A little over two months ago we were visited by Jean-Hervé Chiquet from Champagne Jacquesson, who held a tasting for a wine tasting club in town. He’s one of the brothers who’s behind this Champagne producer.
I find Jacquesson a very interesting Champagne house, both in terms of quality and range. It is one of the “medium-sized” high quality producers. Since a few years, La Revue du vin de France gives them three starts out of three on their scale (as one of six Champagne producer), and more recently Richard Juhlin followed with five stars out of five on his scale, up from four in his 2008 book, where six producers were rated at this level. If we add RVF and RJ, we end up with eight producers considered to be at the highest level, and of these five are Champagne houses and three are smaller growers. If this group would expand in the next couple of years, I think it is more likely that more growers would be added, rather than additional houses.
What makes their range interesting, is that it doesn’t really follow the same model as most other houses, and also because they’ve been brave enough to modifiy it significantly over the last several years.
They have also reduced their production by reducing yields and stopped purchasing grapes from vineyards they don’t consider good enough. Their own vineyards consist of 11 hectares in Côte de Blancs (Avize and Oiry) and 17 hectares in Vallée de la Marne (Aÿ, Dizy and Hautvillers), and they purchase grapes from another 8 hectares in those villages where they also have vineyards of their own. Multiply the number of hectares by 2,5 if you’re more used to acres. In 2008, they reduced their grape contracts from 14 ha to 8 ha. Altogether, this has reduced their production from some 470 000 bottles per year in the 1980s to some 280 000 bottles per year today. In several respects, they are therefore more similar to “an unusually large small grower” than the really big Champagne houses.
The 700 series
Their 700 series, or 7xx series, represents an interesting approach to non-vintage Champagne, by aiming for the best cuvée each year, rather than keeping to a certain style, However, there is a Jacquesson house style, which I would describe as strict, mineral-dominated and quite dry. The labels say “brut”, but they are actually way down into the “extra brut” level, but definitely are substantial enough to cope with such a low dosage. The first wine in the 700 series was the cuvée 728, which was based on the 2000 vintage, and after that one per year has been added. If you want to know the base vintage, all you have to do is therefore to subtract 728 and then add 2000, or to add 1272 straight away. Those who’re a bit slow doing arithmetics, but do have a 7xx bottle at hand, may find it easier to rotate it 180 degrees around a vertical axis and read the back label. There, you will find the wine’s composition in terms of grape varieties and vintages, the dosage and when the bottle was disgorged. Jacquesson is very good at providing a lot of information on their labels! Those who may find this type of detail unnecessary and too geeky are of course free to ignore the back label.
Rather recently, they have switched from cuvée 735 with a 2007 vintage base to the cuvée 736 with a 2008 vintage base. 2008 is a top vintage in Champagne.
It was interesting to hear Monsieur Chiquet rank the different cuvées. In descending order: 736 (2008), 730 (2002), 733 (2005), 735 (2007), 732 (2004), 734 (2006), 731 (2003), 728 (2000), 729 (2001). This is largely a reflection of the general quality of the different Champagne vintages (02 and 08 are the best during this period, 01 the worst and 03 weird), but he also seems to hold the more recent cuvées a little higher, because he rates the 05-based and 07-based ahead of the 00-based and 04-based, and they are all medium-quality vintages.
Vintage and vineyard Champagnes
An interesting decision made by Jacquesson is to stop produce “regular” vintage Champagne. 2002 was their last. They still produce a number of vineyard-designated Champagne, which some of us tasted the 2002 vintage of in April 2012. Unfortunately quantities are small and prices high, at the level of many other “prestige Champagnes”. The logic behind this decision is apparently that if they claim that the 700 series is the best cuvée they are able to make in a vintage, they can not make another cuvée in the same vintage, at least not if they are to remain credible. The vineyard-designated wines (lieux-dits) are seen as something completely different, since they are not blended, so they are not affected by this. I’m not entirely sure that I agree that this is the only way to look at things. In my opinion, there is some difference between a cuvée that also includes other vintages and is produced every year, and a blend between grape varieties and villages that is only produced in vintages when the vintage can stand on its own, and is released later.
According to Jean-Hervé the three vineyard-designated vintage wines from Avize, Dizy and Aÿ will be released in the vintages where they are really good, and are not needed for the 700 cuvée. The 2004s, previewed by a few lucky wine writers during his visit, will be released in fall 2013. All three have been produced in 2004, but there may be vintages where not all three are released.
Since a long time, Jacquesson have released late-disgorged vintage Champagnes – in small quantities and naturally at a higher price – under the designation “Degorgement Tardif” (DT). The first DT was apparently a 1969 Avize released around 1985. Something that is now in the pipeline, but not yet released, is late-disgorged 700 series wines. Starting from the 733 cuvée they have also stored away bottles of the 700 series and will release these again 4-5 years later than the original release. The DT version of 733 will be released in fall 2014. It is not yet decided if it will be called 733 DT or something else. Perhaps we could view this as the late-disgorged 700 wines moving into the spot previously occupied by the vintage wines in the Jacquesson range? What I’m thinking is that they would be what can be offered to customers who want something a little better than the current entry-level wine, but not go all the way up to the cellaring-demanding vineyard wines. In any case, I look forward to tasting the 733 as DT, and even more the excellent 736 as DT in 4-5 years.
The last regular vintage wine, the 2002, will be released in its DT version sometime in the period 2018-2020. Only after that release will the transformation of their range be completed. Of course, that’s provided that they don’t get any more new ideas between now and 2020. 🙂
The four wines of the tasting, and my impression of them:
Jacquesson Cuvée 735
47% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. 28% reserve wine from 2006 (22%) and 2005 (6%), and therefore 72% from the 2007 base vintage. Dosage 3,5 g/l.
Appearance: bright yellow
Nose: ripe pears, yellow and red apples, other yellow fruit, honey, citrus, some herbs, mineral, slightly toasted notes.
Palate: dry, mineral notes, citrus, green and yellow apples, high acidity, pure and elegant Fresh and firm aftertaste with a lot of mineral
Rather young but drinkable now. 88 p.
Jacquesson Cuvée 736
53% Chardonnay, 29% Pinot Noir and 18% Pinot Meunier. 34% reserve wine, primarily from the 2007 and 2006 vintages, and thus 66% from the 2008 base vintage. Dosage 1,5 g/l.
Appearance: bright yellow
Nose: ripe pears, some wild strawberries, red and yellow apples, some perfume notes, honey, mineral, slightly toasted notes.
Palate: dry, very mineral, citrus, grapefruit bitterness, green and some yellow apple.
The nose gives me a more Pinot Noir-like impression than the 735, but the 736 is actually a little more Chardonnay dominated, and I found it a little more flowery. The palate is more mineral than the 735, with more stony and “fizzy tablet”-influenced minerality. It also shows more citrus and less apple notes. The 736 comes across as younger and needs more time, but definitely has potential to develop. 88+ p.
I noted that many participants of the tasting seemed to prefer the 735, that provided better drinking right now, but there is no doubt that eventually, the 736 will “peak” higher.
Jacquesson 2002 (from magnum)
57% Pinot Noir from Dizy, Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, 43% Chardonnay from Avize and Chouilly.
Appearance: bright yellow, hints at gold
Nose: yellow apple, ripe yellow fruit, noticeable herbal notes, honey, mineral, some toasted hazelnuts, some mature notes.
Palate: powerful minerality, green apple, a hint of bitterness that is integrated with the minerality, more mouthfeel than 735 & 736, i.e. “more powerful taste”, high acidity, mineral in aftertaste.
Still young on the palate. 90+ p.
Compared to when I tasted it in April 2012 (from a regular bottle), it has matured and calmed down.
Jacquesson Terres Rouges Rosé 2007
100% Pinot Noir from a vineyard in Dizy, produced with skin contact. Dosage 3,5 g/l.
Appearance: light red, very red and dark for a rosé!
Nose: wild strawberries, cherries, mineral – with slate notes?, hints of tar, slightly flowery. Rather discrete nose compared to what could be expected from the colour.
Palate: red apples, red cherries, some mineral, good acidity, some bitterness and tannin.
Foody, rather young. Could have potential to develop more spice notes and become even more foody. 89+ p.
This odd rosé, Jacquesson’s only wine of this colour, counts as part of the lieux-dits range since it carries a vineyard designation. However, it is sold considerably younger and at a lower price than the three white wines of that range. Interesting enough, the earlier releases consisted of more Pinot Meunier than Pinot Noir. The 2004 weighed in at 71% Pinot Meunier, the 2003 at 83% and the 2002 100%, if I interpret the fact sheet correctly. But the 2o07 is a pure Pinot Noir.
Swedish version of the post here.