Tuesday, May 23, 2017

White wine styles: The non-ouillé wines of the Jura

The final style-specific installment in my discourse on white wine styles is the non-ouillé (evaporative loss during aging not topped up) Savagnin wines of the Jura. These oxidatively styled wines are unique to both the region and the cultivar.

Before turning to the Jura wines, let us revisit oxidative winemaking. The effects of oxidation on wine are browning, loss of fruity aromas, and aldehydic aromas. Because of these characteristics, oxidization is widely viewed as a wine fault. But there are strong attempts to differentiate between oxidized wines (fault) and oxidative wines (style). For example, The Wine Doctor defines oxidative wines as "having been made in a fashion which allows oxygen to influence the style of the wine" while an oxidized wine occurs when the "aromatic profile of the wine has succumbed to the aldehydes created by the oxidation of ethanol by reactive oxygen derivatives." Dr. Vino describes oxidative wines as having just enough oxygen while, conversely, oxidized wines have been exposed to too much oxygen during the winemaking process.

The table below shows the characteristics gained and lost in oxidative winemaking.

                                                                      Oxidative Wines
Characteristics Lost
Characteristics Gained
Original Color
Vibrant tones
Dried fruits
Umamai savoriness

The Jura Wines website (www.jura-wines.com) differentiates between traditional and Vin Jaune oxidative wines, with the primary differences being the time of aging ( 2 to 3 years for the former, 6 years 3 months for the latter) and the sometimes blending of Chardonnay with the former to add "a touch of finesse."

For these wines, Savagnin is harvested when the alcohol potential is in the 13 - 15% range. After slow fermentation by naturally occurring yeasts, the wines are placed in barriques for aging (the barrels are not tightly filled).

With the passage of time, wine evaporates through the barrel pores. No wine is added to replace the loss -- allowing broader-surface oxygen - wine interaction -- and, after about 2 to 3 years, a thin film of yeast develops on the surface (see picture below).

Aging under the veil (Wikipedia.com)

In this timeframe the winemaker has to make a decision: bottle the wine as "traditional" or go for the Vin Jaune. If the decision is made to do the former, aging is terminated. The traditional Jura wine is characterized by notes such as apricots (fresh and dried), apples (green and dried) and orange.

The wines that are allowed to continue with the aging process do so under a layer of yeast (voile) which is akin to the flor of Sherry fame but is thinner and is optimized for low-alcohol environments. Oxygen loss continues throughout the aging period with sixty-two percent of the post-fermentation wine remaining at its conclusion.

The slight oxygen exposure in this environment results in the formation of acetaldehyde and the aroma compound sotolon (manifests as a curry aroma at high concentrations and maple syrup, caramel, and burnt sugar at lower levels). The winemaker has to be on constant guard for the formation of volatile acidity aromas during aging.

A Vin Jaune wine is dry with bright acidity and notes to include citrus, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, curry, and other spices. The wines are bottled in 62-centiliter bottles to reflect the amount of wine remaining after aging loss.

I will summarize the wine styles discussed in this series in a future wrap-up post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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