At the start of February the 3,000 or so residents of the charming town of Arbois, in the Jura, will welcome around 60,000 guests for the weekend. Winegrowers, wine lovers and curious tourists will wander the streets, enjoying stands, events, cooking contests, exhibitions and more. 

This year, La Percée du Vin Jaune (which changes location each year) takes place on the weekend of February 3-4, and amid all the jollity, there’s a very solemn ceremony, which is what gives the event its name. 

2024 percee de vin jaune poster, © La Percée du Vin Jaune

The Piercing Ceremony (no, it’s not some strange initiation ritual) – or la cérémonie de mise en perce – takes place during mass. The priest blesses a barrel of Vin Jaune, sitting in the centre of the church, and, following prayers, the barrel containing 228 litres of the golden nectar is carried by young winemakers and newcomers to the podium with an oversized replica of the tap that opens the barrel. The president of the ceremony then takes the floor and prepares to perform the opening of the barrel and pour the first glass. Then, of course, the tasting begins. 

Parades follow, plus the opening of the cellars and an afternoon of music and celebrations. On the Sunday, there are more stalls and events, the cellars open their doors at 10am and live music entertains the crowds.

Blessing-the-wine-in-2023, © La Percée du Vin Jaune

So what exactly is Vin Jaune? 

There are two tales as to how Vin Jaune was created. One suggests a careless winemaker forgot a barrel deep in his cellar and when he opened it couldn’t believe how delicious the golden, intense wine inside was. The second version claims that a convent in Château-Chalon, which ran the surrounding vineyards, was facing money problems but rather than selling the wine, the abbess decided to leave the barrels to age, after many years, when the nuns finally opened them, they were stunned by the beauty of this golden elixir. 

Parading the barrel, © La Percée du Vin Jaune

Nicknamed ‘the greatest white wine in the world’ and ‘the nectar of the gods’ Vin Jaune is made from the Savagnin grape, using a unique ageing process in which it remains for six years and three months in oak barrels, protected from the air by a veil of yeast which forms on the surface.

vin jaune clavelines, © La Percée du Vin Jaune

Once the ageing is complete, the Vin Jaune is bottled in a unique bottle known as a clavelin containing 62 cl (rather than the customary 75cl). It can be drunk young or old – the winemakers of the Jura say it will last for centuries, becoming ever more complex. 

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