Personal cellar of ‘King of Pinot Noir’ to fetch €11m at auction

The last batch of late legendary winemaker Henri Jayer's Burgundies -- which include some of the world's most expensive wines -- go on auction in Geneva Sunday and could rake in up to €11 million.

Personal cellar of 'King of Pinot Noir' to fetch €11m at auction
The average price for a bottle of Henri Jayer Richebourg Grand Cru was $15,796 in 2018. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP
In all, 1,064 bottles will go under the hammer at the Baghera Wines auction, which will take place at a gourmet restaurant in Geneva. They include Cros-Parantoux Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru, which ranks among the world's priciest wines.
The 855 standard bottles and 209 magnums, dating from between 1970 and 2001, are from the personal wine cellar of the man broadly considered the king of the Pinot Noir. 
“These bottles and magnums from his personal reserve were a bit like his laboratory… A way to see his vintage wines age over the years,” his daughters Lydie and Dominique Jayer, wrote to AFP in an email.
“It was natural for us, since we could not drink all of these bottles, to offer them up for sale so that wine lovers … could buy them and drink them, in his honour,” they said.
The daughters will be present at the auction to watch the dispersion of their inheritance.
'Emblem of the Burgundy'
Frenchman Henri Jayer, who died in 2006 at the age of 84, established a name for himself in the 1970s, when specialised wine reviews ranked his wines among the best in the world.
Over the years, he became “the emblem of the Burgundy in the eyes of the public”, Swiss wine critic Jacques Perrin, who knew Jayer personally, told AFP.
A Henri Jayer wine has “all the grace of the Pinot, the slenderness, the structure, the aromatic finesse. He did everything to preserve that”, he said.
Baghera Wines chief Michael Ganne agreed.
“The great force of the Henri Jayer wines, when you have the chance to taste such wine, is really the fruit, (which) has just an incredible elegance and finesse,” he told AFP.
It is this quality that has made Jayer's wines some of the most sought after in the wine world — and brought them their sometimes astronomical price tags.
The most expensive lot at the auction — a series of 15 magnums of Vosne-Romanee Cros-Parantoux dating from 1978 to 2001 — has been valued at between 280,000 and 480,000 Swiss francs ($282,000-$484,000, 237,000-406,000 euros).
The entire auction is expected to pull in between 6.7 and 13 million francs — an amount that has raised eyebrows in the business.
“I'm not sure it is really worth the price,” Perrin said.
He said the cost reflected “the speculation effect, which is undeniable”, but also “the collector effect”, spurred by an eagerness to acquire “this last vestige of a heritage, almost a relic”.
Ganne meanwhile explained that “buyers of this kind of wine are generally fairly well-known collectors”, predicting that a number of Asian, American and some European wine auction regulars would show up.
Each bottle is equipped with a seal that guarantees its traceability and authenticity.
Jayer's daughters meanwhile hope the bottles' new owners will not just leave them in their cellars to gain dust and value.
“We hope they will go into the cellars of wine lovers who know how to open and drink these wines,” they said. “Let's not forget that wine is synonymous with sharing, and these wines were above all made to be drunk and enjoyed.”

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Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts