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News

Henri Jayer, an untrained French vineyard worker who rose to become one of the most important winemakers in Burgundy in the 1970’s and 1980’s, died Wednesday in Dijon, France. He was 84.

The cause was cancer, according to Martine Saunier, his representative in the United States. He had been ill for several years and was hospitalized five weeks ago, Ms. Saunier said.

At the height of Mr. Jayer’s fame in the late 1980’s, not even the wines of the legendary Domaine de la Romanée Conti were as prized as the frustratingly small quantities of wines he produced. To own even two or three of his Échézeaux or Richebourg, or his Vosne-Romanée Clos Parentoux, was to possess a vinous treasure. Owning a full case of 12 bottles could provoke the wrath of threestar restaurateurs all over France whose cellars were filled with fine Burgundy but who had no Jayer.

 

Henri Jayer was born in — and rarely left — the famous wine village of Vosne-Romanée, about halfway between the city of Dijon and Beaune, the historic capital of the Burgundy wine district. A modest, unassuming and eminently approachable man, he was the quintessential Burgundian vigneron, or winemaker. What he knew he learned from observation and experimentation, among his vines and in the wine cellar.

In 1945, Mr. Jayer entered into a 10-year contract with the Noirot-Camuzet family, which owned parts of several famous vineyards in Vosne-Romanée. He tended their vines and made the wines in exchange for 50 percent of the grapes. His half was bottled under his name. The contract was extended until 1987, when a younger member of the Camuzet family took over.

 

Over the years, Mr. Jayer had been buying small portions of the Clos Parentoux vineyard in Vosne-Romanée from the Camuzet family and other owners. He blended Clos Parentoux wine with wines from other Vosne-Romanée vineyards until 1978. That year, for the first time, he bottled a wine entirely from Clos Parentoux; it was the wine that made his reputation, although he rarely made more than some 3,500 bottles — just under 300 cases.

Although “retired” from his contract with the Camuzets, he continued to make Clos Parentoux until 1995, when he turned the business over to a nephew by marriage, Emmanuel Rouget.

 

Mr. Jayer’s father, Eugène, moved to Vosne-Romanée before World War I and pieced together a small domain of about seven acres. In later years Henri and his brothers, Lucien and Georges, added small parcels to the family land and leased others. There are many Jayers in their section of Burgundy, known as the Côte de Nuits, and most of them are involved in making wine. Some have their own labels, some work for others and some, like Mr. Jayer, do both.

Mr. Jayer is survived by his wife, Marcelle Rouget Jayer, and two daughters.

Emmanuel Rouget now tends Lucien and Georges’s vineyards as well as Henri’s. A former auto mechanic, he was brought into wine growing and trained by his uncle. Some years ago, an interviewer asked Mr. Rouget if he had changed anything he had learned from Henri. “We bring in the grapes in plastic containers now, instead of wooden baskets,” he said.

By FRANK J. PRIAL Published: September 22, 2006

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History

Henri Jayer was born in 1922 and died in 2006, by which time he had assumed legendary status. He was not initially planning to be a vigneron but accepted Etienne Camuzet’s proposal that he should look after the Camuzet vineyards during the War, and things developed from there. In due course he planted some vineyards for himself and looked after the vines of his brothers, Georges and Lucien. It is worth exploring the family tree since various other domaines enjoy the Jayer name, albeit without Henri ever having been involved in the winemaking.

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Vineyards

Henri Jayer's personal philosophy begun with the observation that 'wine must not be brought up in cotton-wool' and 'let nature go'. He was adamant that one cannot replace artificially elements in a wine which are absent at the start. Tinkering with musts and wine to adjust the results for inadequate fruit is not the way to achieve quality. Jayer channeled his energy and expertise in producing top-class grapes to vinify from vines that are more than 50 years old. Jayer's vinification methods were not particularly unusual but they reminded us that 'wine is for pleasure so one seeks as perfect an equilibrium as possible.'

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Winemaking

An Interview with Martine Saunier

Martine Saunier hails from Paris, where she spent her formative years. When Martine was a teenager, she went every summer to stay with her Aunt, who owned a small winery in the hamlet of Collonges near Mâcon. She participated in the harvest every year, following the winemaker Monsieur Camille in the cellar, learning first about fermentation techniques and then how to taste wine. She moved to San Francisco in 1964 and was dismayed at not being able to find quality Burgundy in the market. She eventually met a German Importer in California to whom she suggested that it was a shame that no one would deal with small producers from France, and soon enough she was on her way to her first wine tour of her native France. This was in 1969. She would make recommendations of great little wines that she found in the market to her clients, while working for this company and eventually built up a great reputation for making astute calls with regards to excellent wines, all the while publishing a small hand-typed “newsletter” where the deals were listed with some tasting notes and comments from Martine herself. Once she had built up a good following, she set up her own import company, Martine’s Wines in the small town of Novato in California in 1979. 

 

 
 
 
 1990 Leroy Chambertin

I have interviewed Martine twice over the course of the past four years specifically for consignments she made with Acker, Merrall & Condit (including this ultimate one), but I have had the pleasure of speaking with her, tasting with her, and eating and drinking with her multiple times before and after. She is an astonishing fountain of knowledge and passion especially about the wines of Burgundy – which can easily be said to be her adopted home - but also about all wine in general. She has completed an incredible testament to this love with the film “A Year in Burgundy” which we are featuring as part of her engagement here and are making available to all of Acker’s esteemed clients. It is a true documentary experience allowing the viewer into Martine’s world of traveling around to her producers’ Domaines, and the personal interaction with which she deals and handles their wines into the American market. There can be no doubt after seeing this film and getting to know Martine that she is a woman of pure unadulterated passion for her work with these wines and with a level of care and meticulousness into their marketing rarely rivaled in the world today.

 

 
I spoke to Martine right in the middle of the busy Christmas selling season. I want to start talking about the wines of Henri Jayer, mainly because he is no longer among us. In your opinion, what was he like?

Henri was a great man first and foremost. You meet many people in your life, but only a few really make a deep impact on you. Henri was such a guy. In 1973, one of my Burgundy producers from Chassagne Montrachet, Pillot, came to San Francisco on a tour organized by Alexis Lichine. They had a free afternoon and brought along Henri Jayer to my house. Henri invited me to visit him in Vosne Romanée. In the spring of 1974 I went to visit Burgundy on a buying trip as usual and stopped in Vosne-Romanée specifically to see Henri. We talked about the possibility of me buying some of his wines, but all he had for sale was the recently bottled 1972, which honestly did not have a very good reputation and had been slammed by the press, especially the British. Funny enough most of the 72’s he had were ordered by a British merchant, but he cancelled his order, and to my luck I was able to buy them.

 

 
After that, how did you continue to develop your relationship with Jayer?

Well, it was quite a difficult time back then in the 1970’s since there was one poor vintage after another: first 1972, which is where I started, thinking it can only get better from here…then came 1973 which again was panned by the press and then the difficult 1974’s, yet it seemed Jayer made extremely delicious wines every vintage. The 1975’s were tough as nails but far more complex in quality, and the 1976’s were outright delicious. I remember a dinner at a great San Francisco restaurant where Jayer was visiting us, and he wanted to show the 1977 Richebourg. I could not say no, but the sommeliers were anxious. This was supposed to be a tough sell, but after all the sommeliers and restaurateurs tasted these light-bodied, yet suave wines, they were just sold on them. Not many people were that into these Burgundian wines back in those days, but Jayer definitely made a difference, even in those very weak vintages, and he became known for that. Henri made great wines every vintage. I never was disappointed. He was a master!

 

 
What was the turning point for you with Jayer then?

Without a question, the 1978 vintage. It was first of all extremely well received in the press in the United States, but then there was no internet or even fax machines obviously, so if you didn’t subscribe to various printed publications, you wouldn’t necessarily know anything of what was going on. In fact, it was the US that really made Jayer’s reputation. I had bought as much wine as Jayer would sell to me and was looking at a big investment, because when I tasted the wine in barrel in December of 1979, I knew it was something extraordinary. In the US, very few people who were serious in wine knew anything about Henri Jayer at the time, so when I received the first cases of the 78’s on a shipment in 1980, I went to sample them in several markets in California primarily. I was showing the 1978 Cros Parantoux to my good customers at Greenblatt’s Deli in Los Angeles. This is a legendary place where all the Hollywood and music people used to buy their wines. One of their top customers was a huge record label executive, and he bought everything he could after hearing about the tasting there and the rave reviews from the staff at Greenblatt’s. He then told all his Hollywood friends and people in the business about this amazing Cros Parantoux wine, and the rest is history. It really started with the 1978 vintage for me.

 

 
Cros Parantoux, unlike any other parcel in Vosne-Romanée, is completely linked with Jayer. Why?

In 1945, Henri Jayer entered into a 10-year metayage (crop-sharing) contract with the Mme. Noirot-Camuzet. When that happened, his role was to care for the entire vineyards owned by the old lady and all her property. Henri got 50% of the fruit, which he labeled under his own name and sold mainly in barrel, and the other 50% went to Mme. Noirot-Camuzet. In 1951, Jayer himself was able to buy a small piece of Cros Parantoux, then a completely unknown and largely forsaken Vosne-Romanée vineyard, from a Monsieur Roblot. Then in 1953, old Mme. Noirot-Camuzet offered another small piece of the vineyard to Henri. Henri had now amassed around 45 ares (1.11 acres) of Cros Parantoux. Henri replanted his portion in 1956. In 1959 the old lady Noirot-Camuzet passed away, leaving her estate to her first cousin, Jean Meo, which is how Henri’s relationship with the Meo-Camuzet family started. He made their wines for a long time. In 1970, the sister of Robert Arnoux sold Henri the last available piece of the vineyard. Henri now owned around 72 ares (1.77 acres) of Cros Parantoux. Meo-Camuzet retained around 29 ares (0.71 acres) of the vineyard. They were the only two owners of Cros Parantoux. All these years, Henri had been blending the Cros Parantoux fruit with other vineyards. But in 1976, he created a wine that was about 3/4th from Cros Parantoux, the rest from very delicious Vosne Romanée Village fruit. He saw the remarkable quality coming from Cros Parantoux. 1978 marks the first time that Henri bottled a wine exclusively from Cros Parantoux and labeled it as such. I tasted that wine in barrel twice and then in bottle, and it was and continues to be a remarkable wine. I have put one last magnum of this legend of a wine in this sale, and I will bet it is the greatest wine you can ever taste.

 

 
We talked about this last time, but I want to ask you again about the Echezeaux of Henri Jayer and now Emmanuel Rouget. Please tell me more.

OK, we have to go back to the story of Eugene Jayer, who bought a piece of the even-then famous Echezeaux vineyard just outside of the village of Vosne-Romanée. When he passed away, his three sons, Georges, Lucien and Henri inherited his piece of Echezeaux which was split into three parts. Lucien made a wine from his own rows, which later became the Jayer-Gilles holdings. Georges had no interest in viticulture, and therefore Henri was making the Jayer wine from Echezeaux out of 2/3 of the inherited rows. Every year Henri made only one Echezeaux wine from the entire parcel, and once it was bottled, as is required by law, he labelled part of the bottles with his brother’s crest and part with his own. The wine inside the bottles was always the exact same wine, and there is no difference between bottles of Henri Jayer Echezeaux and Henri Jayer for Georges Jayer Echezeaux. The same is true for the Echezeaux made by Emmanuel Rouget for Georges. He is farming the same parcel and doing the exact same practice. One wine, one bottling, 2 different labels, always!

 

 
Let us talk about Madame Bize-Leroy and how you met her and started dealing with her wines?

It was in 1986 that I had the pleasure of meeting her, simply because a great collector friend of mine from Los Angeles, who was in Burgundy at the same time as I was, asked me if I would go with him to Maison Leroy in Auxey-Duresses. He was going there with Georges Pertuiset, the famous Sommelier from Lameloise (the 3-star Michelin restaurant in Chagny, Burgundy), and he introduced me to Toto Rageot, the Cellarmaster. He put on a tasting of some of the most marvelous wines I had ever had, and we had a good time there. He mentioned that he thought I was a good taster of the wines, and I told him that I was an importer in the US. The next day I was with my friends at DRC, and the secretary told me to call Madame Leroy immediately. We had an appointment the following Friday in Auxey-Duresses. As she knew of me importing the great wines of Henri Jayer into California, she asked if I could find her a warehouse there. It just so happened that there was one for sale next to mine. In February 1987, she came to California to transfer her wines from the Wilson Daniels’ warehouse in Napa, and she asked me if I could be her importer. I started by importing the Maison Leroy 1985 vintage that summer. In 1988, she bought Domaine Charles Noellat and hired Andre Porcheret, the winemaker of the Hospices de Beaune. Then when she left DRC to found Domaine Leroy that year, I was right there with her, helping her kick off the wines in the US market, which at the time was small compared to the Japanese market. It’s been nearly 30 years and we’re best friends to this day, and she plays a key role in my film “A Year in Burgundy” which really shows the power of this woman, now 82 years old and still going very strong.

 

 
There are some very important selections of Domaine Leroy’s greatest hits in this consignment. How did you select them for this?

Well, first of all, I think it is important to highlight the biggest stars of the stable, like in a great horserace. That’s why I have selected the Musigny, the Chambertin, the Richebourg and the Romanée St. Vivant for example, all from great vintages. In many cases, these are fully the best wines of the vintage, totally showing the dedication and style of Lalou through her wines, which are of course completely biodynamically farmed and produced, and like Henri Jayer, never filtered. I have tasted wines that I bought unfiltered from some barrels and then were filtered for another country or importer. The wines are not the same and simply not the same level of quality as they age, so the no-filtering process which Jayer was so famous for (and Lalou followed in the same way) is a very important matter, especially in Burgundy. You also have some of the great village wines she makes, again in a totally different style than if you taste the wines from other producers. You have the Nuits St. Georges, the Pommard and the Volnay, for example, and these are stellar wines, even for what they are, but because of the magic touch of Lalou. They are elevated to a special level which few others can reach.

 

 
Finally Martine, what can people expect from buying these wines, and are we going to see this type of consignment from you again in the future?
Let me make this very clear: This consignment is going to be the last of its kind. I will never again be able to select such a fantastic range of Henri Jayer wines, and I literally cleaned out most of my private cellar, especially for the Cros Parantoux wines. I have tasted and drunk so many bottles of this legendary wine, and, of course, I have a few nice bottles left for my own drinking, but this is really most of my Jayer holdings you have gotten here, so take good care of it and enjoy it while you can. As far as the wonderful wines from Lalou, Domaine D’Auvenay is her family home which she inherited from her parents, and I think it has been in the Leroy family for a very long time. The house is really from the Middle Ages! Domaine Leroy is a nice selection for everyone to enjoy that makes it possible for some to acquire a nice cross section of these amazing wines. I do love drinking Domaine Leroy wines and will continue to do so, but I have enough for myself still, so this for sharing. The wines of Emmanuel Rouget take over right where Jayer’s wine leaves off, and I think they’re often at a level fully on par with some of the wines Henri made in his day. There are also the rest of my wines of Perrot-Minot, who I no longer handle, and Meo-Camuzet as well, and in addition just a touch of Pegaü wines that I do love very much. Altogether I am very happy for you to take these wines and sell them in Hong Kong again, since I have always enjoyed them in America and with great American collectors, now comes the turn of the Chinese collectors.
 
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Inside information

Historic Burgundies from winemaker Henri Jayer stretching back more than four decades led a wine auction by Sotheby’s (BID) in London, accounting for four of the top five lots and beating presale estimates on strong Asian demand.

Eleven bottles of Jayer’s 1970 Richebourg sold on July 17 for 72,850 pounds ($110,800) including a buyer’s premium, compared with an upper estimate excluding fees of 34,000 pounds, according to a Sotheby’s statement. A four-bottle lot of Jayer’s Vosne-Romanee 1990 Cros Parantoux and a half-case of the 1993 each sold for 37,600 pounds while a magnum of 1978 Richebourg fetched 28,200 pounds.

Demand for rare Burgundies has driven auctions this year, with Asian buyers acquire all of the top four Jayer lots and seven out of the top 10 lots at the sale. Chinese and other collectors have focused more on that region than on the Bordeaux wines which powered a market bull run in 2010 and 2011.

“The Asians are still very strong buyers,” Stephen Mould, head of Sotheby’s European wine department, said by telephone. “The online bidding goes from strength to strength.”

Jayer, who died in 2006, has become one of Burgundy’s most sought-after wine-makers. His Cros Parantoux, from a 2.5-acre (1 hectare) premier cru vineyard that was an artichoke field in World War II, has acquired trophy status, with a case of the 1985 vintage fetching as much as HK$2.06 million ($265,600) at a Christie’s International Plc sale in Hong Kong in February 2012.

 

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6 different wines with 55 vintages

Highlights

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  3 wines  from  Henri Jayer . In a tasting of  28 wines 

Hey there. It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you…2017 has been a great year for wine auctions, but not for my tasting notes, at least publishing them. I still have a lot of notes, I just haven’t been able to get them out. Need to work on that. With the Fall season arriving and an extremely exciting September already in my air, I finally sat down and started to dig into dozens of pieces of papers of notes, and then, of course, I had to start here.

There was one weekend in 2017 that I could not let pass me and my notes by, and that was our ‘Greatest Wines of the World Weekend,’ held this past May. Collectors came from all over the country, and even outside the country, to New York City for three extraordinary meals at New York’s finest restaurants: 11 Madison, Daniel and Per Se for three days of Bacchanalian bliss.
While this was an amazing evening in every which way (let’s not forget food and company), it was a bit of a warmup for the two sessions that would follow. It was taxi time, and in less than 24 hours we would be at Daniel, doing it all over again.

1m 1d ago

 Marco Michieletti, Wine Dealer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Henri Jayer . In a tasting of  11 wines 

Undesputably, Burdundy counts as the wine growing region where some of the best wines are coming from. Burgundy has a higher number of appellations d'origine contrôlée (AOCs) than any other French region, and is often seen as the most terroir-conscious of the French wine regions.

6m 9d ago

 Henri Jayer  has updated producer and wine information

7m 2d ago

 Mark Beaven , Pro (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Henri Jayer . In a tasting of  19 wines 

Moet Hennesy and Mark Holiday Tasting 

9m 4d ago

 Frank Smulders MW, Pro (Austria)  tasted  1 wines  from  Henri Jayer . In a tasting of  3 wines 

“Château Palmer 1961 100 points. Though a bit problematic when we opened the bottle in the afternoon, it showed during the actual tasting, in the evening, precisely why Palmer is often seen as underrated in the 1855 classification. Wow! The nose perhaps a bit more reluctant then the three wines mentioned before, but on the palate a beautiful sweetness of fruit and tannin, great balance and ending in a powerful, slightly dominated by the alcohol finish. ”

1y 2m ago

 Juha Lihtonen, Sommelier (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Henri Jayer . In a tasting of  10 wines 

“A joyful blind tasting with some super wines! Screaming Eagle 1999 was immensely delicate and harmonious with lovely intensity. Côte-Rôtie La Mouline from super vintage 1978 was so energetic and charming that I'd have liked to give it even 101 points! Pétrus 1929, DRC Montrachet 1990 and Pol Roger 1947 hit the high scores as well - all were so charming. Some of the most surprising experiences were wines from "off-vintages" like La Tache 1935 and Troplong Mondot 1904!!! Both were in great condition. ”

1y 4m ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Henri Jayer . In a tasting of  13 wines 

“An evening at home with friends and amazing wines like Petrus 1929, Yquem 1921, Pol Roger 1947, DRC Montrachet 1990, Screaming Eagle 1999 etc...best wine was Guigal La Mouline 1978 / 100 points / Perfect bottle. Decanted for two hours. Lovely bright garnet colour. The nose reveals sound and open aromas of violet, cinnamon, spices, olive and game with some toasty new oak nuances. This wine has innumerable layers of graceful yet fully ripe fruit, creating a harmonious interaction of already quite soft tannin and fresh acidity. Excessive weight and extension in the mouth. There is a perfect balance between all the elements, followed by velvety-textured wine's finish lasts for over a minute This one of the most concentrated La Mouline is already very drinkable, and will easily last through 2030 given suitable cellar conditions.”

1y 4m ago

 Jillian Logan, Wine Collector (Greece)  tasted  1 wines  from  Henri Jayer . In a tasting of  22 wines 

“Richebourg Tasting: Leroy Richebourg 1996 - 98 points / Bright, youngish colour of dark ruby. Open and promising nose packed with ripe, sweet, cassis fruit, violets and creamed cherry flavours. Powerful and round on the palate. Well structured with perfectly balanced velvety tannins and good, underpinning lively acidity. Very intense and has huge concentration. This Richebourg had a big and bold personality with an openhanded character and a vigorous, sweet and long ending. Fully mature but no hurry to drink. Enjoy this between 2016-2025.”

1y 5m ago

 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Henri Jayer . In a tasting of  37 wines 

“This year’s La Paulee was in San Francisco, and on the Friday night before the big gala, a few lucky gentlemen were invited to dinner at Quince, thanks to the efforts of Tom Terrific and Dapper Dave. Magnums were the theme, and Burgundy was the given. There weren’t too many wines to forgive, as almost everything showed spectacularly. Accordingly, this was an evening no one would forget.”

1y 5m ago

 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Henri Jayer . In a tasting of  12 wines 

“2015 was a very good year. Except for me writing articles about tasting wines. I went on a hiatus, a sabbatical, a leave of absence if you will, but I wasn’t absent. I just looked over an entire year of tasting notes, handwritten, of course, and it filled me with lots of great memories, joy and a few “where the f*@k was I’s?”

I just realized that I need to remember to date and location stamp where I am when I am at a serious tasting, but I think I knew where I was about 80-90% of the time. Is that good lol? 120 flights and 300,000+ miles will do that to a man.

My original plan was to get back in the writing saddle and set the bar with my greatest memories of 2015. Seven weeks later, I realize that may be a bit too ambitious for me currently. Am I getting older, busier or better? Fret not, I am still drinking better, and about a month ago in Hong Kong saw me at my first great tasting of the year. The Sifu was the host, and for those that love their fine wine, there is no better host in Hong Kong, and arguably the world.”

1y 6m ago

 Christer Byklum / Leading Scandinavian wine blogger, Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  3 wines  from  Henri Jayer . In a tasting of  40 wines 

“Penfolds Grange 1976 - 100 points.
Deep ruby and a 2mm of garnet rim. Tobacco, pepper, syrah as from the very best of Rhone, a complexity you only dream about, it's so intence and huge in complexity, you just can't take it apart and describe it, it's too much, the brain shut's down, and just enjoy, immensely! Acidity is increadible, fresh and lively, exceptional balance, great tannin structure, like falling crisp snow, one of the most complex wines I have had, increadible long finish, my best syrah/shiraz, only startting to show signs of maturation, aftertaste for minutes and minutes, keep at least another 20 years if you're lucky.”

1y 8m ago

 Jan-Erik Paulson, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Henri Jayer . In a tasting of  15 wines 

“Jayer Echezeaux 1978 / Decanted for 1hour. Opaque and dark ruby-red colour. Powerful yet discreet bouquet of ripe fruit and mineral scents. Wonderfully rich, thick, earthy and concentrated wine with layer upon layer of ripe, exotic fruit. The Jayer Echezeaux is well-balanced, pure and perhaps slightly more dryer than the 1985. It has an excellent grip and a long, thrilling, fairly tannic finish. 95 points ”

1y 10m ago

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