Most wines are intended for consumption within the first year or two after purchase. Few improve after more than a decade of aging. Yet, periodically wine collectors uncork bottles more than one hundred years old and discover that the contents are not only drinkable, but exquisite. Although the market for old wines is small, wealthy collectors are willing to part with large sums of cash in order to acquire them.
Last month at Christie’s in Geneva, an anonymous bidder purchased a 1774 Arbois Vin Jaune for 46,000 Swiss francs. That’s nearly $50,000 American for a bottle older than the US. This might seem like a high price to pay for a bottle that could very well have passed its prime before the buyer was born, but a bottle of the same vintage and collection sold for much more at auction last year — $77,270.
Vin Jaune comes from the mountainous Jura region of France, which is sandwiched between Burgundy and Switzerland. A sweet wine made from the Savagnin grape, it is typically barrel-aged for at least six years before bottling. No telling how long the new owner will continue to let his purchase age before pulling the cork, or if it will wind up at auction again, older but untasted.