1979 Domaine Macle Château-Chalon


Like many winelovers, I am fascinated by the Jura region, but for my sins, have never found the time to visit. Whenever I visit Burgundy on a clear day, I often stop and gaze towards its hills in the far distance and resolve that one day I shall venture across. In recent years, the Jura has gained a cult following for its wines; but alas, quantities have always been small, and a series of devastating recent vintages means there is a wide, almost irreparable disparity between supply and demand. 

Last August, I was fortunate to taste a Jura legend, the 1979 Château-Chalon, that graced our table in its distinctive squat 620ml bottle (known as a “clavelin”.) The Macle family originally migrated from Italy in the 1850s and diversified part of their land to cultivating vines, though the domaine was only created by Jean Macle in 1966, now co-managed by his son Laurent. They farm 12-hectares in total, four-hectares within the tiny AC of Château-Chalon, famed for its oxidative Vins Jaune made from the Savagnin grape variety. It is maturated in barrels that, like sherry, are not topped-up, instead left to create a protective flor that prevents excessive oxidation. The wines develop an acquired taste that you grow to love.

I used to drink quite a few mature bottles of Château-Chalon, although one had not come across my way until lunch with friends who proffered this marvellous 1979. Lucid straw colour, it has a bewitching bouquet with tell-tale scents of grilled walnuts and hazelnuts, autumn bonfire, star anis and discrete touches of white truffle that became more pronounced with aeration. The intensity was initially almost overwhelming, but you could not help just diving your nose into the glass for another sniff. The palate is medium-bodied with fine weight, and like the aromatics, there is exquisite definition. There is just the perfect amount of oxidation in this 1979 with walnut once more, a squeeze of sour lemon and hints of chai. It gains weight towards the finish that lingers long in the mouth. Quite profound. 97/Drink 2022-2040.

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