The first time I encountered the unique wines of the Jura region was when reading Jean-Xavier Guinard’s “Lambic” book for review on this website. Naturally, after reading about Vin Jaune I had to get my hands on a bottle, which was somewhat challenging because US regulations did not permit the sale of the classic 60 ml Vin Jaune “clavelin.” Fortunately, some courageous wine sellers just ignored these edicts and maintained a small collection of Vin Jaune in their store anyway. It is too long ago now to remember my first encounter with Vin Jaune (did I have it with Comte cheese and/or walnuts?) but what I do remember well is visiting the Jura region in 2010, staying in Château-Chalon, and visiting the Stéphane Tissot tasting room in Arbois.
The wines of the Jura have held an enduring interest to me. I was pleasantly surprised to read about Cantillon’s Vin Jaune barrel aged beer experiments (after all, like lambic, Vin Jaune wines also generate a pellicle to protect the wine from the surrounding environment). I attended a Jura tasting with Jean-Francois Bourdy at E&R wines in 2017, which featured a 1976 Chateau Chalon and 1915 (!) Rouge (the oldest wine I have ever tasted), and introduced me to Bourdy’s Côtes du Jura Savagnin, my favorite, despite it being a Vin Jaune “reject.” I think it was at this tasting that I also procured a bottle of Benedicte & Stephane Tissot ‘s 2012 Savagnin Amphore, which I did not have an opportunity to taste until early 2020. I prepared myself for this tasting by reading Wink Lorch’s excellent book on Jura Wine.
Benedicte & Stephane Tissot are natural wine makers so it is not much of a surprise to see skin contact white wines, or experiments with amphorae fermentation, making an appearance. However, such methods were, to my knowledge, quite the departure from Jura traditions but were pioneered by the Tissots. Some of their reds are also available in amphore releases. My understanding is that this wine was macerated on the skins for 6 months in amphorae, used endogenous yeast, and was bottled without sulphur.
I cannot say that I am sufficiently familiar with the savignin grape to fully appreciate how it expresses itself through skin maceration, but I have tried a lot of other orange wines that I used as a benchmark when tasting this.
Visually, Savagnin Amphore pours like a cognac with a clear rusty amber. There is a slight sediment in the bottom of the glass. The aroma is somewhat closed initially but starts to give notes of malt, leather, (dried) lemon, pickled fruits and ripe apple as it warms and opens up. This is light-bodied and a very dry wine. Naturally, after such a prolonged period of skin contact tannins are noticeable. Another feature that stands out to me is how smooth it is. The finish is slightly bitter and short. Its profile also reminds me of a straight lambic, which bring this review full circle because it was Guinard’s book on lambic that drew my attention to the Jura wines in the first place. Clearly, this is not a traditional Jura wine but an ancient interpretation of a traditional Jura grape.