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2001 Vosné-Romanée, Cros Parentoux, 1er Domaine Henri Jayer
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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.
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.'
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
The small commune of Vosne-Romanée is the Côte de Nuits’ brightest star, producing the finest and most expensive Pinot Noir wines in the world.. Its wines have an extraordinary intensity of fruit which manages to combine power and finesse more magically than in any other part of the Côte d’Or. The best examples balance extraordinary depth and richness with elegance and breeding.Situated just north of Nuits-St Georges, Vosne-Romanée boasts eight Grand Cru vineyards, three of which include the suffix Romanée, to which the village of Vosne appended its name in 1866. The famous La Romanée vineyard was formerly known as Le Cloux but was renamed in 1651, presumably after the Roman remains found nearby. In 1760 the property was bought by Prince de Conti, and subsequently became known as Romanée-Conti.
Vosne is the home of the phenomenally fine wines of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti; divine wines that are, as they say, not for everyone but for those who can afford them. The region also boasts some of the world’s most talented, quality-conscious and pioneering producers: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti of course, but also Henri Jayer, Lalou Bize-Leroy, René Engel, as well as the Grivot and Gros families, to name but a few.
Vosne-Romanée has the greatest concentration of top vineyards in the Côte d’Or, including the tiny Grand Crus of the astonishing La Romanée-Conti (a monopoly of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti producing about 600 cases a year), the classy, complex La Romanée (a monopoly of Vicomte Liger-Belair, but until 2002 bottled under Bouchard Père et Fils, producing a minuscule 300 cases or so a year) and the little-known La Grande Rue. As the name suggests, this runs up the side of the road out of Vosne. Originally a Premier Cru, it was rightly upgraded in 1992, although its rich, spicy, floral Pinots are yet to reach their real potential under Domaine Lamarche who hold it as a monopoly.
By convention the wines of neighbouring Flagey-Echézeaux are considered part of Vosne-Romanée. These include the large, very variable 30-hectare Echézeaux (divided between 84 different growers) and the more consistent, silky, intense, violet-scented Grands Echézeaux Grands Crus.
La Tâche is another monopoly of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. It is explosively seductive with a peerless finesse, and is almost as good as their legendary eponymous wine. Richebourg is one of Burgundy’s most voluptuous wines and is capable of challenging La Tâche in some years, while Romanée-St Vivant, which takes its name from the monastery of St Vivant built around 900AD in Vergy, has a lovely silky finesse but is slightly less powerful.
If that wasn’t enough, Vosne-Romanée also boasts some absolutely magnificent Premiers Crus headed by Clos des Réas, Les Malconsorts (just south of La Tâche, and arguably of Grand Cru quality) and Les Chaumes on the Nuits-St Georges side, Cros Parantoux (made famous by Henri Jayer), Les Beaux Monts and Les Suchots on the Flagey-Echézeaux border. The old maxim that ‘there are no common wines in Vosne-Romanée’ may not be strictly true, but it is not far off.
Drinking dates vary, but as a general rule of thumb Grand Crus are best drunk from at least 10 to 25 years, while Premier Crus can be enjoyed from 8 to 20 years, and village wines from 5 to 12 years.
There are no white wines produced in Vosne-Romanée.
- 99 hectares of village Vosne-Romanée.
- 56 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards (14 in all). Foremost vineyards include Les Gaudichots, Les Malconsorts, Cros Parentoux, Les Suchots, Les Beauxmonts, En Orveaux and Les Reignots.
- 75 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards: Romanée-Conti, La Romanée, La Tache, Richebourg, Romanée St Vivant, La Grande Rue, Grands Echézeaux, Echézeaux.
- Recommended producers: Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Leroy, Cathiard, Engel, Rouget, Grivot, Liger Belair.