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Life at the top!
THERE is no other name in Burgundy so revered as that of Henri Jayer, (1922 - 2006). Born in the village of Vosne-Romanee where he lived all his life, his is like a fairy tale - a story of the gardener who tended the lawns of the mayor of Vosne-Romanee and became the most famous wine-grower in all of Burgundy, and whose wines are today the stuff of legend. In the past, having heard of the name, I had searched diligently the lists of wine merchants in UK, Europe and those of wine auction houses. Altogether with very limited success, because productions were typically Burgundian in size, that is, they were painfully small, and hence difficult to locate.
Last night I had the good fortune of being guest at a wine dinner which featured two wines of Henri Jayer among other great Burgundians.
Meursault 1er cru Les Perrieres 1999, Maison Leroy
Bright golden colour, light bouquet of fresh ripe citrus. Quite a strong and firm taste of sweet ripe fruit, with citrusy tang, a lightly bitter acidic finish, and good, medium length persistence. At 17 years' age, still youthful. Will be good for another decade at least!
Richebourg Grand Cru 1989, Domaine Romanee-Conti
Medium-hued brownish red with 1-2 mm clear rim. Lovely fresh aroma of pinot noir fruit, strawberries and blackberries. A big volume wine, filling the palate, and as fresh on the palate as on the nose, with full ripeness of fruit, and a text-book transparent texture of pinot noir, long, lingering and haunting finish. A wine at its peak, and will hold for a good many years more.
Richebourg Grand Cru 1988, Domaine Romanee-Conti
Medium-dark red mahogany, with fresh youthful typical aroma of pinot noir fruit, good ripeness of fruit, but slightly dryish on the palate, lacked the lushness of the 1989, and still a little tannic on the finish. All features quite typical of the 1988 vintage, and still, amazingly, not fully ready.
From my experience with other wines of this vintage, it is still not fully mature and will be capable of further development. With this lineage, I would not be in a hurry to drink up any remaining bottles of this wine (if I had any!).
Echezeaux Grand Cru 1994, Henri Jayer|
Brownish red, medium-hued, with 1-2 mm clear rim. Lovely aroma of pinot fruit, fresh and youthful. Very rich and still youthful palate, finishing long, with lightly tannic edge. At 22 years, still needs more time?
1994 was not a good vintage and its wines are said to be now well ready to drink, so that the apparent youthfulness of this wine is quite remarkable. The clue to its age was its colour, already turning brown from a brilliant red, and its 1-2 mm clear rim. The question then that comes to mind is: "Is it capable of further development or is this its full potential?"
I had the feeling that this 1994 H Jayer Echezeaux is already at its best, and a very good best it is considering the general quality of the vintage. It will easily hold for another decade!
Echezeaux Grand Cru "Les Rouges du Bas" Grand Cru 1998, Meo-Camuzet
Quite a dark brownish-red colour with very fresh youthful aroma of ripe pinot noir fruit. Very ripe fresh fruit, flavours of strawberries, and blackberries, on the palate a very long finish. A bigger wine than Jayer's Echezeaux, helped by being from a better vintage. Not at its full maturity though. Will need five or more years and will hold for another decade.
Romanee-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru 2002, Sylvain Cathiard
Reddish-brown colour, medium-hued. Good fresh aroma of pinot fruit, ripe strawberries. Medium-bodied palate of ripe berries, with good freshness, slightly slim-bodied, good medium length finish. Fully ready, will hold for a good 10 years or more.
Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Brulees 1987 en magnum, Henri Jayer
Notwithstanding its almost 30 years' age, it still was a brilliant deep red colour. A lovely fresh nose of ripe red and black berries. Very ripe sweet fruit on the palate, lovely freshness, good transparency and balance. Very good length. A lovely wine. At 29 years quite fully developed, even in magnum, and will hold a good decade or more, especially in magnum. But I would not be in a hurry to drink further magnums. Would love to see it in another five years!
The 1988 Richebourg, DRC, still not at full maturity, did not surprise me. It confirmed my previous experiences with this vintage, 28 years old now, that both Bordeaux and Burgundy wines, at and above Fifth Growth and Village level, are still not yet fully developed. Notwithstanding the two Henri Jayer wines, the wine of the evening for me was the Richebourg 1989 from the Domaine Romanee-Conti. It dominated in the mind because in spite of its innate power, memories of its richness and transparency of texture, its purity and its long finish, lingered in one's mind throughout the evening. The saying "iron hand in a velvet glove!" comes to mind.
Though there was no Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru Cros Parantoux on show that night, it was nonetheless a "surfeit of riches" kind of evening! And it was almost impossible to focus on any one wine, with so many impressions and thoughts crowding into one's mind and almost overwhelming it. The bar had been raised very high, but so good were ALL the red wines, it came as no surprise that though not being thirsty, and notwithstanding that the number of wines were eight in all, including one magnum, ALL bottles were emptied!
Thank you HY.