My friends have been here in Champagne for the past few days, and we’ve naturally been seeing many great producers and tasting wonderful wines. Yesterday while visiting Richard Geoffroy of Dom Pérignon at the picturesque Abbaye d’Hautvillers, we were joined by François Audouze of L’Academie des Vins Anciens. (In fact, if you read French, you can read about our visit on his site.) François generously brought along an old Château Chalon to taste just for the hell of it. I’ll confess that I paid less attention to it at the time than I would have liked to, as I was focused too deeply on the array of multiple vintages and versions of Dom Pérignon in front of me: the 2000 and 2000 Rosé, 1996, 1995 and 1975 Oenothèques and a slightly flawed but still astounding 1966 in magnum. I love vin jaune, but it’s demanding stuff, and I was simply too occupied to fully switch gears.
Through a series of random events that are too boring to detail here, I had the opportunity to spend some proper time with this 1959 Château Chalon again later in the evening, and as is typical for vin jaune, it was even better after being open for several hours. I’ve never tasted anything from this producer, Vichot-Girod, but this wine was pungent and assertive in aroma, the sort of wine that you can smell from a meter away. Tasting it in Hautvillers, it was fresh and vibrant, with complex fruit flavors ranging from citrus peel and apple skins to jackfruit and orange melon, intertwined with heady, exotic notes of curry powder, praline and macadamia nut. Upon returning to it in the evening, it had become even more youthful and intensely fragrant, adding hints of savory undertones not unlike top-class grüner veltliner: sweet carrot, green lentil, snap pea. It felt voluptuous and enveloping, aided by its disarmingly velvety texture in this warm vintage, and the manner in which the myriad and potentially disparate components all seamlessly wound themselves together was remarkably striking, lingering with sappy, staining presence and length on the finish. This wine was otherworldly, in the sense of being so utterly removed from anything else of this world, and in the highly focused environment of Champagne it seemed even more like an alien being. But it was fun to drink.