Jacquart’s Blanc de Blancs style impresses

Jacquart chief winemaker Floriane Eznack (centre) conducts the tasting while Rosemary George MW and I look on (picture by Lucy Shaw of Drinks Business)

The cooperatives in Champagne are a very good source of relatively inexpensive fizz, their vintage lines and prestige styles in particular. At Jacquart, where they have dramatically trimmed down the range of champagne they offer to just five cuvées, the vintage Blanc de Blancs has become one focus for attention. So it was great to have the opportunity recently to taste the last four Blanc de Blancs releases in the company of Jacquart’s relatively new winemaker Floriane Eznack who took over in January 2011.

We started with the current 2005 vintage, a luscious butter-rich blend of Chardonnay from four fine crus (two premiers and two grands) Vertus, Villers-Marmery, Chouilly and Avize. Eznack describes the Jacquart style of this cuvée as ‘greedy’ they are looking for unctuous richness rather than linear minerality. Attractive now, this is a wine that will happily age further, although it may not have the ageing potential of the ‘04 vintage which preceded it.

While the ’04 blend is different — mostly from Oger and Chouilly with a splash of Vertus and Cuis this time – it has textural richness in common with the ‘05, plus some smoky, nutty characteristics with a hint of honey on the finish.

The 2002 vintage that followed — showing aromas of fresh butter and warm brioche for Eznack – has matured further and has more developed honey notes, luscious richness and an impressive palate texture which carries a long finish. Chouilly this time is the dominant component (66%) with 20% Vertus fruit and the remainder coming from Sezanne. The final 1999 vintage (Chouilly, Vertus, Trepail and Cuis) has developed into a big, opulent silky textured style you’d be pleased to find still in your cellar. Originally launched around 2003/4 it went through a rather closed phase, says Eznack, but it has opened up again impressively, as the tasting demonstrated.

Over lunch which like the tasting took place at the newly opened Japanese restaurant Chrysan (sadly it closed in March) we tasted the straight ’05, ’04 and ’02 vintages. Made in a roughly 55/45 Pinot Noir/ Chardonnay blend they all showed well, especially the ’02 in magnum, the format giving extra freshness to set against the wine’s substantial richness. The creamy textured, 1999 rosé vintage that followed was not however overshadowed. Ten years ago this would have barely set you back £20 in a retail outlet like Majestic and that would have been a good investment. I recently opened a 1998 Jacquart Rosé which I had cellared for five or six years that was similarly complex and quite delicious.

Jacquart Blanc de Blancs 2005 (the 2006 has also been released now), is available on-line only from Tesco and I have recommended it here several times (see retail offers page) especially when promoted at £30 a bottle.