Tradition versus Terroir in France Profonde


What's a rebel to do in the Jura?

It isn't easy being a rebel in one of France's smallest and strangest wine appellations. Just ask Laurent Macle.

Château-Chalon is, as the French say, particulier. The appellation allows only one kind of wine—the Jura's oxidative, Sherry-like vin jaune (yellow wine). No one knows how this white style from Savagnin grapes began, but in the cliff-top village of Château-Chalon (pop. 170) and neighboring burgs, it's taken very seriously.

Macle, however, is trying something different. "This is my little test I have been doing since 2007," Macle, 44, explains discreetly in his family's 17th-century cellars. The "little test" is four Burgundy barrels a year—1,000 bottles—of clean, complex, non-oxidative, Chardonnay-based Côtes du Jura wine.

Macle, a fifth-generation winemaker who hails from a long line of coopers, has no reason to be timid or apologetic. These barrel-fermented and -aged wines (some of which use a bit of Savagnin) are delicious. For most wine lovers, they are probably far more approachable than the "traditional" oxidative Jura style that Macle also does exactingly well.

But Macle's father Jean—four-term mayor of Château-Chalon and a winemaker who built the family farm from less than 4 acres of vineyards to more than 34—does not approve.

"It was a fight—it wasn't in the tradition," explains Macle, who took over from his father in 2004. "My father will never be convinced.”  Read the full blog at Wine Spectator