This old, small house is run with great passion and enthusiasm by brothers Jean-Herve and Laurent Chiquet. Owning 31ha in the grand cru villages of Ay, Avize, and Oiry, and in the premier cu vilages of Hautvillers, Dizy, and Mareuil-sur-Ay. In addition the Chicquets buy grapes off 11 hectaresfrom growers with which they work closely. In spirit, Jacquesson are much more a grower than your regular house.
Jacquesson are arguably the oldest independant house dating back to 1798. They became one of the favourite Champagnes of Napoleon accompanying him on a number of campaigns as well as being served at his wedding. In 1810 Napoleon bestowed upon Jacquesson a Gold Medal, the highest imperial accolade for an outstanding commercial enterprise, in recognition of "the beauty and richness of its cellars".
Still in the infancy of Champagne production as we know today, Jacquesson were responsible for a number of major innovations at the time.
- They instituted the radical concept of training vines in rows with the collaboration of noted viticulturist Dr. Guyot.
- The process for measuring sugar density developed with the chemist Jean-Baptiste François. Known as the réduction François, this process reduced the rate of bottle breakage from 25% to 4%.
- The muselet (wire-cage), patented by Adolphe Jacquesson in 1844, which to this day is used to hold in place the corks of all champagne and sparkling wine bottles.
The business left family control at the end of the 1800's and fell partially into decline - the resurgence and recognition of the house began in 1974 when the firm was purchased by the Chiquet family.
Establishing the House in the village of Dizy in the midst of their own vineyard holdings.
The evolution of Jacquesson has been decades in the making. After years of arguing with their father about the direction the firm should take, brothers Jean-Hevre and Laurent took control of the firm in 1988.
Jean-Hevre believes that there are five key factors in producing the best - 'Terroir, viticulture, viticulture, viticulture and winemaking!' - considering Jacquesson more as grower than a Champagne house. (certainly in spirit)
Sustainable practices are the norm here with no herbicides or pesticides used, when fertilizers are used they are entirely organic, pruning is severe for low yields, with the use of ploughing and cover crops between rows to control vigour. 'Fruit quality is primary - effervescence is incidental'. 10 hectares are now fully organic while the remainder is managed under a minimal sulphur regime.
The attention to detail is equal in the winery, vertical presses are used rather than the more abusive horizontal presses, with only the first pressings used and the remainder sold off to other houses. Each parcel of fruit is vinified separately in large (45hl) neutral wood casks (foudres) for several months to undergo alcoholic and malolactic fermentations. The lees are stirred to enrich the wines, providing creaminess and richness. The additional benefit is that it is a naturally reductive environment allowing tartrate stabilisation to occur naturally, so less sulphur dioxide additions required. Malolactic fermentation always occurs as to block it would require a heavy dose of SO2 or filtration. Fining is not carried out to protect the wines inherent aromatics. As the fruit always gains an enviable level of ripeness, dosage is less required and generally in the extra-brut range of 1-6 g/l.
After 12 years of changing the structure of the company and the vineyards, they realised in 2000 that the change was not evidenced in the wines, so a complete transformation of the range was necessary.
In 2003 Jacquesson ceased production of their Brut Perfection NV and launched the first of the 7-series with Cuvee 728. (The house have been keeping records of all their wines since 1898 with the first cuvee no.1 - Cuvee 728 being the 728th release!) The aim of the 7-series is to highlight the best qualities of a given year, rather than dumbing down. Cuvee 728 is based on the 2000 vintage, Cuvee 729 - the 2001 vintage, Cuvee 730 - the 2002 vintage , etc. etc . The 700 series are the very best blended wines that Jacquesson can produce.This may sound straightforward, but goes directly against the prevailing philosophy that a houses non-vintage should be consistent regardless of the year.
With this philosophy in mind, it also makes the standard vintage wine somewhat redundant as Jean-Hevre Chicquet wryly commented ' how can you produce a wine that is better than the best?' .
For most houses the classic vintage wine was only produced in the best years and was intended to be the best blended wine of the house. With the decision that the 7-series should be the best blended wine that Jacquesson could produce, the decision was taken that the 2002 Vintage release would be the final vintage bottling of the house.
The focus now is on 4 single vineyard releases :
Avize Champ Cain, a 1.3 hectare plot planted with Chardonnay in 1962
Dizy Corne Bautray, 1 hectare of Chardonnay planted in 1960
Ay, Vauzelle Terme - a mere .03 hectare of Pinot noir planted in 1980
Dizy Terres Rouges - 1.35 hectare of Pinot Noir planted in 1993
The only blended wine in the range now will be the 7-Series.The 4 single vineyards now account for less than 10% of total production, will only be produced in good years and in very limited numbers.
The requirement for single vineyard releases are that the wines must have a distinct personality, reflect their own terroir, and are not required in the 7-Series blend.
Late -disgorged versions of the 2002 single vineyards will be released at the end of the decade. There are also plans to release late-disgorged versions of the 7-Series with the first being the Cuvee 733 (from 2005) which is scheduled for release early 2013