Although born and raised in Vosne-Romanée, Henri did not initially plan to be a vigneron. He was asked to look after the Camuzet vineyards during World War II and studied oenology at the University of Dijon. He went on plant his own vineyards and looked after those of his brothers Georges and Lucien, becoming one of the finest winemakers Burgundy has ever seen.
Henri was responsible for making all the wines from his siblings’ vineyards, although they were bottled under their respective Domaine names: Domaine Lucien Jayer, Domaine Georges Jayer and Domaine Henri Jayer. The Reserve label was for wines from Domaine Henri Jayer, produced and bottled by Henri Jayer himself.
Officially, Henri retired in 1995 and his nephew Emmanuel Rouget succeeded him. However, he continued to play an active role in the winemaking and carried on bottling half the production under his own name. Henri Jayer's last vintage was in 2001 and he sadly passed away in 2006.
Wines produced from Henri’s small 6.30-hectare Domaine, based in and around Vosne-Romanée, are considered some of the finest wines ever produced in Burgundy, including the legendary Richebourg, Échezeaux and Cros Parantoux.
Henri was a pioneer in his belief that care in the vineyard was fundamental to producing fine Burgundy. He minimised treatments, oversaw rigorous grape selection and kept yields very low. Total de-stemming and a pre-fermentation cold maceration for four or five days was used to extract additional colour and flavours. Only natural yeasts were used for the fermentation, adding complexity and individuality to the wines. As few rackings as possible and no filtration ensured the complete retention of nuances, depth, complexity and concentration.
Henri Jayer wines have achieved a cult following amongst Burgundy lovers. The wines are world-famous for their intensity of flavour, extraordinary complexity and seductive silkiness.
Cros Parantoux is the most sought-after example of the magic of Henri Jayer, first produced in the 1978 vintage — prior to this the grapes from this one-hectare vineyard had been blended into his Vosne-Romanée. Although classified as a Premier Cru, Cros Parantoux produced incredibly complex and long-lived red Burgundy, which held its own compared to the more illustrious Grand Crus in his Domaine.
Any vintage of Henri Jayer’s Richebourg, Échezeaux and Cros Parantoux are highly prized, but these are especially so: 1959, 1978, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2001.
Full cases are becoming increasingly difficult to find at auction. When offered at Christie’s, bidding is intense and the resulting hammer prices are impressive. The 2012 sale in Hong Kong of Fine and Rare Wines From the Private Cellar of Henri Jayer remains a benchmark auction to this day. When wines from this sale are reoffered at Christie’s, demand is incredibly strong.