Just a few minutes from Épernay, separated by the Marne river, lies the small and silent village of Dizy, home of Champagne Jacquesson. The champagne house belongs to the most sought-after names of Champagne, however, most connoisseurs argue that Jean-Hervé and Laurent Chiquet – the two brothers who run the estate – think, act, and work more like vignerons of a family-run winery. This image has been earned through their passionate dedication to their land, diligent work in the vineyards, and an uncompromising philosophy focused on a small high-quality production.
The history of Champagne Jacquesson dates back over two centuries to its foundation in 1798. However, their contemporary success story started in 1988 when the two Chiquet brothers took over the champagne house and started developing a brand-new vision and direction for its production in the following years.
Jean-Hervé and Laurent Chiquet started their adventure without any particular objective in mind, yet their most heartfelt wish was to make excellent wine and champagne. Rather than up-scaling production to grow and expand continuously, as many other big producers would, the brothers focused on quality and sustainability on a human scale instead.
From that point forward, they have devoted all their efforts to improving the quality of their champagne and bringing in the most expressive and aromatic grapes from their vineyards, the foundation for making a champagne of exceptional quality. In the process, they introduced many viticultural changes, intentionally lowered their yields, and didn’t hesitate to sell all the parcels that didn’t meet their expectations, regardless of whether this required reducing the size of the estate.
Today, Champagne Jacquesson own 30 hectares of vines and additionally source the equivalent of 10 hectares from well-established long-term contractors that meet their quality demands and are located in proximity to their own parcels. Their grapes come exclusively from five classified crus: Grands Crus Avize, Oiry, and Aÿ, as well as Premier Crus Dizy and Hautvillers.
The protagonists in Champagne Jacquesson’s blends are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Though Meunier is still vinified in their cuverie and added to the blends in minor quantities, the house continues to decrease its use progressively. Though the Chiquet brothers appreciate Meunier from other terroirs, they feel that the varietal does not thrive or express as well on their soils, and gradually replace the Meunier plots with their favorite varietal: Pinot Noir.
The centerpiece of the production is the famous Cuvée 700 which they started in 1999, when Champagne was still reigned by mostly non-vintage Brut blends that were created in a particular house style: multi-vintage champagnes with a recognizable taste and little to no variation from year to year.
Unlike other producers, Jean-Hervé and Laurent Chiquet were tired of always producing the same style of champagne and were frustrated by the uninspired goal of regularity, instead of highlighting individuality. Looking for new challenges, they made up their minds to redefine the purpose of assemblage for themselves, and spark new joy in their lives as winemakers.
Inspired by simply making the finest wine possible each year, the two set out to highlight the character of each terroir’s expression under the specific set of conditions that each vintage brings along. As a way to temper the often-dominant vintage character in young wines, they use reserve wine from previous Cuvée 700 blends to strengthen the cuvée’s backbone.
The emblematic Cuvée 700 series started with Cuvée 728 as a first edition. Surprisingly, the number 728 was chosen more accidentally than strategically, as it simply represented an administrative number in their book of wines: it was the 728th wine produced in the nearly two centuries-old history of the domain, a wine born in vintage 2000.
Since then, Jean-Hervé and Laurent Chiquet aim to find the right balance between distinctiveness and resemblance year after year, and have successfully established the series as the house’s masterpiece. Its latest edition, Cuvée 745, based on vintage 2017, was released recently.
The key factors of the champagne house’s production quality are centred around the work in the vineyard: sustainable viticultural practices, attentive observation all throughout the growing season, controlled yields, and a carefully chosen harvest date are the most critical points for their production.
The vineyard team strictly limits the bunches each grapevine carries, so that the plant can nurture and mature the berries more regularly. This leads to more aromatic and evenly ripened grapes that can be harvested at the peak of maturity, but as soon as possible. This reduces the risks of complicated weather conditions towards the end of the growing season.
Once all the grapes have been picked and brought in to the winery, the bunches are gently pressed in traditional horizontal presses. The must from every press is separated in three parts: the first and last third are discarded and sold to other producers, and only the middle part – the coeur de cuvée – is kept for their own production.
After pressing, the musts are pumped into the big oak casks of the house, where they undergo alcoholic fermentation and the entire vinification process until bottling. Malolactic fermentation is neither initiated nor stopped if it occurs. The wines are left unfiltered on their total lees so they can silently develop their full character, interrupted only by occasional battonage, the stirring of the lees.
A big advantage that the limitation of production quantities brought along is the possibility to age base wines for an extended period. Beforehand, the team had to bottle all wines in a rush to make room for the next harvest, but after lowering yields and selling some of their vineyard surface, their wine cellar offered enough space to keep the last vintage in the casks for a few extra months, while already filling the new vintage into empty casks. Ever since, they age the base wines for a minimum of 12 months in cask for a richer and more balanced foundation for their future cuvées.
„Each harvest has the chance to live two lives“, Champagne Jacquesson states in their manifesto. In this spirit, each Cuvée 700 edition is released twice: the first time after four to five years of aging, when the champagne boasts vibrant energy, and a second time after ten years, when a held-back part of the production is released as Dégorgement Tardif (which means late disgorgement) to show the cuvée’s complex and fully matured character.
After disgorging, the decision for the dosage of each cuvée is made and adjusted by thorough blind-tasting to assure that no more than the strict minimum of liqueur is added. In the end, all of the meticulous work in the vineyard and cellar pays off in this final step of production: most cuvées are so balanced that they require very low dosages or no dosage at all.
For a taste of Champagne Jacquesson’s Cuvée 700, you can find the latest releases in our shop: Cuvée 745 in its youthful vibe, and Cuvée 740 Dégorgement Tardif with all its beautiful complexity. For an even more nuanced tasting experience, both cuvées are available in magnum format: Cuvée 745 Magnum or Cuvée 740 Dégorgement Tardif Magnum.
Even though Champagne Jacquesson has only one cuvée in their portfolio and does not produce a classic range of champagne like most other houses, there are still further treasures to discover. A confidential collection of four sought-after lieux-dits champagnes complements the house’s offer: Avize Champ Caïn, Dizy Corne Beautray, Dizy Terres Rouge, and Ay Vauzelle Terme.
Selected from the house’s finest single-vineyard plots and produced in tiny quantities, these rare bottles give a close insight into the efforts the house puts into making each terroir shine. Highly appreciated by champagne aficionados, the four lieux-dits leave plenty of room to dive deeper into the uncompromising dedication and authentic precision that Jean-Hervé and Laurent Chiquet stand for.