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Monday 11 April 2022

From hairdresser to Burgundy winemaking star

The wine industry is a treasure trove of inspirational stories.

Few, however, can match that of Jane Eyre, the former Melbourne hairdresser who became a winemaking superstar in Burgundy.

I caught up with Jane last week in Tasmania, where she was putting together her 2022 Tasmanian pinot blend with Jim and Daisy Chatto at Chatto Wines in the Huon Valley.

Jane makes a Tasmanian wine each year, while Jim Chatto travels to Beaune to put together a Burgundy wine each year it is possible.

I also tasted Jane's 2021 Tasmanian pinot noir ($65ish), one of the silkiest, prettiest, most elegant expressions of Tasmania you could hope to find. 

The 2021 was put together via Zoom with Jane tasting barrel samples from her home in Beaune before advising Chatto on the blend and winemaking details.

"Jim sent over eight different components to me in Burgundy and we put a blend together for both both 20 and 21 from the other side of the world."  

It is has been an amazing rise from a Gippsland high school drop out to a Melbourne hair salon to the toast of  Burgundy and being dubbed "the princess of pinot". 

A decade after starting her own winery in Beaune, Eyre was last year named n├ęgociant of the year by influential wine trade magazine La Revue du Vin de France. She was the first Australian - and first woman - to be recognised. 

"I never, ever thought I would get to this level," says Eyre, who has been so busy making wine from different regions across Australia as well as Burgundy that she has yet to get around to creating her own website. 

Eyre is a n├ęgociant winemaker, who buys grapes direct from growers, making around 1400 cases a year.

She developed an interest in wine, and ended up doing vintage in Burgundy at Domaine Chevrot near Santenay in 1998 after a chance conversation with a client who was married to wine writer, Jeremy Oliver.

Back in Melbourne, having caught the serious wine bug, Eyre did a wine science degree at Charles Sturt University and got a job at The Prince Wine Store in St Kilda, a venue which has launched a number of wine careers.

"That's where I learnt about wine," she says. 

She worked vintages with the likes of Cullen in the Margaret River, and Felton Road and Ata Rangi in New Zealand, as well as a stint with Ernie Loosen of Dr Loosen fame in Germany.

In 2004, she moved to Beaune, a beautiful and historic town that is the heart of the Burgundy wine industry. "If you love pinot, you got to Burgundy - and that's what I did," she says. 

She worked for leading vigneron Dominique Lafon, and later as assistant winemaker to Chris Newman at Domaine Newman.

A decade ago, with a loan from a friend and support from Newman and wine industry star Benjamin Leroux, she started her own wine business.

Maison Jane Eyre shares Lafon's winemaking equipment, at Chateau de Bligny Les Beaune, just a few minutes from her house. 

"While I don't have my own vineyards, I'm lucky enough to have access to the same parcels from the same growers every year, which enables me to be consistent about what I produce," Eyre says. "I know where all my fruit comes from and the various characteristics."  

Friend and collaborator Chatto describes her wines as "unique, and delicious". She works not only with Chatto in Australia but also with William Downie in Victoria - and has expanded operations in France to also making wines in Beaujolais. 

She's is still a hands-on winemaker, getting her hands dirty in the Chatto cellar.    

Today, he tony quantities of high-end wines are distributed by Liberty Wines in London and the Bentley Wine Company in Australia. Contact them for retail outlets or send Jane an Instagram message. 

Or wangle an invite to the Australian Embassy in Paris - a regular customer.      

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