Jacquesson & Fils, based in the village of Dizy, was founded in Châlons-sur-Marne (now Chalôns-en-Champagne) in 1798 by Memmie Jacquesson. The fame of the House grew following the rumour that it was a favourite of Napoleon, who would have honoured the house with a gold medal for its fine cellars.Moreover, the House is renowned for the introduction of the « plaque de muselet», the now-collected metal caps over the cork held by wire – still the method for holding down the cork – which was patented by Adolph Jacquesson, Memmie’s son, in 1844.Adolph, who succeeded his father in 1835, ensured the dynamic growth of the House adopting the latest wine-making breakthroughs and discovering techniques to improve the still imperfect art of champagne making. For instance, with the help of Dr Guyot, he carried out the planting of vines in row, while with chemist Jean-Baptiste François, he developed a process for measuring sugar density, so reducing from 25% to 4% the rate of bottle exploding in their cellars because of the lack of control over the amount of carbon dioxide under the cork ( this process is known nowadays as Reduction Francois).
Eventually, part of the fame of the House is due to the fact to have given birth to Krug : in 1843, Jacquesson’s cellar master, Johann-Joseph Krug, left the House to form his own brand. In 1867 annual sales of Jacquesson bottles had reached 1,000,000, but a period of decline followed the death of Adolphe Jacquesson, with the descendants having ceased to continue the family business.
It was only several decades later that the House began to remake its fortune : in 1924 Jacquesson was acquired by de Tassigny family, while in 1974 the brand was bought out by a small house, Champagne Chiquet Père et Fils, so moving to its present Dizy home from its then base in Reims. Thanks to Jean Chiquet and then to his sons, Jean Hervé and Laurent, respectively joining the House in 1978 and in 1985, Jacquesson returned to its roots, producing top quality champagnes under the old logo of the Maison Jacquesson.
Jacquesson House, one of the smallest House in the Champagne Region – only Salon being smaller amongst the elite of Champagne producers – sits nevertheless with few other top ‘houses’ for its champagne quality.
Based in Dizy, now with a vast chateau at Sillery as well as the Chalôns base, the House produces 280.000 bottles per year, nearly 78% supplied from their own 28ha estate while the others 22% from selected growers in the same villages where the House has its vineyards – Avize, Chouilly and Oiry in the Grand Cru and Dizy, Hautvillers, Cumieres and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ in the Premier Cru.Having to buy grapes to supply its production, the House is a « negociant-manipulant » (NM).
Despite the limited owned vineyards – along with the limited annual production – since the arrival of the Chiquet family the House has radically changed farming techniques so to focus on champagne quality: the two brothers Chiquet take great care of the vineyards, still dating back to Adolphe Jacquesson times and restored in the 19th century in collaboration with Dr. Jule Guyot so to plant them in planting in rows instead of the traditional ‘en foule’ and with specific controls on yield and in 2008 they completed its conversion to organic farming.
Moreover, running counter Champagne’s tradition of blending wines from across the region to make consistent house-branded styles, Jean-Hervé and Laurent prefer to to make locally specific and authentic wines.
In this boutique House, which behaves the least like a house and much more like a ‘single estate, the two brothers – owners of the 51% of the company, the rest held by other investors – have the complete organization of the production, with Jean Hervè dealing with sales and outside relations while Laurent leading on vineyard management and grape production as well as winemaking. Some 65% is exported to the UK, with a clear choice to not sell in supermarkets. The USA, Germany, Sweden and Japan are also important export markets.
Much of the success of the House is due to the their terroir based philosophy, which employs organic farming techniques and deploys herbicids, allowing to obtain grapes of great quality.
Confident of this quality, some years ago the Chiquet brothers decided to stop producing their non-vintage cuvé – what obliged them to « repeat » a style year o er year – and to introduce a groundbreaking single-vintage-based cuvée, which changes yearly (with the latest release, Cuvée No. 737 based on the 2009 vintage, with Cuvée No. 736 based on the 2008 vintage, Cuvée No. 735 based on the 2007 vintage and so on till the first Cuvée 728 based on 2000 vintage).
At the moment, both the old bottlings of the House – the « regular » vintages, 2002 being the last to be released – and the new – the 700s series – now coexist on the market as old stocks diminish and will eventually disappear. For what concerns the 700s series – and Jacquesson champagnes in general – the assemblage of each numbered cuvée changes from year to year though the techniques are based on vinification in large old oak barrels, on the lees, with weekly bâtonnages, and with the use of only the first « cuvée » during pressing.
The champagnes, which include a percentage of about 30% to 40% of reserve wines, always complete malolactic fermentation, but the sugar dosage is minimal and there is no fining, no filtration, or conventional cold stabilisation. Thus, although it is difficult to say there is a real « Jacquesson style » it is nevertheless fair to say that Jacquesson champagnes are crisp, giving a dry impression, also due to this very low dosage – less than 6g/l of residual sugar – with most of the wines being in fact Extra-Brut.
Alongside the esteemed ‘700 Series’ cuvées, the house produces tiny quantities of its terroir-based cuvées–each from a unique parcel of vines : Champ Caïn, 100% Avize Chardonnay; Corne Bautray, 100% Dizy Chardonnay, Vauzelle Terme, 100% Aÿ Pinot Noir, and a saignée rosé, Terres Rouge, which, from 2007 onwards, will be produced entirely from Pinot Noir.
The Chiquet brothers have decided to release these terroir-based champagnes only when vintages are very good and are not needed for the 700s cuvées. Finally, the House has also released – in small quantities – late disgorged Vintage champagnes under the designation « degorgement tardif » (DT). On all the backlabels the House indicate the number of bottles produced, the month of disgorging – with some older vintages-left undisgorged in its cellars until release fifteen or more years after the vintage – and the dosage. These wines are further distinguished by their baroque labels, of the type that Jacquesson used in the 1840s.
To learn more about Jacquesson read BestChampagne exclusive interview with its President Jean Hervé Chiquet.