The Heritage | A day at Vosne-Romanée with Monsieur Jayer
By Julie Carpentier
Life sometimes offers unique moments. The sale of the personal bottles from Henri Jayer’s private cellar is one of them. Passionate about Burgundy wines and a professional of fine wine auctions for almost two decades, I am aware of how the sale on the 17th of June, 2018 is – and will remain – an event for all Pinots Noirs enthusiasts and admirers of the work accomplished by the “Master”.
This winter morning, at dawn, I arrive at the edge of the Côte de Nuits. After the village of Nuits-St-Georges, I drive through the sleeping Vosne-Romanée taking the Rue du Monument, then the Rue de Bas that leads to the church and its steeple in the mist. I turn right on Rue de Grand-Velle and finally reach the goal of the first lap of my trip: number 40, just after the turn, is the house and the cellar of Monsieur and Madame Jayer.
The second lap of my journey begins when we open the red wooden doors of the winery. In front of us, the well-aligned vats rest in silence in the freshness of the winter air and I am filled with an impression of immutability as soon as I take my first steps into the upper cellar. As with any gravity-flow cellar, the Holy of holies remains to be discovered: the ageing cellar on the lower level, several meters underground. A concrete staircase with chiselled treads takes us to the door of the sanctuary in just a few steps, which opens before me. In semi-darkness, I discover the pillared room, the first cellar where half a dozen empty barrels still rest on a bed of gravel. A few more steps and I reach the second cellar where we discover – resting in an absolutely calm chiaroscuro – hundreds of magnums and bottles, perfectly laid out. These sleeping bottles coexist in silent harmony with several other witnesses and accomplices of Henri Jayer’s work: barrels leaning against the North wall, the “chèvre à deux becs”, the “ouilloir”, the “pipettes”, the “bondes” and the “maillet”…
On this day, during which time seems suspended, we bring to light, one by one, these mythical bottles, reading out loud the names of the Climats and vintages as they appear before our eyes. Each flask, bottle or magnum, simply adorned with its label, vintage slip and capsule provokes an almost palpable emotion in each member of the Baghera team. And although our feet are treading the ancient soil of Vosne- Romanée, we have, at that moment and for a few hours, our heads in the stars.
I never had the privilege of meeting Monsieur Jayer, but I have had the immense pleasure of drinking his wines on several occasions. Acquiring bottles that the “Master” had personally chosen to keep in his private cellar is a tribute to the respect and dedication that the “poet” of Cros-Parantoux had for his terroir, for Nature and for one of its most noble expressions: the wines of Burgundy.