Champagne Jacquesson was established in 1798. The house flourished through the 19th century under the eponymous founding family. In 1920 ownership passed to a broker, Léon de Tassigny. In 1974 the business was purchased by Jean Chiquet. The baton passed to his sons Jean-Hervé and Laurent Chiquet in 1988. This history explains how Champagne Jacquesson manages to be old and new at the same time.
A dozen members of the Circle of Wine Writers enjoyed a relaxed lunch with Jean-Hervé at the winery in Dizy last autumn. He told us that he and his brother took over from their father “to make better wine. We were right.” Their plan was to reduce production, which has gone from 450,000 bottles a year in ’88 to 260,000 last year. This has been achieved partly by reducing yields, more rigorous shoot pruning and generally stressing the vines. Pesticide use in the vineyards has been eliminated (except for copper sulphate and some fungicides to treat mildew). Pheromonal traps are now employed to reduce insect pests.
The Chiquet brothers also made changed in the chai. They use a vertical press because “it disturbs the grapes less. The skins are never fully ripe.” Pressing is stopped earlier to reduce bitterness. The base wines are aged in “mostly large old oak. We don’t want any oak flavour.” Malolactic fermentation is initiated “as needed.”
The Chiquet brothers make production decisions such as the level of sweetening dosage by assessing the wines separately and comparing notes. Jean-Hervé noted with pleasure that they always agree. “We have the same taste.” These and other techniques have led to richer flavours and rounder textures in Jacquesson’s finished champagnes.
The mainstay of the Jacquesson product line is the Cuvée 700. It’s a blend of several vintages from first pressings of the house’s three Grand Cru and two Premier Cru plots. Each release is given a three digit number beginning with 7. The back label decodes the number, identifying the predominant year in the blend. The Cuvée 700 wines are not intended to be a non-vintage brand crafted to reflect a house style year after year. They’re meant to be expressions of a particular year, buttressed by older reserve wines. They’re released at two stages of their development, with four or eight years of aging. The late disgorged DT version is more complex.
Jacquesson’s sparkliest sparklers are their single vineyard wines, produced only in years when they aren’t needed for the Cuvée 700. These wines, treated in the same way as their 700 siblings, are all about terroir. Certain parcels have revealed great typicity which, especially in favoured years, is captured in these bottlings.
Here are my impressions of two Cuvée 700 wines from two vintages, a Cuvée 700 DT, three single vineyard white champagnes, and a single vineyard rosé sparkler. Prices in Canada are hard to guess (but I’d guess around $70 to $120.) I can say of all the Jacquesson Champagnes I tasted that I’d buy them if I saw them.
Cuvée 700 wines:
Cuvée no. 738 (score 90+) is based on fruit from the 2010 vintage. It has a bright nose with rich pear fruit, autolytic aromas, a caramel note and mineral nuances, framed in a brisk creamy structure through a long crisp finish.
Cuvée no. 739 (score 90) was made mainly from the 2011 vintage. It’s more balanced and broader than the 738 if a bit less exciting. The wine has an earthy nose with restrained autolysis and a toasty note. It’s crisp and round in the mouth with a lingering citrus pith finish.
Cuvée no. 728 Dégorgement Tardif (DT) (score 91) is 2007-based. Part of the cuvée was released in 2011. The remainder, released as the D.T., was aged on its lees until 2015. The powerful nose features autolysis, sweet spice, delicate minerality ad a smoke/toast note. It’s fresh, round and creamy on the palate with a long, fresh autolytic persistence.
Dizy Corne Bautray 2005 (score 91+) is a charmingly delicate but intense wine with aromas of minerals, smoke and toast, acacia and ripe lemon fruit. It’s fresh, round and lemony with a long complex finish.
Dizy Corne Bautray 2007 (score 91+) received zero dosage. It’s focused, harmonious and autolytic, crisp, ripe and long in the mouth.
Avize 2005 (score 91+) is sweetly autolytic with ripe lemon fruit and lots of power. It’s crisp, round and well-fruited with good rich length.
Ay 2009 Rosé (score 90) received no dosage. It’s a deep salmon colour, acquired by skin contact rather than the ore usual addition of still red pinot noir to white base wine. The nose flaunts big autolytic aromas, strawberry fruit and sweet spices. It’s fresh and fruity.
[My thanks to the Comite Champagne, who hosted our happy band of wine writers.]
Jean-Herve Chiquet has an intense personal relationship to his vines, evident in the hand-harvest at Jacquesson. Friendly competitor Eric Rodez lauded Jacquesson Champagnes as “made from the heart.”