1774 Vin Jaune, $49,200-$77,270.
This unique, treasured and rare wine, with reflections of “golden-amber” is “excellent” with notes of “nuts, spices, curry, cinnamon, vanilla and dried fruits.” That is just what twenty-four wine experts had to say in 1994 of a bottle from the same batch.
But hey, really I have no idea, not personally, I’m just a messenger. Though I am sure there are many of you out there that could say the same. That is unless you are a Swiss man by the name of Pierre Chevrier. Though, it’s quite possible he hasn’t even tasted it, yet.
The French wine originates from the region of Jura, with vineyards found at altitudes between 820 and 1,300 feet residing in clay to limestone soils, settled in between the plains region of Bresse and the Jura Mountains.
This wine was auctioned off at the annual Percée du Vin Jaune festival in the Jura in February of 2011 for $49,200. (Another bottle was auctioned the previous year for $77,270.) It was a toss up of who the winner would be between famous French wine lover, Francois Audouze and Pierre Chevrier. Pierre was the very fortunate winner.
It was bottled 238 years ago! So how old is that? Napoleon Bonaparte was still a child, the United States was still an English colony and the French Revolution was not too far off in the future. So how good could this wine be? The experts have said it is more than good but how is that possible?
For all of those who possess a wine cellar and followed my three part posts on the how’s and why’s of wine aging, you will understand the next bit of information I give you. For those of you who didn’t, please, feel free to have a read.
Why this wine fetches for $49,200. Because of the higher altitudes and very steep slopes of the vineyards in Jura, the fruit needs more time to mature. However, mother nature tends to be a you-know-what when you want things to be ideal. With altitude typically comes a shorter season, and the slopes do not allow for prolongated sun exposure for enhanced ripening. Most of the fruit in this area is left to hang on the vine well into late October for optimum maturity, however, sometimes an early predicted frost does not allow for longer hang-time. Remember what I stated that as sugar increases, acids decrease. Therefore, these wines without alteration are going to be very aci
dic, with lower alcohols. Which really, might make them slightly more age-worthy, but they won’t be very palatable.
Now, Vin Jaune. It is made from native Savignin grapes that are picked as ripe as the region will allow. The grapes are usually picked later in the harvest if the season permits. Though chaptalization (the addition of sugar) is legally permitted in the Jura region, you cannot exactly be referred to as “the wine for kings and the king of wine” if you’ve had sugar added. It needs to hold more natural integrity, as pure as a royal blood-line (right).
No seriously, in the case of the wine, with no chaptalization performed, it is fermented, and following the completion of fermentation, it is aged in Burgundian barrels for a minimum of six years. As the wine ages in the barrel, the pores of the oak allow for a steady, controlled evaporation. After a significant amount of head-space (the space between the top level of wine and the ceiling inside the barrel) is created through evaporation, most wine barrels are then topped off and refilled. For Vin Juane, it is not.
As the wine continues to evaporate, the wine oxidizes, and a natural film of yeast forms on the wine. This yeast strain is very similar, but different from the wild yeast utilized for fermentation of the Savignin grapes found in the region. This yeasty film, acts almost as a protective layer allowing a steady rate of oxidation, allowing the wine to evaporate more without spoiling, thus concentrating the wine and making it a more stable product. Once a desired amount of evaporation has been achieved, it is then bottled. The aging of wine is due to oxidation, however, if most of it is completed before bottling, the wine undergoes very little change once placed in its glass home. This process is very similar to the making of Sherry, which as I also stated in one of my sections as an ideal collector's wine for ages. That is why this wine, along with perfect cellaring conditions has withstood the test of time, made next to the town of Arbois by the wine grower, Anatoile Vercel. A few bottles of the vin had been very carefully passed down to eight generations of the family Vercel.
I am sure the current Vercel generation are very appreciative of Mr. Pierre Chevrier's generous purchase. Now, I believe it is time to get a party together, Pierre being the star, to introduce his star wine to a few close friends. It is not said whether Christie’s has possession of any more of these rare bottles of Vin Jaune left to go under the hammer, but if so, and you want to be the next lucky winner of the 1774 vintage, you might want to have an eye peeled, deep pockets and be paddle ready.