Yes, 1774! What a privilege to hold this impeccable 238-year-old bottle in my hands. While Anatoile Vercel (1725-1786) was pruning the vines that year, he didn’t know that he would soon be harvesting and vinifying under a new monarch, King Louis XVI. To give some historical context, the United States was still an English colony; Napoleon Bonaparte was just a kid and the French Revolution was not far off. This wine is more than 238 years of history alive in a bottle.
Vin Jaune is the traditional wine of the Jura region, which lies between Burgundy and Switzerland, and takes its name from the Jura Mountains. An area known for its lakes and mountainous pastures, this ancient wine-making region is also home to some very unusual wines, not to mention a rich oenological past. It was here that Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was ordered by Napoleon III to investigate the maturation of wine. Using wines from his family vineyard, Pasteur discovered the role of yeast during fermentation. From this experiment the science of oenology was born, in addition to the pasteurization process that we use today for milk.
This bottle was part of a group which had been kept intact for eight generations by the Vercel family, in a vaulted underground cellar in Arbois, Pasteur’s birthplace. The Vercels were known as one of the oldest winemaker families in the area, and legend has it that Pasteur celebrated his induction into the Acadéemie Française with a bottle of 1774 Vin Jaune.
This “Burgundy-style” bottle—with a long neck and rounded belly—contains 87 centiliters of Vin Jaune. Another bottle of 1774 Vin Jaune was tasted in 1994 by 24 professionals at Château Pécauld in Arbois and declared “excellent.” The “golden-amber” colored nectar, with “flavors of nuts, spices, curry, cinnamon, vanilla and dried fruits” gave “superb results and a day to remember,” and was awarded 9.4/10 points.
Made to last centuries when of good quality, this 1774 bottle of Vin Jaune is probably the oldest unfortified example of what is sure to be an astounding wine….and a great rarity for a wine lover and connoisseur.
This bottle will be offered at Christie’s Geneva on 15 May.
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