Monthly Archives: April 2012

Rumours and Speculation over another 1774 Arbois for sale

When Christie’s released the news that the star bottle for its Geneva wine sale on May 15th was a bottle of 1774 ‘Vin Jaune’ from the Vercel collection, it raised a few eyebrows from those who know Jura wines well, not least from those living in Arbois, and from me for that matter. The sale estimate of CHF40-50,000 may sound a lot, but at current exchange rates the upper estimate is about 25% lower than that achieved at the auction of one of its ‘sister bottles’ that took place in Arbois in February 2011.

The two big questions are firstly who exactly has offered this bottle for sale, and secondly, who is going to pay all that money for it? The buyer of the bottle sold at the auction at the Percée du Vin Jaune last year, Swiss wine collector and broker Pierre Chevrier has not suddenly decided to sell his bottle, and told me a couple of days ago that he is tired of the phone calls he has been receiving about it – he is still planning the dinner at which it will be a centrepiece in a couple of years’ time.

When researching my recent article in World of Fine Wine I was told there were probably 15 – 20 further bottles from the same lot and same vintage, but that they had been split between the three remaining descendents of the Vercel family, and were not all in good condition (showing good clarity and levels in the bottle).

Yesterday, the local Jura television station, France 3 Franche-Comté, ran a short news piece – styled almost as a mystery ‘whodunnit’ – on the question of where the bottle being offered at Christie’s came from, claiming at the end of the broadcast that they now knew for sure that the bottle was being sold by someone in Arbois, but that the person’s identity was, not surprisingly, being kept a secret.

Christie’s are erroneously calling the bottle, that has no label, a ‘Vin Jaune’. Back in the 18th century that term was not used, in fact it was quite derogatory. Wine to age was named ‘vin de garde’. It is, however, true that today the 1774 Arbois wine is deemed to be a Vin Jaune, since laboratory analyses and tasting of two of its sister bottles in the early 1990s confirmed that it showed all the attributes and characteristics of a Vin Jaune, a drinkable one at that!

So, who will buy the bottle and for how much? Alice Feiring, a devout fan of the Jura, has expressed concern that the Christie’s sale would raise the profile of the region to an extent that might make it a target for counterfeiting, something the region has successfully avoided so far. The France 3 video emphasizes that there has been no question of falsity in the bottles of 1774 offered to the market at Arbois last year, or at Christie’s this year. However, the future is less certain.

Alice wonders whether, apart from  Paris-based wine collector François Audouze, the under-bidder in last year’s auction, there will be that much demand for the bottle at its estimated price, without the excitement that is built each year with the Percée du Vin Jaune festival. Bernard Pujol, who runs the auction of old bottles at the Percée agrees with her, and stated on the France 3 interview that he would not have advised selling right now [so soon after the previous sale] and that he fears the price may be lower than that achieved at Arbois, which is not good for the market.

However, over on the French wine forum of La Passion du Vin, Audouze freely expresses that having bid much too high on the first bottle last year – and lost – the estimate on the Christie’s bottle is high because of that bidding war, and he fears that the publicity created by Christie’s will attract numerous Chinese to push the price up once again, so he may not win this one either. The problem of the rich, as he rightly points out.

Personally, I think that all of this publicity is great news for the Jura region, and especially for Vin Jaune. In the ten years that I’ve been following the Jura and Vin Jaune, prices direct from the producer hardly shifted until the last couple of years, indeed there has been an outcry about price cutting of Vin Jaune from larger producers sold in the supermarkets at certain times of the year for as low as €15. For such a fine, ageworthy wine produced in such small quantities – on average a mere 400,000 bottles a year  – a price direct from the producer of €25-€30 per clavelin (the special 62cl bottle) could hardly be called greedy when compared to many wines with far shorter life expectancy from Bordeaux or Burgundy.

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Five organic Jura wine producers come to London

This coming May thanks to two organic wine fairs running over the same dates, there will be five Jura producers visiting London offering their wines to taste. It’s a great opportunity for UK wine lovers to learn about wines from the Jura, and I am hoping that their visit will start a small buzz for the Jura wine region in London and the UK.

I’m taking advantage of the producers being in London to put on a private evening tasting on May 19th for wine communicators (writers, bloggers, educators and sommeliers) – more details on this separate London Jura wine evening page.

There has never been a generic Jura tasting in London, this little region has wisely, in my view, chosen to spend its limited funds on promoting its wines in the USA and Canada these past few years. However, today at last more wines from Jura are being imported into the UK and creeping onto the lists of switched-on wine bars, wine shops and restaurants.

The REAL wine fair is partly organised by Les Caves de Pyrène who have for some years been the only importer in the UK bringing in wines from several producers in the Jura. It takes place from 20th– 22nd May with consumers welcome on Sunday 20th May, the other days being reserved for the wine trade. Present will be Domaine Philippe Bornard from Pupillin and Alice Bouvot who with partner Charles Dagand own Domaine Octavin in Arbois, both imported by Les Caves, as well as Evelyne Clairet from Domaine de la Tournelle in Arbois, imported into the UK by Dynamic Vines.

The RAW wine fair organised by Isabelle Legeron MW takes place on 20th for consumers and 21st May for trade, and includes producers from various biodynamic and natural wine organisations. The two Jura producers exhibiting, both looking for UK importers, are part of the Renaissance des Appellations (Return to Terroir) biodynamic group of French producers. They are Domaine de la Pinte, whose general manager and viticulturist Bruno Ciofi will be present, and Domaine Pignier, with Jean-Etienne Pignier, who runs the estate with his brother Antoine and sister Marie-Florence.

I know all these dedicated producers and their wines, and together they offer an intriguing cross-section of styles from the Jura. I urge you to mark your diaries for the two fairs, and put aside some time at each to visit the Jura stands. And, for any wine communicators amongst you take a look at the London Jura wine evening details and get in touch with me if you want an invitation.

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Trade Event: Jura comes to Chicago, Quebec, Montreal and Toronto

Jura in Chicago

After three years of presenting their wines in New York, this year an important group of 25 Jura wine producers are descending on Chicago, before continuing onto Canada for tastings in Quebec, Montreal and Toronto. The group includes large and small producers, some already exporting to certain US States and/or Canada, others hoping to gain their first export contracts.

Dates for the tastings are:
Monday April 16th: Chicago
Tuesday April 17th: Montreal
Wednesday April 18th: Quebec
Friday April 20th: Toronto
Note these tastings are for trade only. For an invitation contact Vincent Lafortune.

Exports from the Jura have risen steadily, especially in the past 3 years, and although figures are not available specifically for exports to the USA and Canada, in talking to producers (and seeing for myself the wines widely stocked in New York and San Francisco) these two markets are certainly of growing importance. However, total exports from the Jura remain below 7% compared to, for example, Alsace at 25% and about 33% for France as a whole.

The mix of producers present is interesting. Included are the region’s three largest producers, La Maison des Vignerons (part of Grand Chais de France), Henri Maire and the Fruitière Vinicole d’Arbois (the Arbois wine co-operative); several well established producers are present including Stéphane (Domaine A & M) Tissot, Domaine Rolet, Domaine Montbourgeau, Domaine Berthet-Bondet, Caves Bourdy, Domaine Jacques Tissot and Château d’Arlay; others that should be much better known than they are include Domaine Dugois, Domaine Labet, Jean Rijckaert, Julien Mareschal, Domaine Baud and Domaine Badoz. Also showing are some rising organic stars including Domaine Octavin, Domaine La Pinte, Hughes-Béguet, Champs Divin, Philippe Bornard and Ludwig Bindernagl (Chais du Vieux Bourg).

Each producer will present six wines and no doubt all the myriad of different Jura styles will be available to taste. It’s a fabulous opportunity to get to know these wines for the wine trade and media in the cities represented, and I wish the producers every success.

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The story of the 1774 bottle and Vin Jaune re-visited

Arbois 1774

1774 Arbois bottle sold at auction ©Serge Reverchon/CIVJ

In February 2011 at the annual auction of old Jura wines at the Percée du Vin Jaune festival, a bottle of 1774 Arbois was sold for a massive and record-breaking 57,000 euros.

I wrote about it in my Jura updates last year, and was commissioned for a long piece by the magazine World of Fine Wine. In their ‘Then and Now’ section I wrote about the history of this bottle and its sale, plus about Vin Jaune today. I was really impatient to see the article published – finally it has been and is in the current edition of World of Fine Wine.

Story of 1774 Vin Jaune

Click to read the article as a PDF

The research for this article was absolutely absorbing for me with people like producers Pierre Overnoy and Stéphane Tissot, local historian Roger Gibey, and the purchaser of the bottle Pierre Chevrier being really generous with their time.

At the Percée du Vin Jaune this February in Ruffey-sur-Seille the severe cold (at -18°C the coldest on record!) drew many visitors to attend the auction, but it was certainly a more low key affair. It’s still impressive though to see the array of bottles of 50 years old and more. The highest price paid for a bottle was for a Château-Chalon 1870 (reputed as an excellent vintage) and it went for a trifling 5,500 euros. The Percée next year will be in the village of Voiteur at the foot of the Château-Chalon hill, on the weekend of 2nd-3rd February 2013.

STOP PRESS: According to a feature on the Christie’s website, but not apparently official, it appears that Christie’s Geneva will be selling another of the 1774 ‘Vin Jaune’ Arbois bottles from the Vercel collection at their auction on 15th May 2012.

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