Domaine Hoffmann-Jayer

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Our beloved Burgundy’s immutable matrix of vineyards finds limitless expression not only through fluctuations of weather and season but through the humans who steward it. When the people behind the wines change, the wines change, as every choice from vine to bottle is informed by an active mind making decisions in the service of a unique aesthetic. Of course, the greatest of Burgundies seem to transmit the very savor of the earth, backgrounding the human influence as much as possible in service of the terroir; but allowing the land to speak in such a way involves a great degree of skill and intuition.

For an importer as dedicated to the treasures of the Côte d’Or as RWM, it is always a thrill to encounter a domaine in the midst of a positive stylistic evolution. When the Jayer-Gilles estate, founded in the 1950s, was purchased in 2017, its new owner André Hoffmann—a well-known environmentalist whose father Luc co-founded the World Wildlife Fund—set out to improve farming practices and to refine cellar practices in the service of purity and balance. The old regime’s wines, while impressive in their breadth and longevity, often showed a relatively strong hand with regard to new oak, extraction, and density. Under the guidance of the domaine’s new cellarmaster Alexandre Vernet—a dynamic young native of the Hautes Côtes de Beaune who staged with Philippe Germain in Meursault and Emmanuel Olivier in Gevrey-Chambertin—the wines have become fresher, more lifted, and more transparent to their underlying sites of origin, and we are excited to commence our partnership with the newly christened Domaine Hoffmann-Jayer.

Located in the village of Magny-lès-Villers at the junction of the Hautes Côtes de Beaune and the Hautes Côtes de Nuits, Domaine Hoffmann-Jayer encompasses ten hectares spread across a wide range of appellations: Echezeaux Grand Cru, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Damodes”, Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Hauts Poirets”, Côte de Nuits Villages, Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, and Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. Alexandre and his team treat each parcel with equal diligence both in the vineyard and in the cellar, employing hand-harvesting across the board and eschewing the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides; the domaine is in the process of organic certification, and Alexandre is beginning to experiment with biodynamics as well. This conversion of vineyard practices has already borne thrilling results, and we are eager to follow the domaine as it continues to evolve on that front.

Patience and sensitivity inform Alexandre’s cellar approach on every level. Following a ten-day cold maceration, fermentations proceed spontaneously in cement, which stabilizes and maintains temperature far better than stainless steel. Alexandre employs a judiciously considered variety of aging vessels—classic 228-liter barrels, of course, but larger 350-liter barrels, terracotta jars, and glass containers as well—to allow for maximum expressiveness from each cuvée. All wines, even the less prestigious appellations, spend two full winters in the cellar before bottling—a regimen which allows their inherent structure to emerge more fully and prevents the need for filtration, as the wines settle naturally over their 16-to-18 months of elevage. Total sulfur additions are extremely modest, hovering in the range of 45-to-50 milligrams per liter, and never applied before malolactic fermentation is complete. These are wines which deftly balance well-articulated structure with ringing, energetic fruit, allowing these old plantings to voice their underlying minerality in ways heretofore unseen.

Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Blanc: Hoffmann-Jayer’s distinctive and complex Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Blanc is a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Blanc from a one-hectare parcel in Magny-lès-Villers’ Les Vallerots lieu-dit planted in the early 1950s. Two-thirds of the cuvée spends 15 months in new low-toast 350-liter barrels, and one-third ages in terracotta jar; it is then assembled and allowed to settle for six months in steel. Structured, saline, and stony, the finished wine clearly reflects the stone-riddled, steeply inclined site in which the vines are planted.

Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits Blanc: Hoffmann-Jayer’s Hautes-Côtes de Nuits Blanc blends parcels from three vineyards: Le Perchy in Magny-lès-Villers, and Sous le Mont and La Flie in Villers-la-Faye. The holdings encompass 1.2 hectares and are planted 70% to Chardonnay and 30% to Pinot Blanc, from vines between 55 and 75 years of age. As with the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Blanc, Alexandre ages this in a blend of two-thirds new 350-liter barrels and one-third terracotta jar before assembling it for six months prior to bottling. Richer and riper than the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Blanc above, this shows even greater tension on the palate, with cleanly articulated minerality and an attractive undertone of well-measured oak.

Bourgogne Passetoutgrain: The domaine’s Passetoutgrain comprises 50% Gamay and 50% Pinot Noir from 0.4 hectare’s worth of vines in the lieux-dits Les Mailles in Magny-lès-Villers and Sous le Mont in Villers-sur-Faye. The 50-year-old vines are harvested together and co-fermented in stainless steel after a pre-fermentation cold soak, and the wine spends 18 months settling in tank before being bottled without filtration. This is a vibrant, snappy Passetoutgrain with great lift and energy on the palate, nicely reflecting the cooler microclimate of these Hautes-Côtes vineyards.

Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Rouge: Hoffmann-Jayer’s Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Rouge comes from a hectare’s worth of 60-year-old Pinot Noir planted in the lieux-dits En Foigery and Les Castaings in Magny-lès-Villers. After a pre-fermentation cold soak and a spontaneous fermentation in cement tank, the wine spends 18 months aging in a combination of two-thirds 228-liter barrels (20% new) and one-third terracotta jar before being bottled without filtration. Bright, red-fruited, and marked by lip-smacking minerality, this is a fresh but serious version of this appellation, buttressed by clean and elegant tannins.

Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits Rouge: The Hautes-Côtes de Nuits Rouge comprises a significant portion of Hoffmann-Jayer’s production, coming from 2.4 hectares of vines planted in several plots: Les Mailles, La Flie, and Sous le Mont in Magny-lès-Villers, and Les Chasserots in Villers-la-Faye. These 50-year-old vines produce a wine more savory and earth-tinged than its Hautes-Côtes de Beaune counterpart, although the aging process is identical: two-thirds in 20% new oak and one-third in terracotta, and bottled without filtration after 18 months of elevage.

Côte de Nuits-Villages: Hoffmann-Jayer owns 1.3 hectares of 60-year-old Pinot Noir in the village of Corgoloin, planted in three different lieux-dits: En Fontenelle, Le Clos de Magny, and La Montagne. This Côte de Nuits-Villages is aged entirely in 228-liter barrels, one-third of which are new, and Alexandre’s preference for low-toast wood allows the fruit to shine through beautifully. Juicy, kirsch-like red fruits ride on a ridge of gorgeously articulated, fresh tannins, and a looming but understated sense of structure implies a great deal of upside potential.

Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Hauts Poirets”: The domaine exploits a 0.3-hectare plot of 70-year-old Pinot Noir in this steep, rocky-soiled vineyard that sits just above the village’s old quarry. Alexandre retains one-third whole clusters in the vinification here, employing just 30% new oak during the 20-month elevage and bottling without fining or filtration. This distinctive wine shows Nuits-Saint-Georges’ intensely mineral side, with chiseled tension and just-so black fruits on an energetic frame.

Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Damodes”: A real jewel of the cellar, this comes from a 1910 planting of just 13 rows, totaling a tenth of a hectare in this outstanding vineyard that abuts Vosne-Romanée to the immediate north. Les Damodes’ shallow, pebbly soils produce a wine of nuance and finesse, marked by a profoundly savory minerality and graceful red fruits, as well as a super-long, tunneling finish. Alexandre uses one-third whole bunches during the vinification, and elevage takes place in 30% new wood.

Echezeaux Grand Cru “Echezeaux du Dessus”: In the early 1960s, the Jayer-Gilles estate acquired half a hectare in this fabled grand cru from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. The vines planted back then yield a wine of eye-popping stoniness and length whose fearsome terroir imprint all but buries the 50% new wood Alexandre employs for its elevage. This spends 20 months in barrel before being bottled without fining or filtration.

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