Last week, David Searle of Champagne Jacquesson was in Stockholm, and I was invited to a lunch at the old-town restaurant Pubologi to taste their single vineyard bottlings. It’s a rough life, but someone has to live it.
The champagne house has undergone a lot of changes in the past 25 years. In 1988, Jean-Hervé and Laurent Chiquet took over the business from their father, which meant that two wine lovers took over from someone who was more focused on business (rumor has it he didn’t even like wine!). Since, they have re-planted large parts of their own vineyards, narrowed their range, and focused on making the best wine they can. These are vinous champagnes, oaked, full-bodied, complex and food-friendly.
So, as of now, Champagne Jacquesson’s range includes only a NV (non vintage) cuvée, three vineyard-specific prestige bottlings, and a recently disgorged (RC) wine in the works. Their basic cuvée is numbered, No 735 being the current release. The numbers increase with each release, and we tried No 734 which has the light 2006 as a base year, and No 735, which has the fuller (and decidedly better) year 2007 as a base. Their cuvée is priced slightly below Möet Brut Imperial, but is immensely more interesting.
Jacquesson’s prestige wines (which replace the delicious Avize Grand Cru DT and the blended vintage wines), include bottlings from Dizy Corne Bautray, Avize Champ Gaïn (both blanc de blancs made with only chardonnay) and Aÿ Vauzelle Terme (a blanc de noir, with Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier).
Champagne is famous for being sold more as a branded product than a wine, and most are blends of grapes from different years and locations. There is a trend as of recent years for cult houses and quality growers to start making prestige champagnes that reflect the terroir, or “specificity of place” of the very vineyard they come from. I consider these wines interesting and more personal than the blends. The trend has sparked controversy in Champagne though, since it “undermines” the very basics of champagne production, which includes blending.
Jacquesson’s versions are far from free. But my lord, the wines (which are very young now, vintage 2002) will be heaven-in-a-bottle in 5-10 years time. I could buy the Vauzelle Terme for its beautiful red-gold color alone, but if I had to pick only one for the cellar, the characterful-yet-elegant Champ Gaïn 2002 would be it. Maybe served alongside the fried scallops with bleak roe that Daniel Crespi’s kitchen had cooked up for us… Yum.