Hope you’ve had a nice holiday weekend. My Easter celebrations are always rather vague, but it’s an occasion to open a good bottle or two. And as there are many special wines waiting for that elusive ‘occasion’, I thought I’d open one of the oldest red wines in my cellar.
I’ve won the Rolet Père & Fils Arbois Poulsard 1983 at auction. Each year in February the Jura region organises the Percée du Vin Jaune, one of France’s most interesting wine festivals where the new vintage of the famous ‘yellow wine’ (slightly oxidised from six years’ ageing in cask) is presented. Vin jaune is an incredible creature of a wine, able to age for a hundred years or more. It has a unique flavour: a cornucopia of nuts and spices. I love vin jaune, and whenever I can, I go to the Percée to explore it.
The festival also includes a wine auction where you can bid for older vintages. Some are really old, going back to the 19th century and costing north of 10,000€ per bottle. Wines from the 1970s will set you in the region of 70–120€. It’s expensive, but a good deal. Interestingly, other Jura wines are also auctioned, including dry and sweet whites, and dry reds. The latter are another unique bunch. Made from very old local varieties Trousseau and Poulsard (there is also some Pinot Noir), they are light-bodied with strange aromas (Trousseau has a lot of meaty, spicy notes, and little fruit) and for such lithe wines, age stunningly well.
I picked this bottle of 1983 Poulsard from one of Jura’s leading domaines for 19€ plus commission and tax, an incredible bargain. (Had to bid really hard against one of the local vintners who was determined to buy back whatever was available; he notably snapped up all the magnums). You’d normally expect a floral, untannic, Beaujolais-like wine to be dead after five years, yet this Poulsard at age 29 is doing just fine. I won’t say it’s young – the aromas are very aged, with a fair bit of maderisation, and the colour is a full bricky-brown – but the taste is surprisingly alive. With minerality and crisp acidity, this wine is now timeless – I don’t think another six or seven years would make any difference.
Not a supercomplex wine, and not a great wine (whatever ‘great’ means), yet a memorable bottle. It was made in forgotten times: made to age and to accompany simple food with people gathering around the table. 29 years on, it performed exactly that, but with that extra spiritual dimension only time can give.
Source of wine: own purchase (at auction).