Jacquesson is one of Champagne’s most venerable houses, not only predating Krug, but giving birth to it, when in 1843 Johann-Joseph Krug left Jacquesson to form his own house.
But despite more than 200 years of history, Jacquesson has become a revolutionary among Champagne’s established houses, under the leadership of brothers Laurent and Jen-Hervé Chiquet, who took over from their father in the 1980’s.
Since then, the house has adopted a herbicide-free, terroir-based philosophy. It also retired, after 150 years, its non-vintage blend and replaced it with a groundbreaking single-vintage-based cuvée, which changes yearly. And next came its terroir-based cuvées, an unprecedented move for a traditional house.
As Champagne lovers have the chance to experience more and more of Jacquesson’s new releases, the genius of this house’s ideas are coming more fully into focus.
Vintage variations are a fact of nature. But of all the world’s major wine regions, only Champagne, through its non-vintage cuvées, tries to “iron out” these differences, to maintain a consistent “house style.”
Jacquesson is an exception. In the late 1990s, the Chiquets began to believe that being bound to a house style forced a choice between consistency and quality (with consistency winning). So rather than making a consistent wine every year, they set out to make the best possible blend each vintage. In other words, Jacquesson chose expression over consistency.
And so, with the 2000 vintage, Jacquesson created a stir when they announced that its 150-year-old non-vintage Perfection Brut label would be retired and replaced with a numbered, vintage-based cuvée (the first being ‘728’). Each year, a new-subsequently numbered-cuvée is released, with Cuvée No. 734 based on the 2006 vintage, Cuvée No. 733 on the 2005 vintage, etc.
This innovation has marked a breakthrough in vineyard expression, revealing remarkable minerality in the wines’ transparency. Not surprisingly, it has received a chorus of critical acclaim from both connoisseurs and the press, with Peter Liem, for example, calling it, “consistently one of the best non-vintage bruts on the market.”
The assemblage of each numbered cuvée changes from year to year, though it always a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier primarily from the base year. But the winemaking remains the same: vinification in large old oak barrels, on the lees, with weekly bâtonnage, minimal dosage and no filtration. In each cuvée, there is also a certain percentage of reserve wine.
So great is Jacquesson’s commitment to this program that it has decided, beginning with the 2009 harvest, to no longer make its coveted vintage-dated prestige cuvée. Jean-Herve explains the decision in the form of a question: how can they hold up the numbered cuvées as the complete expression of Jacquesson’s vineyards if they withhold some of the best fruit? That’s the kind of devotion to quality that is seldom seen in Champagne today.
Alongside the esteemed ‘700 Series’ cuvées, the house produces tiny quantities of its terroir-based cuvées—each from a unique parcel of vines. These Champagnes showcase some of the region’s finest terroirs, with Peter liem calling them, “mandatory purchases for anyone interested in the terroir of Champagne, demonstrating an extraordinary vinosity and expression of place.”
The lieu-dit (single-vineyard) lineup includes: Champ Caïn, 100% Avize Chardonnay; Corne Bautray, 100% Dizy Chardonnay; Vauzelle Terme, 100% Aÿ Pinot Noir; and a saignée rosé, Terres Rouge, which, from 2007 onwards, will be produced entirely from Pinot Noir. (Previously, it had been a blend of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir from this special site.)
Jacquesson is also famous for its older vintages—left undisgorged in its cellars until release fifteen or more years after the vintage. These wines are further distinguished by their fabulous Baroque labels, of the type that Jacquesson used in the 1840s.
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