The Endless Benefits of Living in French Wine Country
Macvin in Rotalier
I stop cooking for a second and decide it’s time to open a bottle. My friends have just arrived from New York to spend a week in my dad’s house in Rotalier, in eastern France; the kitchen is loud and we are tired.
I’ve been here a few days already, and got a head-start on the wine tasting. The village has fewer than 200 inhabitants but six wine producers, including the world-renowned Jean-François Ganevat, whose vintages have become synonymous with Jura wines.
Bordering my home country, Switzerland, the Jura features green valleys where the milk of the cows that graze there will be turned into Comté, lakes favored by Dutch tourists in the summer, and alpine villages where not too long ago absinthe was still distilled secretly. And funky white wines, produced in both the ouillé (topped off) and sous voile (under a yeast cover, untopped) methods. The funkiest of all are oxidized and nutty, to the point of tasting deliciously musty.
My jet-lagged visitors need a jolt to make it through feeding their kids. This calls for Macvin, which they’ve never tasted before. Unique to the Jura, it’s a blend of must (the pressed grapes’ juice, skins, seeds, and stems) and aged marc from local grapes (chardonnay or savagnin for the white version, my favorite). Everything must come from the producer’s vineyards and be made on site before aging in wood barrels.
My old-school French dad once told me that opening a bottle of wine was a man’s job, but I’ve long made a feminist statement out of taking care of my thirsts. I plunge the cork screw through the wax seal.
“Let’s let it breathe a second,” I say, so we all stare out at the late July sky turning the vineyards around the house a mix of gold and pink, and try to think about something other than how good that first sip is going to feel. This vieux Macvin comes from the Ganevat tasting room just over the hill.
At long last, we drink: the syrupy liqueur tastes of dried fruits, pineapple, perhaps a little melon, too. Or is that apples? We don’t care much about descriptions; we’re happy to enjoy it in peace.
Macvin is most often served as an apéritif; at 17.5 percent ABV it’s strong enough that during family weekends, a bottle will reasonably last us for two apéros. But every night this week, Mihir and I will stay up drinking Macvin long after dinner is over. Thanks to some Jura magic, we’re never hungover.