand Cru” appellation of Château-Chalon since the domaine’s founding in 1850. But it was not until the 1960s that the legendary Jean Macle dedicated himself exclusively to being a winemaker. With single-minded focus, he made Macle the acknowledged master of sous voile (“under veil”) winemaking.

Today his son Laurent is in charge and, working closely with his father, is proving every bit as gifted. And, of course, his Château-Chalon, made exclusively from the indigenous Savagnin grape, is today’s benchmark. But he also makes a fabulous Côtes du Jura.

Macle’s primary Côtes du Jura source is a parcel of 30- to 40-year-old vines, mostly Chardonnay with a small amount of Savagnin, on steep blue-gray marl and limestone slopes just outside the Château-Chalon appellation. This is augmented in many years with declassified Savagnin from within Château-Chalon itself.

The two varieties—typically 80% Chardonnay, 20% Savagnin—are aged under a film of yeast separately for three years. After the initial aging period, Macle determines if the Savagnin lots have the right character for the further sous voile development to become Château-Chalon. If not, they go into the Côtes du Jura.

Following one month’s harmonizing of the two in stainless steel, the Côtes du Jura is bottled without fining or filtration. The result is an extraordinarily complex and long-lived white wine, its unique character created not only by the voile, but by the long barrel aging itself. 

The extended time in barrel gives the Macle Côtes du Jura its amazing longevity and capacity for its sous voile-derived complexity to blossom with aeration, as Gutiérrez noted upon tasting the 1971, which had been opened the previous evening. It’s a rarely seen characteristic shared with such other great long élevage whites as López de Heredia’s Tondonia Blanco, Valentini’s Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and Nikolaihof’s Riesling Vinothek.

Gutiérrez calls Macle “the greatest winery in Jura … when it comes to consistency, quality of the terroir and traditional flor-aged wines.” Here's the rare opportunity to experience the winery’s sous voile magic yourself, without breaking the bank. Needless to say, we don’t have much, so you’ll want to hurry.

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