Wine Vault: Henri Jayer in the 1980s

It is not often that one is able to sit down to an afternoon of twenty Henri Jayer wines. To taste wine after wine of such sustained brilliance is exhilarating and humbling at the same time. The scale of the lineup allowed a look at the evolution of each bottling over the period of Jayerís move into semi-retirement. There are three separate labels here: Henri Jayer, Georges Jayer, and Emmanuel Rouget. All the wine is still made by Henri Jayer, but since 1989, Jayerís nephew, Emmanuel Rouget has tended the vineyards, and sold off half the wine under his own name. This has had no effect on the Vosne ìBeaumonts" or Vosne "Cros Parantoux", of which there only single parcels, but it has changed the Echezeaux a bit. There are distinct parcels of Echezeaux: one belonging to Henri Jayer, another to Georges Jayer, a third to Lucien Jayer. When Henri Jayer tended the vines for all these parcels, the wines were kept and bottled separately. However, Emmanuel Rouget (as his compensation for working the vineyards), now receives half the wine from each parcel, which he then blends together to make his Echezeaux bottling. While the resulting blend is a spectacular Echezeaux, it does not quite hit the peaks that Henri Jayerís superbly-placed parcel of old vines is capable of on its own. The result has been that, since 1989, the Cros Parantoux under the Rouget label has edged slightly ahead of the Echezeaux.

A parenthetical note on the 1987s. The tasting was organized into two halves (so we could assimilate and make our half-time adjustments), with the 1987s, 1986s, 1990s, and 1985s making for the thunderous second half. The 1986s, needing some time to open up, were decanted along with the wines for the first half. We intended to give the 1987s a good half hour in the decanter as well, but the sheer magnificence of the 1989s ran over into the "air time" of the 1987s. Therefore, the wines only received about five minutes of air before being rushed to the slaughter. Having tasted the ë87 Echezeaux from Henri Jayer a few weeks prior to this tasting (I know, life is tough), I can state that these wines are even better than they showed at this tasting. The scores listed below represent the very conservative, low estimates of these wines, but accurately reflect how they showed on this occasion.

The Wine List:
1992 Vosne-Romanee "Beaumonts"-Rouget
1992 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"-Rouget
1992 Echezeaux-Rouget
1991 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"-Rouget
1990 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"-Rouget
1990 Echezeaux-Rouget
1989 Vosne-Romanee "Beaumonts"-Rouget
1989 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"-Rouget
1989 Echezeaux-Rouget
1989 Echezeaux-Georges & Henri Jayer
1988 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"-Henri Jayer
1987 Echezeaux-Georges & Henri Jayer
1987 Echezeaux-Henri Jayer
1987 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"-Henri Jayer
1986 Echezeaux-Georges & Henri Jayer
1986 Echezeaux-Henri Jayer
1986 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"-Henri Jayer
1985 Echezeaux-Henri Jayer
1985 Richebourg-Henri Jayer
1978 Echezeaux-Henri Jayer (magnum)

1992 Vosne-Romanee "Beaumonts"- Rouget

The ‘92s here are very pretty wines, showing fine delineation and purity, if not overwhelming concentration. Interestingly, no new oak was utilized for the 1992s (100% is the norm for Jayer wines). The nose on the Beaumonts is classic, primary Pinot: strawberry, plum, coffee, caramel, and a very California-like topnote of dill. Medium-bodied, bright and bouncy on the palate, with serious length and surprising intensity of flavor, with the dill note carrying through on the finish. A good wine that should put on weight with a few years cellaring. 1998-2008. 88.

1992 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"- Rouget

Rich, deep and very black fruity on the nose, with scents of baked plums, chocolate, strawberry, venison, minerals, herbs, and a whiff of toasty oak. Deep, full, and amazingly concentrated fo a 92 (nothing off vintage about this baby) with fine length and grip; moderate tannins perk up on the finish. 2002-2020. 91+.

1992 Echezeaux- Rouget

This is more forward and seductive than the Cros Paranotux: a sweet, perfumed bouquet of plum, strawberry, dusty rose, coffee, sous bois, sweet vanillin oak. Lush and seamless on the palate, with a great silky texture, and burgeoning secondary aromas and flavors. However, the solid core of reserve fruit that the Cros Parantoux possesses is not to be found here. This wine will drink sooner (and beautifully, too), but will ultimately be passed by the above. 1998-2009. 90.

1991 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"- Rouget

Like so many 1991s, this wine is coming on like a freight train. The early showings of this wine revealed a wine of lovely complexity and depth, but with a shock of hard tannin on the finish. However, with an additional eighteen months of cellaring, this wine is beginning to really round into form: a stunning nose of raspberry, cinnamon stick, herbs, red cherries, venison, bonfires, and spicy wood wafts from the glass. Medium-full and very intensely-flavored on the palate, but with a great core of fruit, ripe tannins, and a long, moderately-tannic finish. This wine is still very young, but it will be special when it reaches its apogee. 2000-2015. 93.

1990 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"- Rouget

Absolutely profound, nearly perfect nose of sweet, sweet, candied plums, cassis, venison, Vosne spices, chocolate, minerals, and a generous dollop of toasty new oak. Rich, lush, and luxurious on the palate, with cascading layer after cascading layer of syrupy fruit, coupled with blazingly perfect focus and great, great structure. Ripe, substantial tannins are buried in an avalanche of fruit. Gorgeous in every way. If this wine puts on weight like the 1989 has, this will be a 100 point wine! 2005-2025. 95+.

1990 Echezeaux- Rouget

A very intense, exotic nose of vinesmoke, forest floor, mustard seed, venison, plums, cherry, bonfires, chocolate, minerals, and toasty new oak. Like dipping Clos de la Roche in dark chocolate. Deep, full and voluptuous on the palate, with tannin lurking there somewhere in this ocean of fruit. A s opulent a young Burgundy as one could hope to find. 2000-2025. 95+.

1989 Vosne-Romanee "Beaumonts"- Rouget

Here is the first wine that has reached its plateau: a gorgeous, mature, very autumnal nose of black fruits, sous bois, woodsmoke, truffles, game, and a bit of spicy wood wafts from the glass. Medium-full and perfectly delineated on the palate, with the forest floor tones carrying through on the palate; flawless focus and a long, complex, meltingly-tannic finish. A really beautiful wine. 1995-2005. 93.

1989 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"- Rouget

I have had the good fortune to taste this wine on a number of occasions since its release, and this wine just continues to get better and better. It has put on weight in a very dramatic fashion over the last five years, while at the same time, apparently moving no closer to maturity. My tasting notes just keep stretching out the anticipated time of maturity, and the scores keep moving upward. This was a great showing: a spectacular nose of raspberry, cherry, plum, minerals, floral tones, duck, and vanillin oak explodes from the glass. On the palate the wine is rich, focused, and multi-layered, with wave upon wave a sumptuous fruit, great structure, and a long, amazingly youthful finish. Stunning stuff! 2002-2025. 96.

1989 Echezeaux- Rouget

The first of the blended Echezeaux vintages, this wine is magnificent stuff, but a step behind its siblings. A quintessential Echezeaux nose of smoky plums, cassis, coffee, vinesmoke, pepper, venison, herb tones, sous bois and toasty new oak thunders from the glass. This wine is bigger and more powerful than either of the other 1989s, with a huge, lush palate impression, moderate tannins, and a long, wave of a finish. With air, a lovely violet topnote developed. Another great, great wine, but without quite the breed of the Cros Parantoux. 2002-2020. 93+.

1989 Echezeaux- Georges & Henri Jayer

The best of the flight! Here the sweetness and intensity of the fruit just shimmers across the palate. Deep, rich, and perfectly balanced, with a seamless essence of fruit quality, ripe, integrated tannins, and a long, tangy, whiplash of a finish. The nose is ethereal, with an explosive perfume of sweet, sweet plums, raspberry, violets, duck, chocolate, minerals, and sweet vanillin oak. Here, the violets are a very dominant characteristic. One of the sweetest, most perfumed and laser-like wines I have ever come across. A shimmering example of liquid perfection. I would score it a perfect 100, but I need to leave room for the 1990s and 1985s! But, I would drink it for breakfast! 2002-2030. 98.

1988 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"- Henri Jayer

This wine has a 100 point nose: exploding from the glass with scents of cooked plums, duck, cassis, French roast, vinesmoke, beetroot, and cedary, spicy wood. Deep, dark and intensely black fruity. Young and profound on the palate, with the "baked fruitÉ of the vintage (similar to 1982 Bordeaux), with extraordinary length and grip, and firm, chewy tannins on the finish. An immense, deeply powerful wine that is still years away from its profound peak of maturity. Patience is required, but will be rewarded graciously. 2008-2040. 95+.

1987 Echezeaux- Georges & Henri Jayer

A wonderful, plummy nose of raspberry, cinnamon, herbs, coffee, sous bois, beetroot, and vanillin oak wafts from the glass. A lovely, bouncy middleweight on the palate, with classic Echezeaux smokiness, fine, resolving flavors, and a long, tangy, softly-tannic finish. No doubt even better than this showing. 1995-2010. 90.

1987 Echezeaux- Henri Jayer

A notable step up: a magnificent nose of sweet, black raspberries, coffee, game, minerals, grilled nuts, vinesmoke, and toasty new oak. Richer, lusher and deeper than the above, with a bit more tannin perking up on the finish. Great complexity. Give it a few more years. 1999-2010. 94+..

1987 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"- Henri Jayer

Here, the exotic nature of this vineyard has been given the time to grow geometrically with the onset of secondary and tertiary aromas: raspberry, cherry, Vosne spices, duck, coffee, and cedary spicy wood all layered over spicy, forest floor aromas. A really good nose! Deep, full and very stylish on the palate, but the tannins are a touch less well-integrated than with HenriÅs Echezeaux. A long, very complex finish. Believe me, I am not complaining. 1998-2010. 92+.

1986 Echezeaux- Georges & Henri Jayer

1986 was a smashing success for Henri Jayer, and these wines showed very, very well. This wine definitely needed the additional air that it received, and the nose was stunning: cherry, plum, roses, woodsmoke, grilled nuts, herb tones, minerals, and cedar. On the palate the wine was still a bit chewy, with great focus and depth, and a long, complex, fairly-tannic finish. Will be superb stuff. 2002-2020. 92+.

1986 Echezeaux- Henri Jayer

This has got to be the wine of the vintage! A profound nose of black raspberry, plum, coffee, herbs, venison, loads of minerals, and toasty, vanillin oak. Greater sweetness, greater depth, and greater complexity than the above. Fabulous depth, flawless focus, a great core of fruit, and very substantial tannins on the finish. A profound wine that insists on some extended cellaring. 2004-2040. 95+.

1986 Vosne-Romanee "Cros Parantoux"- Henri Jayer

Like the 1987, this wine is more spicy and red fruity than the more deeply-pitched Echezeaux: red cherry, raspberry, spices, coffee, duck, minerals, floral notes, and toasty oak on the bouquet. Deep, full and very complex on the palte, with (again) the tannins sticking out just a bit more than with the Echezeaux. More exotic, less complete. But still, great wine. 2000-2015. 92.

1985 Echezeaux- Henri Jayer

100 points of liquid magic. Toweringly profound stuff: sweet blackberry, raspberry, autumn leaves, venison, coffee, minerals, intense violets, and a deft touch of toasty oak. There is a brilliance and purity to the fruit that is indescribable. A table full of seasoned (but certainly not jaded) tasters reduced to mumblings and sighs. Deep, deep, deep, with perfect focus and balance, layer upon layer of pure fruit, and a long, complex, flawless inspirational finish. Christophe Roumier was quoted while drinking this wine a few years ago, (when he too recovered from the hushed awe), that he only wished he could make wine like Henri Jayer. I wish I could do anything at all with the same artistic precision and inspiration as this man. This wine is too good for the likes of mere mortals like me. Try to hold on to it. (Or call!) 1995-2010. 100.

1985 Richebourg- Henri Jayer

And how about the rarest of the Jayer birds? This wine is still tight, closed and in a dumb stage. No doubt it will reward the patient with magnificence, but its quite a few years away. Very exotic, and still a bit green on the nose: plums, grilled meats, dill, other herbs, coffee, peppery tones, minerals, and smoky oak. Deep, full and very meaty on the palate, with the "grumpinessÉ of young, serious Richebourg. Substantial tannins still have the upper hand on the finish. This wine is still a good ten years away. It may, someday attain the same heights as the Echezeaux, but it may never be as perfectly harmonious. 2005- 2045. 96+.

1978 Echezeaux- Henri Jayer (magnum)

This wine, in larger formats, is also still quite closed. The nose is very, very intense and black fruity, with scents of cassis, meaty tones, vinesmoke, truffles, herbs, chocolate, minerals, and toasty oak. Deep, rich and powerful on the palate, with a huge core of fruit, moderate tannins, and a long, very complex, powerful finish. If the 1985 is utter seduction on the palate, this wine is a bit bigger and more aggressive, but with all the flawless balance and structure of Henri Jayer. Another great wine, that needs time in magnum. 2002- 2030. 98.