Jayer (Henri, Georges and Family)

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.

Of the generation before Henri there were four brothers, Jean-François, Adolphe, Edouard and Eugène. Jean-François had a son, Louis, who in turn had two daughters, Jacqueline and Yvonne. The latter married Jean Grivot, whose son Etienne took over her vines after her retirement in 1988, having previously made wines for her under her label. Jean-François also had a daughter, Jeanne, who married a Sirugue and their daughter, Marthe, married a Lamadon.
 
Adolphe had a son, René, among whose children were Madeleine, who married Alfred Haegelen (Domaine Hagelen-Jayer), and Robert of Domaine Jayer-Gilles. Two of Edouard’s daughters Marie-Thèrese and Simone married respectively Henri Noëllat and Joseph Confuron. Edouard’s youngest daughter, had a daughter Marie-Annick, whose own daughter has now returned to the vines after two generations’ absence – Cécile Tremblay.
 
Finally the youngest, known as Eugène, had three sons: Georges, Lucien and Henri, who married Marcelle Rouget. Her nephew Emmanuel now farms the vineyard holdings of the three Jayer brothers.
 
Henri Jayer was regarded as the one person that influenced the skill of younger wine growers in Burgundy over the last two decades. His reputation was founded securely on an almost unbroken succession of superlative wines from his small Domaine, 6.30ha that are concentrated in and around Vosne-Romaneé and comprising everything from Passé-Tout-Grains to Echézeaux.

After his retirement in 2001, Henri Jayer passed responsibility of his vineyards to his protégé, Jean-Nicolas Méo and the day to day running of the Domaine to his nephew, Emmanuel Rouget, so they no longer appear under the Jayer label. However he kept back a barrel or so of Cros Parantoux until 2001, so bottles of that wine in the later years under his label may be genuine. Such is the demand for Jayer wines and the extraordinary prices which they achieve in the open market that alas there are clearly also some fraudulent bottles in circulation as well.

Henri married Marcelle Rouget whose nephew Emmanuel Rouget now farms the Jayer Family vineyards. Henri had two brothers, Georges and Lucien. Initially Henri sold off the wines he produced from his brother's George's vines in bulk, but from 1988 to 2001 they were bottled as "Domaine Georges Jayer mise en bouteilles par Henri Jayer". What was formerly the Georges Jayer Echézeaux continues to be made and bottled by Emmanuel Rouget with a label referring to George's Jayer's daughter, Claudette Dulka.

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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