One month ago I visited the Champagne producer Jacquesson in the village of Dizy. Jacquesson is a small Champagne house, with a production of about 260 000-280 000 bottles per year, and nowadays one of the very best. Their production philosophy has more in common with modern high-end small growers than with what the larger Champagne houses are doing.
When Jean-Hervé Chiquet, who runs Jacquesson together with his brother Laurent, visited Sweden in early 2013, I wrote a profile of them together with my tasting notes from the tasting he held. This time we also met with Jean-Hervé.
A small addition to what I wrote in that profile is that they have received organic certification for 10 hectares (25 acres) of their total 28 hectares (70 acres) of vineyards. Apparently, they do not plan to extend the certification to the entire vineyard holding, so there won’t be any “biologique” label on bottles of Jacquesson. I found the reasoning behind this interesting. Although the Champagne has several problems that plague viticulture in a cold and rainy climate, such as rot (botrytis) and mildew, some of these problems can be avoided by careful vineyard work. For example, an “airy” canopy allowing good ventilation around the grapes will reduce the risk of botrytis, i.e., grey rot. For the 10 hectares they have certified, they feel that they are able to manage without pesticides. For the remaining vineyards, they think that there is a choice between small amounts of synthetic pesticides on one hand, and copper-based “traditional” preparations on the other hand. They have elected not to be come certified organically rather than to spread a heavy metal (copper) in their vineyards, since they consider the synthetic preparation less harmful for the environment.
Jean-Hervé treated us to several oneliners, of which I will repeat two: “our wines always tasted best when they are sold out” and “the only real natural wine is a bad vinegar”. 🙂
The 700 cuvée and the late disgorged version 733 DT
The “standard cuvée” of Jacquesson carries a sevenhundred-something number, and can perhaps best be described as something in-between a regular non-vintage and a vintage Champagne. They don’t aim to produce this cuvée to be the same in each release. Instead, they try to make it as good as possibe, and deliberately allow it to be influenced by the vintage character. That’s why each cuvée gets its own identity with the cuvée number, and the back label contains information about e.g. base vintage and varietal composition.
Something that I hadn’t heard before was how they nowadays treat the reserve wines for the 700 cuvée. Starting from Cuvée 733, which had the 2005 vintage as base, they have started to store the reserve wine as a blended 700 cuvée that wasn’t bottled for a second fermentation. The reason was that in this year, they had raw materials for more Cuvée 733 base wine than they wanted to bottle. The excess amount was saved blended, and they considered this so successful that they decided to introduce this as a principle for keeping reserve wine. (But I’m not sure if we were actually told that they stopped completely to keep single vintages as reserve wines.) So, from Cuvée 734, a certain cuvée consists of its base vintage and reserve wine in the form of one or more previous cuvées. This practice strikes me as something in-between keeping unblended vintages (as most houses do) and keeping the reserve wine in a solera (as e.g. Bruno Paillard does).
For those curious about the number, cuvée #1 of their internal numbering wasn’t the first wine they produced at their founding in 1798, but rather the “centenary wine” at their jubilee in 1898. After that they blended about 700 cuvées in 100 years.
Light to medium yellow, discrete but fine mousse. Nose with ripe yellow apples, some zest, a hint of winter apples, some mature notes with cocoa powder and almond, and mineral. Medium bodied, palate with green apples, citrus (grapefruit), high acidity, mineral, and a long aftertaste with mineral and citrus. Still rather young, 89+ p.
Base vintage 2009 and 30% reserve wines, mainly from 2008 but also from cuvée 736 and 735. 43% Chardonnay, 27% Pinot Noir, and 30% Pinot Meunier.
Light yellow colour, rather intense mousse. Nose of apple, pear, some elderflower, discrete citrus notes, mineral and bread. Medium bodied, palate with green apple, pear and a hint of peach, good concentration, high acidity, mineral and a long aftertaste. Very good acidity for a 2009-based Champagne. Approachable now, could probably develop, 89 p.
Comparing the two, 737 shows a bit more of a fruity style, but is still very balanced. 736 has started to show some mature notes but is built more as a vintage Champagne that will last. Those who are convinced Jacquesson fans (and who isn’t?) will want to cellar some bottles of 736, not because 737 is inferior in any way, but because 736 is more made for cellaring. If I had both in my cellar, I’d drink 737 before 736.
We also tasted a new addition to their range, from an unmarked bottle. Starting with Cuvée 733 – the one they were able to produce a lot of – Jacquesson has saved away some 15 000-20 000 undisgorged bottles per 700 cuvée, that will be disgorged a number of years later for a second release. They have previously released “Dégorgement Tardif” (DT) versions of their vintage Champagnes, but this practice is now extended to the 700 series. The first release, 733 DT, will be released this autumn, which should be about five years after the original release, following about 7,5 years on the yeast + one more year on the cork. The price has not been decided, but I suppose that this wine will take the place of the “regular” vintage Champagne in their range, i.e., one notch up from the regular 700 release but not all the way up to the vineyard-designated wines. (2002 was the final vintage of the non-vineyard designated vintage wine.)
Cuvée 733 Dégorgement Tardif
Base vintage 2005 and 22% reserve wines, of which 16% from 2004 and 6% from 2001. 52% Chardonnay, 24% Pinot Noir, and 24% Pinot Meunier. Disgorged September 2013, to be launched in September 2014.
Nose with yellow apples in the form of ripe yellow apples and some winter apples, some honey, bready notes, a hint of cocoa powder and mature notes. The palate is medium bodied+ with good concentration and noticeably spicy, with notes of yellow apple, good acidity, and minerality. A foody style, ready to drink, 90 p.
733 DT was more full-bodied than the young 736 & 737, showed fine notes of maturity and is definitely a Champagne that will go well with food. This is probably related both to the vintage character of 2005 – a ripe vintage that seems to be maturing fast – and the longer time on the yeast.
Vintage vineyard Champagnes
The prestige level at Jacquesson nowadays consists of three vineyard-designated vintage Champagnes, and on top of this there’s a vineyard-designated rosé.
2004 Dizy Corne Bautray
Blanc de blancs, from a 1 ha (2.5 acres) vineyard with southwestern slope and much clay, alluvial silt and gravel, Chardonnay planted in 1960. Disgorged February 2013.
Nose of ripe yellow fruit, yellow plums, almond, citrus, wool and possibly some clay. Generally “heavy and low-frequency” notes, together with some development and bread. Palate with good concentration, yellow apple, yellow fruit, mineral, high acidity and a long aftertaste with mineral and green apple. Young, 91+ p
Also in the 2002, Corne Bautray differed somewhat from the typical blanc de blancs style when placed next to Champ Caïn, which conforms more to a rather firm version of a classical Côte des Blancs Champagne.
2004 Avize Champ Caïn
Blanc de blancs, from a 1.3 ha (3.2 acres) vineyard with a mild southern slope with clay, sand and silt, and a high proportion of chalk gravel, Chardonnay planted in 1962. Disgorged February 2013.
Nose with ripe yellow apples, citrus and zest, some yellow plums, some honey, mineral, and a hint of oak. More “expressive” and elegant nose than Corne Bautray. Palate with good concentration, citrus, green apple, noticeable minerality and high acidity. Young, 92+ p
The Jacquesson vineyards in Avize have been used for three different wines during the years. Before 1990 they were used for a non-vintage Jacquesson Blanc de Blancs. After that they produced a vintage blanc de blancs carrying the village name, Jacquesson Avize Grand Cru, in the vintages 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2000. From 2002 only one of the Avize vineyards are used for a wine on its own. After trials, they concluded that Champ Caïn usually gave the best wine of their three(?) Avize vineyards. It is somewhat surprising to find that Champ Caïn is located down at the flatter land, below the slope.
There’s also a third vineyard wine, Aÿ Vauzelle Terme, which is a pure Pinot Noir and is the wine produced in the smallest amount. In the 2002, this was my favourite. My notes from the tasting of the 2002 wines in the spring of 2012 can be found here.
In some of the upcoming vintages, only some of the vineyard-designated wines have been produced. All of them will be released in the 2005 vintage, though. In 2011, none was produced, because Aÿ suffered from rot, Avize wasn’t good enough and while Dizy Corne Bautray was very good, it was needed for Cuvée 739.
Swedish version here.