Cellar Notes

Cellar Notes: Keeping Wine Weird

By Condé Cox December 23, 2011 Published in the January 2012 issue of Portland Monthly

TIRED OF WINE-FASHION TEDIUM? Looking for something different? Try Jura. This mountainous region in far-eastern France produces wines that are truly otherworldly. You’ll find red wines, white wines, and obscure, intentionally oxidized wines here, and none of it is expected. Jura wines take the willing on a satisfying whirlwind journey, but they are often (unfairly) overlooked. A notable local exception is the downtown French bistro Little Bird, which has consistently offered pours of these weird-wine jewels.

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2002 Château d’Arlay Le Vin Jaune $103
True wine geeks revere vin jaune, which, translated into English, means “yellow wine.” Made from a white wine grape called savagnin, and then intentionally allowed to sour in old oak casks with a special top-fermenting yeast strain called flor, this wine smells like wild mushrooms, walnuts, and Spanish sherry—it’s not for the faint of heart. Pair with richly sauced foods.

2009 Domaine Rolet Arbois Poulsard Vieilles Vignes $19
Made from poulsard, a thin-skinned red wine grape packed with flavor, this is one of the world’s greatest food-friendly wines. Reminiscent of delicate Willamette Valley pinot noir from Eyrie Vineyards, this wine comes from a special region in Jura called Arbois. Pair with gnocchi, prosciutto, and other thin slices of rich meats.

2000 Château d’Arlay Le Vin de Paille $98.50 (375 mL)
The famous “straw wine” of the French Alps, vin de paille is a sweet dessert wine made from half-dried grapes that resemble raisins. A blend of several grape varieties, including red poulsard, white savagnin, and chardonnay, vin de paille is unlike any other wine. It has a refreshing acidity, an unctuous sweetness, and a bizarre, oxidative character. Pair with a sweet dessert like apple crisp.

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