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Jenny Mackenzie heads to Reims to taste Jacquart's Champagne vins clairs

Published:  14 June, 2013

Floraine Eznack, winemaker at Jacquart Champagne, "hopes for a perfect 10" when overseeing vendange. She says "10 degrees potential alcohol at picking, with 10g/l total acidity give the optimum grapes for Champagne production". Another 10 in the equation is the dosage at dégorgement, which according to Eznack, is "a maximum of 10g/l residual sugar".


Two years into her role, Eznack has achieved the objectives: to "focus and define Jacquart, stripping the range back from 19 lines to five, change distributors and redesign the labels" including a new prestige cuvée - replacing the previous Nominée label - being launched on 19th June 2013.


Eznack describes her challenge now as "how to get from being a well-respected co-operative brand, to being considered alongside the Grandes Marques".


Daniel I'Anson is the new UK business development manager, working with Eznack to achieve this target. The main focus in the UK, according to I'Anson, is to "reposition Jacquart, emphasising its 'grower Champagne' quality level". He added that, in France, "co-operative production sends out a high quality message" and "70% of growers are in co-operatives".


There are three co-operatives producing Jacquart's 2.6 million bottles: Union Auboise, Château Thierry and Cogevi, comprising a total 2,400ha and 1,800 growers. Floriane "co-ordinates the three chefs de caves", overseeing vins clairs selection between October and December, "tasting 1,200 samples from 100 different crus", to "make the fit" and blend the Jacquart labels.


Of the chosen vins clairs, a further select few - five for the 2012 vintage - are identified for the prestige cuvée. Eznack has the freedom to try "something new for each prestige cuvée" and is happy to report, "the cost [of materials] is not an issue in the blending room". To illustrate how Eznack chose vins clairs for the prestige cuvée, samples tasted on the visit to Jacquart were:


Pinot Noir 2012, Verzenay

Eznack stated that "terroir is not a recipe but a tool" hence the attention to vineyard management in high quality Champagne production. She prefers the Pinot Noir from the north of Montagne de Reims for its "light aromas and structure".


Chardonnay 2012, Oger

"Oger Chardonnay is more rounded," according to Eznack. She adds, "minerality can be salty, smooth, chalky or round" and that "each cru develops differently each vintage". She seeks wines that "play a supporting role in the blend, none dominating".


Chardonnay 2012, Avize

"Avize Chardonnay is like a spice, you mustn't overuse it," states Eznack. Very perfumed and lively, with blossom character and almost an oiliness, the acidity in this sample was noticeably different, playing around the side of the mouth.


Chardonnay 2012, Cramant

The sample having undergone MLF (malolactic fermentation) was soft, with a creamy texture with a "high-wire" acidity.


Chardonnay 2012, Cramant (no ML)

Without MLF, the same wine was finely etched and precise with vibrant citrus character, yet a softer finish.


Other vins clairs tasted were:

Mosaique 2012, final blend and the Prestige Cuvée 2012, final blend, both of which will be when Eznack sees the results of her current work. When she arrived at Jacquart, she says there were "no reference materials" and she had to unearth dusty boxes, sort old stock and has now created a "library for future winemakers to refer to".


Other Champagnes tasted on the visit were:

Jacquart Mosaique Brut NV, £25, GWW (Enotria). Based on the 2008 vintage, this was a generous style with a spicy, rich, truffle and almond character, lifted by a citrus finish.

Jacquart Blanc de Blancs, 2006, £39.50, GWW (Enotria). Eznack explained she "looks for opulence" in vintage Champagnes and emphasized its food matching potential, especially cheese.

Jacquart Nominée, 1990, magnum, cellar collection, tasted in the smart new cellar room. Honeyed and nutty, still extremely fresh, tasting older Champagnes is one of life's great pleasures.

Jacquart Nominée, 1992, magnum, cellar collection. A present for the Eurostar back to London, this slipped down superbly with a couple of perfectly ripe Camemberts.