Three sous-voile wines

“Sous voile” means “under a veil”, in this case, the veil is the flor yeast that forms a film over the surface of the wine in the barrel. The two famous examples are Spain’s super-dry fino and manzanilla sherries (these wines are lightly fortified), and the Vin Jaune or yellow wine of France’s Jura region (not fortified).

Both sherry and vin jaune undergo a maturation period in ullaged barrels – ullage means the barrels are not completely filled, leaving an airspace which allows the film yeast to grow. The film protects the wine from oxidation at the same time adding nutty, sea-briny complexities that enhance the bouquet and flavour.

Recently, this style of wine has become fashionable in Australia and several intrepid local winemakers have tried their hand at it. In the Jura, Vin Jaune must have spent six years in the barrel under the veil; in Australia there are no such regulations and commercial reality usually results in a much shorter ageing time. Even so, the result can be fascinating.

Denton Wines vineyards in the Yarra Valley (Photo: Denton Wines)

Denton View ‘Yellow’ Chardonnay 2015, Yarra Valley

This wine obviously had less time under the veil than a Jura Vin Jaune, but has certainly acquired plenty of sherry-like aldehyde, as well as identifiable nutty oak character, which is certainly not part of traditional Vin Jaune style. The wine has good flavour, texture and roundness, although the acidity is on the high side. It wouldn’t be noticeable with food, however. While no competitor for a great Vin Jaune, it is pretty good – and interesting. (AUD $45/500ml – 89 to 90 pts)

Kangarilla Road in McLaren Vale (Photo: Kangarilla Road Wines)

Kangarilla Road ‘The Veil’ Savagnin 2015, McLaren Vale

This is made from the same grape as Vin Jaune but, like the Denton, has spent a lot less time under the veil than a Vin Jaune. It is a very smart effort. It has a forward-developed, full colour and a strong aldehyde bouquet, while the aftertaste has a manzanilla-like sea-briney bite and tangy acidity, although it is much fuller in the mouth. It cries out for school prawns with aioli. (AUD $40 – 92 pts)

Brash Higgins Bloom due for release in the spring. (Photo: Brash Higgins)

Brash Higgins ‘Bloom’, McLaren Vale 2012 $75

Winemaker Brad Hickey’s well-received 2008 vintage (which had an impressive eight years sous voile) ran to just 35 dozen bottles and sold out quickly. The next vintage, a 2012 chardonnay, is scheduled for end-August bottling and release in spring. It will have spent six and a half years under the veil. (AUD $75)

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