Champagne Jacquesson, Dizy

Country & RegionFrance, Champagne, Dizy
ProducerJean-Hervé & Laurent Chiquet
FoundedHouse founded in 1789 during the Revolution and the Chiquet brothers, since the 1980s, have continued the revolution!

We have here the best that Champagne can produce in terms of wines of terroir with distinctive personalities.
         –The Best Wines of France 2020, La Revue du Vin de France

Champagne Jacquesson was founded in 1798 by Memmie Jacquesson and he did so well that Napoléon gave him a medal. In 1835, his son Adolphe took over and had a direct hand in several important innovations. He instituted the radical notion of training vines in rows with the collaboration of Dr. Guyot. He established a base level of sugar in bottles with the aid of a chemist, thus substantially reducing the problem of bottle explosion. Lastly, he patented the wire basket known as the muselet, still used today to hold sparkling wine corks in place.

The business left family hands toward the end of the 1800s, and eventually was bought by the Chiquet family in 1974. Today Jacquesson is jointly managed by Jean-Hervé and Laurent Chiquet. Jean-Hervé, once the cellar master, now primarily runs the commercial aspects of the business, while his younger brother Laurent runs the production side and has taken the role of chef de cave. The two work closely with their vineyard manager, Mathilde Prier. In a given year, Champagne Jacquesson farms between 69 and 76 acres in the grand cru villages of Aÿ, Avize, and Oiry, and in the premier cru villages of Hautvillers, Dizy, and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. The acres vary because the house owns 69 acres with the option to take farming contracts on as many as 7 more, and Jacquesson does all of the farming on whatever it contracts for. In addition, from these same villages the Chicquets have buying contracts to buy grapes from 20 acres from growers with whom they work closely (it was 27 acres until 2008, when they parted from their largest grower in a step toward self-sufficiency). In Champagne terminology, it would be more accurate to call Jacquesson a large grower rather than a “house” because 80% of its production comes from its own vines.

Jean Hervé Chiquet of Champagne Jacquesson

Sustainable practices are the norm here, and one-third of Jacquesson’s vineyards are certified organic. No herbicide is used, and two-thirds of the vines are tilled while one-third is sown with cover crops. When fertilizers are used, they are entirely organic. Pruning is severe for low yields, there are no green harvests, and canopy management is stressed to ensure minimal mildew and odium pressure, thus holding fungicide sprays to two each year.

Jacquesson has a small production facility in Dizy, across the river from Epernay. Here the brothers use vertical presses rather than more abusive horizontal presses. Only juice from the first two pressings is used (the rest–what they call the taille–is sold to négociants) and of course all the juice is either from grand cru or premier cru rated vineyards. The juice flows by gravity into steel tanks for 24 hours of settling, after which it is transferred to large neutral wood casks (foudres) for several months to undergo alcoholic and malolactic fermentations. The initial fermentation is normally spontaneous while subsequent malolactic ferments are sometimes spontaneous, sometimes inoculated (with neutral Champagne yeast that originally came from Cramant and Chouilly). The lees are stirred twice monthly to enrich the wine, a practice that has the additional benefit of providing a naturally reductive environment, keeping the need for SO2 additions to a minimum–one at pressing and another at disgorgement. The first racking normally occurs in April or May.

Malolactic fermentation is never blocked because 1) this would require a lot of SO2; and 2) low acidity in Champagne grapes is not a concern this far north—the 49th parallel, which is the border between the USA and Canada, runs just above Avize on the Côte des Blancs! Starting with the 2016 vintage, élevages go for twelve months, meaning that the wine is put into bottle to age sur latte after the next harvest. Since the fruit that makes the wine always attains an enviable level of ripeness, the dosage is typically in the extra-brut range of one to six grams of sugar per liter. Bottling is done without cold stabilization or filtration. Care is taken with the labels to transparently detail all relevant information about the wine without marketing flourishes. (Jacquesson helped pioneer such honest and unadorned back labels). The house produces an average of 250,000 bottles each year, roughly a 45% decrease from its production in the early 1990s. This is due to the shedding of buying contracts and to the intentional lowering of yields.

So much for the practical aspects. Philosophically, the Chiquet brothers have embarked on a mission to make Champagne as fine wine. This has involved a twofold approach: a fundamental reconsideration of their non-vintage wine, and a move toward single-vineyard wines in an exploration of specific terroirs.

Dizy Terres Rouges vineyard of Champagne Jacquesson

In 2003 Jacquesson jettisoned its Brut Perfection NV in favor of a new non-vintage wine named Cuvée 728 (the number comes from the year 1898, when the house revamped its administration and began keeping new records of every wine it made, beginning with number 1). Cuvée 728 was the first in a series of non-vintage wines whose identities are grounded in the primary vintage of their composition. This sounds straightforward, but it goes directly against the grain of the prevailing concept that a house’s non-vintage wine should be a consistent product without regard for differences in years. The aim of the 7-series is to emphasize the best qualities of a given year, rather than to dumb down individual vintages in an effort to make a uniform non-vintage. It’s worth noting that this series is being aged progressively longer in bottle, so that by the time Cuvée 734 was released in May, 2010 it had a full three years of bottle age, including four months after disgorgement.

The 7-series then led the brothers to question their classic vintage Champagne. Like most houses, the classic vintage was made only in the best years and was intended to be the best blended wine of the house in those years. But Jean-Hervé and Laurent had decided that the 7-series would be Jacquesson’s best blended wine. Thus the decision was taken that the 2002 Millésime would be the final vintage bottling of the house. Going forward, the vintage wines would be limited to the four single-vineyard wines, made only in good years and in very limited numbers, while the house’s one blend would be the 7-series. The requirements for the vintage-dated single vineyards are simple: the wine must have a distinct personality, one that reflects its terroir, and it is not needed in the 7-series blend.

Today, the 7-series represents roughly 95% of Jacquesson’s production. The vineyard sources have essentially remained the same since the advent of this series: parcels in the Marne Valley and along the Côte des Blancs growing in the grands and premiers crus communes of Aÿ, Dizy, Hautvillers, Avize, and Oiry. For a long time the basis had been Chardonnay with roughly 20-25% each of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. Gradually the percentage of Pinot Meunier is decreasing while Pinot Noir is increasing due to replantings in Dizy, so that today Meunier represents maybe 20% while Pinot Noir a strong 30%. More importantly, Jacquesson averages 7,000 bottles per hectare, whereas the norm in Champagne is 10,000. As John Gillman has observed, it would be more accurate to view the 7-series as a vineyard style rather than as a NV house style.

Vauzelle Terme of Champagne Jacquesson

Thanks to Jeff Bramwell for the bottle shot of Vauzelle Terme.

The Wines

Cuvée 743Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir2015, our harvest from Aÿ, Dizy & Hautvillers (60%), and from Avize & Oiry (40%). Winter and a large part of spring were mild and wet. There followed a period of dry weather with spells of high temperatures which lasted until mid-August. The growing season ended with alternating periods of cool humidity and dry heat. Picking started on 10 September and ended on the last day of the month. The harvest was very homogeneous and produced perfectly ripe and healthy grapes, in reasonable quantities, with a sufficient level of acidity. So, a splendid vintage. Some reserve wines complete the blend. 215,330 bottles, 10,013 magnums and 302 jeroboams were produced. Zero dosage.
Cuvée 744Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir2016. Our harvest from Ay, Dizy and Hautvillers (55%), Avize and Oiry (45%). Winter and Spring were extremely wet; mild to start with but temperatures fell at the beginning of February and remained low with some serious frosts in late April. The end of Spring was sunny but cool, followed by a Summer which was very hot and very dry. Picking began on 19 September and finished on 6 October, including a break of several days to make allowance for some late ripening parcels. The fruit of our labours was a crop of healthy, mature grapes with particular mention for the Pinot Noirs which were super successful. Reserve wines from previous 700 Cuvées complete the blend.

244,350 bottles, 9,905 magnums and 300 jeroboams produced.
Cuvée 738 Dégorgement TardifChardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir2010. This wine spent 96 months on its lees under cork (rather than crown cap); 14,910 bottles and 741 magnums were disgorged in June 2019. Winter and spring were cold and dry, the first part of the summer was fine but the end of the season was cooler and showery. After sorting, the harvest was perfectly satisfactory resulting in elegant wines, fine and fresh, with the chardonnays to the fore. Picking was from 14 to 27 September. Dosage: 0.75 g/l.

Cuvée 739 Dégorgement TardifChardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir2011, Winter was glacially cold and very wet, spring was very warm and dry, albeit with some frosts. The beginning of summer was gloomy and sullen; however, the end of the growing season was a lot more pleasant. The wines produced were fine, harmonious and balanced. After 96 months on the lees, under cork,

14,574 bottles and 711 magnums were late disgorged in June 2020. Dosage 0.75 g/l

Aÿ Vauzelle TermePinot NoirVauzelle Terme was first noted as an exceptional vineyard site in André Jullien's third edition of Topographie de Tous les Vignobles Connus (Topography of All Known Vineyards), printed in 1832. The site is on the right bank of the Marne, in Aÿ near the border with Dizy. It sits mid-slope facing south on alluvial calcareous soil over deep blocks of Campanian chalk.

2009: Winter was cold and dry, while the spring was mild but very rainy, creating the perfect environment for mildew. Fortunately, the summer was hot and dry and the weather at the end of the growing season was magnificent. The grapes were in superb condition with levels of maturity and ripeness that were comparable to 2002. The dreams of a great vintage were finally realized. Grapes picked on 20 September 2009; 11° alcohol, 6.1 gr/l acidity.

2,522 bottles and 155 magnums produced. Bottled on 3 June 2010. Disgorged in April 2019. No dosage.

Dizy Corne Bautray

ChardonnayDuring the 1990s the Chiquets were improving their farming and re-discovering their terroirs. Their one hectare (2.5 acres) of Corne Bautray Chardonnay way up on top of a steep hill above Dizy particularly impressed them in the harvest of 1995, and they made an experimental cuvée from it (2000 was the first commercial release). The parcel occupies the very top of the steep hillside far above Dizy. Planted in 1960, the vines face southwest and grow in relatively thick alluvial topsoil. This soil is a layer of loose clay-silt packed with pebbles, giving excellent drainage, and provides a bed as deep as nine feet overtop the ever-present Campanian chalk—which these old vines reach down to for water. The wine is remarkable for its elegant power.

2009: winter was cold and dry, while the spring was mild but very rainy, creating the perfect environment for mildew. Fortunately, the summer was hot and dry and the weather at the end of the growing season was magnificent. The grapes were in superb condition with levels of maturity and ripeness that were comparable to 2002. The dreams of a great vintage were finally realized. Grapes picked on 22 September 2009, 11°6 alcohol, 7.3 gr/l acidity.

5,172 bottles and 300 magnums produced. Bottled on 3 June 2010. Disgorged in April 2019. No dosage.

Avize Champ CaïnChardonnayThe vineyard is situated at the bottom of the slope facing due south; calcareous soil of clayey, sandy, silty structure over blocks of Campanian chalk. Planted to Chardonnay with 12,000 vines over 1.3 hectares in 1962. Chablis pruning.

2009: Winter was cold and dry, while the spring was mild but very rainy, creating the perfect environment for mildew. Fortunately, the summer was hot and dry and the weather at the end of the growing season was magnificent. The grapes were in superb condition with levels of maturity and ripeness that were comparable to 2002. The dreams of a great vintage were finally realized. Grapes harvested on 18 September 2009; 10°9 alcohol, 7.2 gr/l acidity.

10,306 bottles and 395 magnums. Bottled on 3 June 2010. Disgorged in April 2019. Dosage: 1.5 gr/l.

Dizy Terres RougesPinot NoirAt the foot of a gently sloping hill, facing east. Reddish brown limestone of some considerable depth overlying chalky silt. Planted to pinot noir with 12,000 vines over 1.33 hectares in 1993; cordon de royat pruning.

Vintages 2012 and 2013 were released together in 2021, marking the debut of Dizy Terres Rouges as a blanc de noirs rather than a rosé. Vintage 2012 was superb but short, thus the dual release of one bottle of 2012 with five bottles of 2013 packed into 6-packs.

2012: Winter was long and cold; spring and early summer were very wet and there were severe attacks of mildew. However, a superb end to the growing season gave us a small crop of remarkable quality. The grapes were picked on 30th September 2012, 11°1 alc., 8,1 gr/l acidity.

2,572 bottles and 154 magnums Bottled on 27 June 2013 Disgorged in February 2021. Dosage 0 g/l

2013 The winter was very cold and snowy, with spring and early summer staying cold and very damp, causing coulure and millerandage as well as delaying the flowering. However, August and September were warmer and drier giving us a late but excellent harvest.The grapes were picked on 8th October 2013, 10°9 alc., 8,9 gr/l acidity.

10,512 bottles and 584 magnums Bottled on 9 July 2014. Disgorged in February 2021. Dosage 0.75 g/l