Vin Jaune, a master’s palette for the palate
BERN, SWITZERLAND – Eight generations of the Vercel family in Arbois, France, across the Jura mountains, have held onto a 1774 bottle of the region’s famed Vin Jaune, storing it in the family’s vaulted underground cellar.
Now the 87-centilitre bottle, with its typical Burgundian rounded belly and long neck, goes up for auction in Geneva 15 May.
The official site for Jura wines notes that the oldest Vin Jaune tasted in recent memory was a 1774.
It also points out that only a few older bottles are the exception to the Clavelin rule: Vin Jaune bottles hold 62cl because this is the amount of wine left after the unusual winemaking process reaches the bottling stage. The special bottle which holds this today is called the Clavelin.
Vin Jaune is famous for the extraordinarily complex range of aromas it develops as it ages.
There is nothing subtle about it and newcomers to wine generally find it hard-going, although for connoisseurs this is one of the heights of the art of making wine.
Its unusual maturing process is responsible for giving it such a deep, rich set of notes.
Once the wine’s slow fermentation is finished, it must be kept a minimum of six years and three months in oak barrels that are not topped up, as most wines are.
The wine is mostly protected from oxidization and contact with the air by a thin veil (the voile) of yeasts that forms on the surface.
What the buyer can expect from his 1774 Vin Jaune
Christie’s, which is hosting the auction at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, enthuses about its truly well-aged wine:
“One of the bottles from the same batch was tasted in 1994 by 24 professionals at Château Pécauld in Arbois, and was declared as ‘excellent’. The golden-amber coloured nectar, with flavours of nuts, spices, curry, cinnamon, vanilla and dried fruits, was awarded 9.4/10 points. Made to last centuries when of good quality, and nicknamed ‘the wine of kings and the king of wines’, this extraordinary bottle of Vin Jaune is probably the oldest unfortified example of what is to be still an astounding wine.”
It is the most expensive single bottle at the auction, with an estimated price of CHF40-50,000. But wine buffs with deep pockets will have other options at the sale, expected to bring in CHF2 million, including: a batch of Mouton-Rothschild from 1945 (estimate CHF65,000-85,000), a 12-bottle lot of La Tâche 1959 (estimate: CHF40,000-60,000), and an “incredible collection comprised of 338 bottles and 43 Magnums of vintage Château Latour wines”.