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WINE

Three bottles of 1774 vintage wine go on sale in France

Tucked away in a vaulted cellar of eastern France for eight generations, they may be the oldest bottles of wine available for purchase: three bottles of "Vin Jaune" (yellow wine) dating from 1774 which will go under the hammer on Saturday.

Three bottles of 1774 vintage wine go on sale in France
Photo: AFP

The bigger-than-average 87-centilitre bottles were made by winemaker Anatoile Vercel using grapes harvested under the reign of Louis XVI.

They have been kept ever since by his descendants in Arbois, the capital of winemaking in the rolling hills of the Jura region near Switzerland.

The three bottles were removed Tuesday ahead of Saturday's sale in nearby Lons-le-Saunier.

“They are the oldest bottles of wines in the world on the market,” said Brigitte Fenaux of the Jura Encheres auction house, who will lead the sale.

It's not the first time the 1774 Vercel wines have been offered: a bottle sold for 57,000 euros ($67,000 at current rates) in 2001, and another in 2012 for 46,000 Swiss frances ($46,000)

“Having three bottles from this particular year and of such quality is exceptional,” said Philippe Etievant of Jura Encheres.

A panel of two-dozen wine professionals had already gotten a taste of the bottles at a tasting in 1994, when they discerned notes of “walnuts, spices, curry, cinnamon, vanilla and dried fruits”, rating it a 9.4 out of 10.

The bottles will cap the sale of 102 top wines from Jura on Saturday, when connoisseurs can also bid for a rare white wine from Arbois — a younger bottle, though, from 1811.

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FARMING

Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts

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