Wine Legends 2013
Jayer, Cros-Parantoux, Vosne-Romanée 1990 Burgundy, France
A legend because…
Henri Jayer was not a major landowner in the Côte de Nuits, but of all red Burgundies, the wines he made from 1.5ha (hectares) of Cros-Parantoux, Richebourg and Echézeaux have become among the most sought after. Cros-Parantoux, a small premier cru, is often regarded as being of grand cru quality. The Jayer style may not seem that remarkable today – fully ripe fruit, low yields, complete destemming, a cold soak before fermentation and a generous use of new oak – but in the 1970s and 1980s he produced wines with a clarity and intensity that many found remarkable. Born in 1922, Jayer acquired many admirers and disciples among other Burgundian growers until he retired in 1995. Thereafter, his nephew Emmanuel Rouget sharecropped the vineyard, and Jayer himself retained a very small parcel until 2001, though sadly he died only five years later. Today, Rouget owns two-thirds of Cros-Parantoux.
This exceptional premier cru had been abandoned after the devastation caused by phylloxera. Jayer sensed its great potential, even though for 20 years it had been used to grow Jerusalem artichokes. He used dynamite to clear the site and replanted it in 1953. Though Jayer had never intended to be a winemaker, he was asked by M Camuzet, the mayor of Vosne-Romanée at the time, to look after his vines on a sharecropping basis. One of the sites he tended was Cros-Parantoux, and part of the site belonged to Domaine Méo-Camuzet, which was inherited by Jean Méo, a well-known politician who lived in Paris and had little time to run his Burgundy estate. His son Jean-Nicolas took control of the family estate in 1989, and Jayer advised young Méo.
The year 1990 did not begin auspiciously, as cool weather in June delayed flowering and led to problems with the fruit set. The summer was hot and dry, but rainfall in September was timely and brought the fruit to full ripeness. The harvest took place at the end of September. Sugar levels were high, and yields reasonably copious despite the problems at flowering. This vintage followed two other fine vintages, the more austere 1988 and the more opulent 1989, but had a finesse all its own. It takes its place among the most acclaimed postwar vintages, as a year when everything ripened, and the result was delicious wines from grand cru down to basic Bourgogne.
This exceptional premier cru, resuscitated by Jayer, lies on shallow, rocky soil and gives wine of remarkable longevity. Only 1ha in size, it lies just above Richebourg and to the south is Les Petits Monts, its neighbour. The slope is uneven, making it exceptionally hard to work. Tilted slightly to the north, it is also one of the cooler sites in Vosne.
Jayer treated Cros-Parantoux in the same manner as his grands crus, favouring a large proportion of new oak barrels, in this case 100%. Yields were low, and he aimed for full ripeness and entirely healthy fruit before harvesting. The grapes were destemmed and chilled for a week to stabilise colour before fermentation began in cement vats. Jayer was just as rigorous in the cellar, maintaining exemplary standards of cleanliness. The wines were aged for 18 months in medium-toast François Frères barrels. Jayer fined with egg whites, but bottled by hand without filtration. It is universally agreed that Jayer’s methods led to robust, full-flavoured wines, which hardly ever showed any traces of oxidation. Information about the wine in the fact box below is mostly absent because Jayer himself is dead, and very few other people would have had access to precise details on yield and alcohol.
In 1996, wine critic and former Decanter columnist Michael Broadbent was impressed by the depth of colour, and said: ‘Strangely sweet, then fragrant, spicy; marvellous fruit and flavour. I thought it was a bit over the top.’ Broadbent noted that this was a blind tasting with other connoisseurs, and it ‘received a large number of votes for the top wine of the range’. Such is the scarcity of the wine that I have been unable to locate other tasting notes.
Bottles produced 3,500 bottles
Composition 100% Pinot Noir
Release price N/A
Price today £7,440 per bottle