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2004 Champagne Jacquesson, Aÿ, Vauzelle Blanc de Noir
Voted the third best of all Champagne Houses (after Bollinger and Krug) in 2005 La Revue Des Vins De France, Jacquesson has really come of age.
Based in the evocatively named town of Dizy, just to the north of Epernay, the House is run by the Chiquet brothers (cousins of our own Gaston Chiquet). The brothers are long-term advocates of the modish philosophy of zero dosage: this is put to the test in extremis with the equally modish move to release late disgorged cuvées: the juxtaposition of minimal sugar and extended lees ageing has produced these, some of the purest and most poised of all Champagnes, showing at their very best in magnum of course!
The house philosophy of releasing a clearly categorised Brut NV persists therefore, somewhat at odds with the historical precedent in the region which deliberately declines specifically to equate a batch with a certain vintage. Jacquesson's policy of so doing, albeit tangentially, is both a reflection of their adherence to the values of terroir and vintage diversity and a self-belief which over-rides any of the specific anxieties felt by the Champenois in relation to the conditions at a specific harvest.
These are very serious Champagnes with an emphasis on minerality and complexity of fruit. The wines have significant gravitas, are good food companions and age beautifully.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
Blanc de Noirs describes a wine produced entirely from black grapes. In Champagne, Blanc de Noirs cuvée can be made from the two black grapes permitted within the appellation, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Bollinger's prestige cuvée Vieilles Vignes Françaises, from ungrafted, old Pinot Noir vines, has set the yardstick in a style that is now produced by a number of other Champagne houses.A typical Blanc de Noirs cuvée has a deep golden colour, and can be more intensely flavoured than the classic non-vintage, multi-grape blend.