Burgundian Winemaker Henri Jayer Dies

A farewell to a French winemaking legend.

September 26, 2006
Burgundian winemaker Henri Jayer was laid to rest today in Vosne-Romanée. Jayer passed away at his home on September 20 at the age 84, after a long battle with prostate cancer.

The French winemaker pioneered the idea that great wine begins in the treatment of the vines.

While working on his family's tiny, 3-hectare domaine, Jayer was among the first students of enology at the University of Dijon. From the 1950s until 1970, he patched together additional holdings, beginning to produce his own wine in 1959. For years, he continued to sell wine from his holdings in Cros Parantoux, Echézeaux and Richebourg, not bottling his entire production under his own label until 1978.

Jayer rose to prominence in the U.S. after his wines were brought to California in the 1970s by importer Martine Saunier. Jayer's wines are still some of the most sought-after in the world, selling for thousands of dollars per bottle, but his most lasting legacy is in the mentoring he provided to many winemakers in the region and the attention to detail he championed in the vineyards and the winery.

Although Jayer officially retired after the 1995 vintage, he continued to bottle small amounts of wine through 2001, while turning over more and more land to his nephew-by-marriage, Emmanuel Rouget.

Henri Jayer is survived by his wife, Marcelle Jayer, two daughters and grandchildren.

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