'Yellow Wine' from 1774 Sells at Auction for Record Sum

Look out Burgundy and Bordeaux; Jura is here to party.

By Ethan L. Johns
May 29, 2018

Image: Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty Images

It has been quite a month for record-breaking bottles of booze. First came the bottles of Scotch worth over a million dollars per piece, then came some very, very old French wines. While the wines didn’t quite climb as high as the whiskey, they did sell for a sum that most would consider to be—as the French say—pas mal.

At an auction held on Saturday, a bottle of 1774 vin jaune—literally, “yellow wine”—from Jura broke records for the wine-growing region when it sold for 103,000 euros ($119,000). Two additional bottles from the same year were also sold, bringing in 76,250 ($88,000) euros and 73,200 euros ($84,500).

The bottles of wine, which are likely the oldest in existence, were produced by Anatoile Vercel of Arbois. Vercel lived from 1725 until 1786, and his wines were passed down to family members over the course of eight generations. The seller of the dusty old bottles that were auctioned on Saturday—who chose to remain anonymous—hoped that selling them would give them new life, he told French television station France 3.

A bottle of Vercel’s 1774 vintage was opened and tasted by a group of 24 wine professionals in 1994. They rated it a 9.4 out of 10, and described it as having a “taste of nuts, spices, curry, cinnamon, vanilla and dried fruit.”

Vin jaune is unique to Jura, and must be made using the local savagnin grape. The fruit is harvested late in the season to beef up the sugar content and put into 60-gallon casks, where a veil of yeast forms on the surface (much like with sherry). Vin jaune must be aged for six years and three months before it can be sealed inside of its distinctive 18th-century bottle, which holds 620 milliliters.

The auction bottles, which predate both the French and American Revolutions, were sold to Canadian buyers.

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns