Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Passing of a Giant

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(photo courtesy of Martine's Wines)


Burgundy legend, Henri Jayer, passed away last Wednesday. He was 84.

In wine there are few who are truly legends and Henri Jayer was one of them. So legendary that some presumed that he passed away many years ago mainly because he laid low and turned over his estate to his nephew, Emmanuel Rouget, in 1996.

Jayer leaves a legacy that is hard to overestimate as the vineyard and winemaking practices he espoused are routinely applied by vignerons and winemakers all over the world today. His motto was: “quality before anything else”. He freely gave advice and mentored fellow Burgundians such as the late Denis Mortet, Philippe Charlopin, Jean-Michel Meo, and of course his nephew, Emmanuel Rouget.

In the vineyard, he pruned severely to reduce yields, and he plowed to discourage surface roots and encourage roots to go down deeply. He also harvested late, making sure that the crops have reached full ripeness.

But it was in the cellar that the Jayer method was copied widely by winemakers all over the world, whether making wine with Pinot Noir or other grape varietals. He brutally sorted. He fully destemmed. He cold-soaked for a week to extract color and aroma and macerated with the skins for up to a month. Then he aged his wines in 100% new oak

Although the Jayer method can easily be copied, the results are seldom duplicated. The secret, if it’s any secret at all, is that one must still know the wines that one is making. That is something that cannot be taught or copied.

Next time you enjoy a Burgundy or Pinot Noir offer a toast to Henri Jayer, as there's a good chance the wine you may be drinking has his imprint on it.

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