A Few Vintages of Berthet-Bondet Château-Chalon

1/27/15 -

Jean and Chantal Berthet-Bondet do not come from a long line of winemakers. They do, however, know a thing or two about agriculture. The two met in Montpellier as they pursued their respective courses in agronomy, leading Jean to take an assignment as a cooperante (a voluntary role as a researcher in underdeveloped countries) in Nepal working with wild oxen and buffalo, while Chantal taught at the Agricultural College of Montmorot, eventually working as an agronomist for the Direction Departementale de l'Agriculture. Not long after Jean’s return to France, the pair’s strong bonds with nature and a love of farming brought them to purchase their domaine within Château-Chalon in 1984, and they completed their first vintage the following year in 1985. 

In order to receive the Château-Chalon AOC denomination, the wines must be made as Vin Jaune (from the Savagnin grape, aged in barrel under a layer of yeast for no less than 6 years and 3 months). During this process, a large portion of wine evaporates, usually leaving approximately 62% of the original volume of wine in the barrel. All of the vines from this appellation, which is the oldest of the 6 Jura AOCs, cover a single hilltop of just nineteen hectares. In short, these wines are the king of Vin Jaune. Planted in blue and gray marl soils augmented by limestone, they lie on south-west facing slopes (some of them very steep with a 45% grade!) giving them optimal sun exposure and protection from the sometimes brutal winds that come from the north and east. These slopes also make machine harvesting and maintenance nearly impossible, meaning vineyard work is done by hand. This, along with the painstaking winemaking process, contribute to the scarcity and high cost of Château-Chalon.

The wines of Berthet-Bondet  (and of the Château-Chalon AOC in general ) are known for their longevity but it is not often that we get to see older vintages come through the shop, especially like these meticulously kept and reasonably priced wines. Enjoy these now or well into the future! Tim Gagnon

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