Mellow Yellow

Vin Jaune, a most unusual wine

There's wine, and then there's Vin Jaune.

Translated as "yellow wine," the unusual libation hails from eastern France's mountainous Jura region, yet tastes more like Spanish sherry than Chablis. And it's beginning to appear around town: Bar Agricole has two bottles on the list, Cyrus pairs dishes from the tasting menu with glasses of the golden liquid, and a handful of local wine shops carry an edited selection from top producers.

So what is it? Made from the Savagnin grape, Vin Jaune is aged in oak barrels that have been filled nearly to the top. The wine gradually evaporates, and as it does a thin layer of yeast called voile forms on its surface, allowing complex, nutty flavors to develop.

Intensely flavorful and focused by piercing acidity, this wine is traditionally enjoyed with nutty Alpine cheeses such as Comté, or the regional specialty, poulet au vin jaune.

Here are some of our favorite Vin Jaunes, and where to find them:

Jacques Puffeney 2000 Arbois Vin Jaune ($97). Vibrant and pure, with saline mineral notes and great length, this is benchmark Vin Jaune. Available at Terroir, 1116 Folsom St.; 415-558-9946 or terroirsf.com

Domaine de la Tournelle 2002 Arbois Vin Jaune ($63). Elegant and refined, this Vin Jaune is a relative bargain. Available at Arlequin Wine Merchant, 384 Hayes St.; 415-863-1104 or arlequinwinemerchant.com

Domaine de Montbourgeau 1999 L'Étoile Vin Jaune ($78). From the tiny L'Étoile appellation, this intensely mineral and complex wine is impressive now, yet has decades-long staying power. Available at Terroir, 1116 Folsom St.; 415-558-9946 or terroirsf.com