Why Big Red Diary?

monday was opening night – chez faiveley…

Above (behind) the winery that, today, is the home of Faiveley in Nuits St.Georges.

I’ve shared a few images with you over the last year or-so, but on Monday evening the team at Faiveley made a reception to celebrate the completion of this mammoth renovation project. Monday it was a mere 200 clients (or-so) plus a few itinerant journos. On Wednesday night they will do it again with over 300 visitors, having invited all the local vignerons.

the jayer millions – part 2

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.

the jayer millions…

In full flow…

My pre-sale post.

Henri Jayer, 12 years after his death, remains an iconic winemaker.

It seems a shame then that his life was reduced to mere money yesterday, though it was quite a final payoff for the family, a number of whom were hidden in the Geneva hotel where the sale of (what is said to be) his last bottles took place: 855 bottles and 209 magnums delivering a sales result of 34.5 million swiss francs* (US$ 34.6 million) – the family had anyway drunk most of his remaining Richebourg!
Includes commission.

A place not with the easiest of access, but the hotel was beautifully situated with views over the vines of Canton Genf (Geneva). “The sales room doors will close at 2pm for the auction” said PR Emily Drouhin – seemingly that was more in hope than expectation – at 14h05 the sales room was still only half full, though one thing was clear, the target audience for this sale, or at least the appearance of those that have taken their seats, was predominantly the Orient – maybe 80% so.

As the clock ticked to 14h10, there seemed as many people with bidding paddles keeping cool in the foyer, as had taken their allotted seats – magnums of Vincent Girardin 2012 Corton-Charlemagne helping to soothe their heated palates. I noted one Gil Lempert-Schwarz in the audience, it seems he’s bidding – that’s okay then – I wouldn’t touch anything that he’s selling with a barge-pole!

Eventually, maybe 15 minutes later than scheduled, we get underway with three bottles of 1988 Nuits St.Georges – they sell for 20k** (swiss francs), then a single bottle for 10k, then a dozen 1991s start slowly, they hover around 60k for a long time, before the hammer falls at 75k – modest after the first lots – maybe everyone just wanted to be first! No. 3 bottles of 1996 go for 22k and we are off again.

Can this go on? It’s 1997 Nuits next, a modest vintage for drinking now, but what do I know? 42k! Okay, that was for 6 bottles and it’s only double the high estimate in the catalogue! They went to a bidder in France – Thibaut Marion of Maison Segiun-Manuel fielding one of the phones on behalf of a French entrepreneur – but then a single bottle exits the door for 10k!
**These are all hammer prices, without the auctioneer’s commission of 20% – yes 20%! Plus the wines are stored in bond in Switzerland, so if I bought something I would also have to pay the Swiss tax of 7.7% – other country’s purchase tax varies, but wines returning to France will be charged almost another 20% VAT!

Now it’s time for the first of the premier crus – a single bottle of Nuits Meurgers, a 1976 – 29k. Bids are often in inconsistent increments – 9k, 10k, 11k, 15k – there’s no reason sometimes. The next 3 bottles were knocked down for only 27k – but then people wake up for a magnum of 78 Meurgers – 40k sold to someone in the room. Enthusiasm is easy to spot; “Lot 23 a single bottle of 1986 Nuits Meurgers. Where shall I start – 3,000?” says the auctioneer – “10,000” shouts someone in the room!

An auction is a long process, this auction anyway, with long pauses as bidders are pit against one another. After 3 hours I’ve had enough – and it’s not yet halfway through – but the auctioneer’s same jokes eventually start to grate. The Orient may have had the most representation at the start of the sale, but over two hours in, and not yet at lot number 70, there’s a slow trickle of western faces, clutching large cigars, back-slapping and taking selfies – the audience seems to be evolving – or maybe the vultures are just beginning to circle…

The crux of the matter, of-course, comes later in the sale and three lots will dominate the publicity, but before that was possibly the largest transaction, and it slips through almost unnoticed: Lot 44, 12 bottles of 1995 Vosne-Romanée with a hammer price of 200k, but lots 45-49 are of the same make-up – does the buyer want all six lots? It seems not, as at first as the auctioneer readies himself to move-on to lot 45 – but yes, the buyer will take them all – so 6x 200k – without commission or future taxation – 1.2 million swiss francs, making it the most expensive ‘yes’ of the day!

But the headliners are:

  • Lot 135, 6 magnums Vosne-Romanée 1er Cros-­Parantoux 1999 – 528k*
  • Lot 160, A vertical of 15 magnums Vosne­-Romanée 1er Cros­-Parantoux, 1978-2001 – 1,164k*
  • Lot 212, 1 bottle Richebourg 1986 – 50.4k*

My alternative headliners would be one of his brass wine faucets for 3k, an empty barrel for 6.5k and one of his (still very dirty) wine pipettes for 5.5k. The first and the last I could (almost!) understand – but an empty barrel, devoid of personalisation?

Rest in peace, Henri…

a short 2018 vintage weather update…

Hedging this morning in Beaune 1er Les Toussaints – very tidy!

There’s been lots of rain but plenty of warm days too, so the work in the vines is unrelenting as everything grows so fast – mainly spraying and currently ‘hedging’ i.e. giving the vines a tidying haircut.

The spraying is currently a priority because of the relative warmth and humidity – i.e. the rain. There is mildew in the vines but, so-far, it’s under control but everyone would like the rain to stop and a dry wind to blow. After a couple of weeks with virtually daily storms of thunder and lightning, it looks like next week will be warm and sunny – just what the doctor ordered.

Regarding the storms, there has been a very small amount of localised hail, but given the frequency of the storms it’s remarkable that there is practically no damage – is that down to luck or down to the anti-hail network? Nobody can say for sure, but there are 3 networks:

  • Chablis and Grand Auxerrois
  • Côtes de Beaune, de Nuits and Chalonnaise
  • Mâconnais and Beaujolais

In total there are 145 ‘generators’ (hail cannons) in Burgundy, and they have been use about 10 times up to the 11 of June. So, as long as there is no damage, the producers can pat themselves on the back as it was such a good investment!

Burgundy’s Cave Prestige 2018

Nope, that’s not the vintage 2018 already, rather the 2018 version of Burgundy’s Cave Prestige, which mainly covers wines of the 2016 vintage.

Apparently this is the 47th year that the cave prestige has been assembled; it consists of two tasting panels – a smaller one doing the first triage and larger group who provide the final thumbs up. For this, the 2018 version, they began with 1,138 samples, which they whittled down to the 218 ‘winners’ which they presented at a large tasting today in Beaune. These wines will be used to ‘represent’ Burgundy in tastings around the world in the coming 12 months. The BIVB says that they ‘buy all the wines selected for the Cave de Prestige. In 2018, almost 14,500 bottles were purchased.

From my tasting of (mainly) the the whites, there’s nothing here that I wouldn’t happily quaff and, of-course, some are very, very good indeed! There were also a few 2015s and 2014s but for simplicity’s sake – I only tasted 2016s. It turns out that I really only tasted whites too – the time available (and come to think of it my liver) didn’t allow me to fully explore both – but it’s summer – so white it was! But to finish I did try a couple of reds – one because, naturally, I liked the label and the other because I did the triage and it’s a great wine probably because of that 🙂

My notes on the whites of this 2018 Cave Prestige will be published in my June subscriber’s report – the May report will out first, of-course, next week.

2015 Camille Giroud, Santenay 1er La Comme
A modest width of aroma. Hmm, lots of freshness over the palate but there’s depth and intensity too – this blend of energy and delicious flavour, it’s not just captivating, it’s brilliant for the Santenay label. Really excellent wine.
Rebuy – Yes

2016 Cave de Mazenay, Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois Les Parisiennes
It’s the funkiest label of the day – by far – so I’ll try this one!
Really quite a modest nose – not too much to see though on the other hand, nothing negative, either. On the palate there’s a fresh, mouth-filling volume, no hard edges, a little drag to the texture from the tannin, but essentially here is simple, dark-flavoured wine of fun. Nice!
Rebuy – Maybe

some midweekers from guy castagnier…

1996 Guy Castagnier, Bonnes-Mares
A great looking cork – which I butcher because my corkscrew goes in ‘off-centre!’ The first nose is deep, silky, clean and just so inviting – I should have savoured it more because the wine slowly develops a balsamic edge and begins to hint of, if never fully expressing, brett. There’s a faint cloudiness too. The aeration that makes the nose less and less interesting actually aids the palate – the wine starts with a little too much acidity – 96-style – but slowly becomes more balanced – that, or I’m developing a taste for it! A wine that was much finer 15 years ago! It finishes well and still has something going for it as a wine – but this is Bonnes-Mares – I have much higher expectations. Drink up!
Rebuy – No – one more lies in the cellar…

1996 Guy Castagnier, Clos de la Roche
Hmm – the nose is certainly different here – a little non-standard too; there’s a slightly reductive impression that melds with a more classic dried leaves and occasional flashes of strawberry – reduction is pretty rare for older reds, but not whites. Still the nose is good and really very stable. There’s no cloudiness to this wine either – maybe it was filtered! Good texture and intensity – silky with still a modest grain if you really, really search. Wide, plenty of acidity – a wine of 1996 – if a little less overt than the Bonnes-Mares. Here is a wine that I wouldn’t think twice about cellaring for longer. Fresh, intense with plenty of interest in the flavour. Very enjoyable, juicy finishing flavour…
Rebuy – Yes

weekend wines – week 23 2018

I see that Chézeaux have reverted to the slightly different 1990s labels with the faint image of the family house in the Clos de Chézeaux in Gevrey-Chambertin…

2015 des Chézeaux / Ponsot, Griotte-Chambertin
Hmm, for a 2015 there’s a lot of freshness here – a silky, round fruit is more reticent but present. In the mouth this remains a wine of surprises with its fine acidity and a much more mineral stance than I usually see. Very fine, mouth-watering, long-reaching flavours that are modest but impressively long. A wine that will age and age and at the same time shows none of the excesses of the vintage. Should I mark it down for being non-standard? I think not – returning 3 hours later to the the last third of the bottle, the air has made quite some changes to this wine; now I might consider the word opulent – for both aroma and palate – yet there is still agreat line of acidity. Bravo – but be patient or make a long carafe…
Rebuy – Yes

2015 des Chézeaux / Berthaut-Gerbet, Gevrey-Chambertin
Lots of colour. A nose that goes very deep, silky and accented with spice. Round and like the nose, very silky. Dark fruited yet still with plenty of freshness, much more composed than the 2014 drunk a week-or-so ago. Modest width in the mid and finishing flavour, modest intensity too, but still with good length. All-in-all, a wine that’s very tasty and also very easy to drink – certainly more accessible directly from opening versus the Griotte. Lovely!
Rebuy – Yes

friday – we were north of Beaune…

tomorrow is côte de nuits…

But today was the Côte de Beaune, and it only rained during our long lunch:

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