So yesterday I posted an on-the-spot snapshot of Sunday’s Geneva-Jayer sale, today I’ll make a few relevant points. It’s stating the obvious that a number of the bottles will certainly be corked – Jayer had some issues in the mid-1980s – but I believe that only two things really need to be addressed – pricing and worth.
Pricing – and Provenence – they cannot be separated
Let’s forget that this is wine for a moment; get a couple of egos in any auction room – regardless of what is being auctioned – and the prices will very quickly cease to reflect reality, or at least whatever was previously taken to be reality! And let’s be clear, there were many more than ‘a couple’ of well-healed egos represented here.
Then there is one small word to be considered – provenance.
Of course, the moment that wine is removed from a producer’s cellar – whatever the logistical chain – it becomes less ‘pure.’ This wine, came directly from Jayer’s cellar – Emmanuel Rouget says so, the daughters of Jayer who were at the auction and took part in a dinner to celebrate the auction, with the auctioneer at the 2* Michelin restaurant of the auction venue, also say so. In a world where most of the Jayer that’s offered for sale is potentially fake – and for some auction houses probably fake – it doesn’t get better than this. People connected to other auction houses and businesses associated with the sale or authentication of wine will snipe, and even concoct potential scenarios where these wines may still not be as purported – but if you must have Jayer – any Jayer for your own cellar – this was a one-off. In the modern world this was as good as it gets.
Of-course, in a world of Coravins and industrial duplication, once this wine is distributed around the world, pretty oak cases and new prooftags aside, you will never be able to look at it again with the same certainty – but if you must have Jayer – any Jayer for your own cellar – this was a one-off. In the modern world this was as good as it gets.
Of-course, the auctioneer, Baghera, began their business selling what at first glance looked like a lot of wine bearing multiple warning signs that the bottles were junk. And they have never meaningfully addressed the legitimate concerns of those that pointed to the inconsistencies of those bottles and labels – save for pulling a few lots out their auctions – but what happened to those bottles? Essentially, were the family of Jayer and Emmanuel Rouget not fully behind this exercise there would be no credibility. Baghera put on a great show – they also earned about chf 7 million from their commissions. Would I rather it was an auction house that established their credentials with impeccable wine of impeccable provenance – of-course – but if you must have Jayer – any Jayer for your own cellar – this was a one-off. In the modern world this was as good as it gets.
Of-course, the question on everyone’s lips now is ‘What does that mean for the pricing of the wines from Domaine de La Romanée –Conti?’ Can the village Vosne of Henri Jayer actually have more worth than a bottle of Romanée-Conti itself? As a one-off auction, it could; specific vintages aside, there is more Romanée-Conti every year. There is no more Jayer – no more real Jayer anyway. In the longer term, and in the absence of significant fiscal upheavals, this irrational exuberance is unlikely to abate – DRC will regain the top spot, it’s only a question time.
I’ve (allegedly) had two Jayers in my glass. The first I didn’t believe, the second was credible but not mind-bending.
Friends, colleagues and vignerons all attest to the greatness of what Jayer did, but I and they agree that in the modern vernacular of wine production, Jayer is not exceptional. In fact there are producers today that make wines that are probably better than those of Jayer – and so they should – because they have largely better weather today, a better technical understanding and better equipment. It’s not just those things though, it’s because they have built on what Jayer and others pioneered, aided in no small measure by having the type of money to invest in the tiniest of details that Jayer couldn’t have dreamed of.
Jayer was the best of his era, and whilst I believe his Cros Parantoux may have been better than his Richebourg – because it’s still like that chez Méo, at least for those two parcels and my palate – I doubt very much that it’s as good as La Tâche in the same vintage. That’s still a very high bar of achievement, mind!
Drinking Jayer is naturally about drinking exceptional wine, but it is more about the persona of Jayer and drinking history – history is special and finite – in this world it’s crushingly expensive too.