Sotheby's Director of Wine, James Reed, recalls the moment he uncovered the treasure trove of starry wines that feature in the A Private Jayer Collection sale in London on 11 May.


To say I was taken aback would be putting it mildly.

I'd spoken to the client about his parents' passion for wine and he told me they'd collected the likes of Pétrus, Yquem, Lafite, Palmer and Jayer through their very good connections in the wine world.

However, after his father fell ill, the door to the cellar was locked and the collection lay half forgotten.

When I looked inside, the sheer extent of Henri Jayer wines was mind-blowing. The legendary Jayer is synonymous with some of the greatest wines from Burgundy and they have always been revered for their concentration, breed and class.

The wines he produced were made in tiny quantities and here in front of me were several original cartons in good condition that hadn't even been opened, including Richebourg 1978 and Richebourg 1976.

In my 20 years at Sotheby's I've seen a vast range of wine. However only once had I previously seen an original Henri Jayer carton, and an opened and incomplete one at that.

CHATEAU PETRUS 1978. ESTIMATE £9,000–11,000.

It was also a shock to discover not single bottles but dozens of Pétrus, Yquem and Domaine de la Romanée Conti and, in particular, the stunning wines of Henri Jayer. Aside from full cases of his Richebourg, we were confronted with no less than four cases of Pétrus 1978 plus further great Claret, Burgundy and Cognac from the 1970s and beyond.

I'm still trying to fathom the iron discipline required to buy cases of Henri Jayer, put them in your cellar and resist the temptation to even open the flaps to take a look and murmur a few words of love. Not many of our collectors are made of such stern stuff.

A Private Jayer Collection is on sale in London on 11 May.