Thursday, January 3, 2008

Jura Night

On a visit to the Schloss Johannisberg, Napoléon III once declared to the Prince de Metternich, “You have served me the greatest wine in the world.” The Prince replied, “Sire, the greatest white wine in the world is not found in Johannisberg, but in a little village in your empire, at Château-Chalon.”

Curnonsky, Prince of Gastronomes, named Château-Chalon as one of the five greatest white wines in France (along with Montrachet, Coulée de Serrant, Château Grillet and Château d’Yquem), yet today it remains relatively obscure and little understood. I have even seen written comments by professionals mistaking it for the name of an estate.

Château-Chalon is of course not an estate, but a tiny appellation in the Jura that produces nothing but vin jaune. One could make an argument for Pierre Overnoy’s Arbois to be the greatest vin jaune of them all, but in terms of elegance, refinement and finesse, Château-Chalon definitely deserves its reputation as the grand cru appellation of vin jaune.

There is no better pairing for vin jaune, naturally, than coq au vin jaune aux morilles. My friend Pete has been slowly honing his skills at preparing this iconic dish of the Jura ever since we ate a sublime example together many years ago at Jean-Paul Jeunet, and Coq au Vin Jaune Night has become an annual to semi-annual institution for us. Along with plenty of other Jura wines to whet the palate, this time around featured 1999s from the two top producers of Château-Chalon, Jean Macle and Berthet-Bondet, and it was difficult to choose between these two amazing wines: the Macle was perhaps bolder and more complex, but the fragrant elegance and effortless intensity of the Berthet-Bondet was simply stunning, making me wish those 62cl bottles weren't quite so small.

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