All things cheese in France

Monday, 31 January 2011

More Comté Joy and La Percée du Vin Jaune

For you fans of Comté, a great pairing is always the wine that comes from the same region the cheese is made - the Jura. The marriage of Comté and le Vin jaune (yellow wine) is the penultimate match. Certain aromas like dried citrus fruits, walnuts and curry, found in the wine are similar to those in a good vieux (aged) Comté, which explains the amazing accord between the two. It is quite astounding as a matter of fact! 

That being said, it is pretty hard to find outside of the area, but there is a festival held each year in February called La Percée du Vin Jaune (The Opening of the Yellow Wine) that gives people the opportunity to experience the newly released vintage in situ. The crucial piece of information about this rare wine is that legal requirements for aging mean that the vintage being sampled will be from the autumn harvest seven years earlier. Tasting sessions take place in a different regional village each year and have attracted over 30,000 visitors to imbibe this gem.

So what is this wine le Vin Jaune ?  It is a white wine produced in Eastern France, specifically the Jura.  It is similar to dry fino or Amontillado sherry but it isn't a fortified wine like sherry.  It is made from a late harvest Savagnin grape which grows in the area. The wine gets its character from being matured in barrels under a film of yeast, known as the voile, (the veil) which develops on the wine's surface. This is sort of like the "flor" in Sherry production, and takes between two to three years to develop. The characteristic yellow colour and nutty flavours of the wine develop as it oxidizes and ages in the barrel. Some of the most premium examples coming from the marl based vineyards in the Château-Chalon AOC. In other French wine regions, notably Gaillac, vintners have been experimenting with similar style wines made from Chardonnay and other local grape varieties using cultured yeast.

The Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) regions permitted to produce vin jaune include Château-Chalon AOC, Arbois Vin Jaune AOC, Cotes du Jura vin Jaune AOC and Vin Jaune de L'Etoile.  Some adventurous winemakers in Gaillac have produced the vin de voile wine, which is similar in style but made mainly from Chardonnay grapes and cultured yeast. 

Other pairings suggested are:

Whites "floral" wines:  These work especially well with vieux Comté but also with the more lactic based younger ones highlighting their butter, caramel aromas.

Red wines:  Vieux Comté pairs very well with red wines of the Jura called the Rubis du Jura which are lighter in structure with a high degree of finesse.

Sparkling wines: A grand harmony is created between crumbly texture and mellow flavours of Comté and the Crémant du Jura (sparkling wines of the Jura), which tend towards the sweeter side of sparkling wines.


Casse-croûte de copains aux morilles et Comté

8 large slices of pain de campagne (Polaine for instance)
100 g of dried morels
250 g de Comté grated
5 cl de Vin Jaune
25 cl cream
40 g de butter
1 shallot, chopped fine
Salt, pepper & some branches of chives

Soak the dried morels (or other dried mushrooms) half an hour in hot water. Cut each of them in half lengthwise to clean them. Drain well. Sauté the chopped shallot in 20 g butter, then the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Add the cream and reduce heat to low and add the grated cheese and wine.

Preheat the oven to grill at 210 ° C (gas mark 7). Fry the bread slices in 20 g of butter on both sides. Then spread each slice with the morel and Comté cream, which must be very smooth. Toast the bread in the oven until golden brown. Sprinkle a few chopped chives and serve hot. Suggested Wine: These toasts with the Vin Jaune wine  (pour 8 friends)

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