Saturday, 8 December 2012

Jacquart's new winemaker and streamlined range

Last thursday, against a freezing wind, I left Liverpool Street Station by the Broadgate West tunnel up into the brave new world of the EC2 restaurant scene.Quite by chance, following my nose, I fell upon Snowden Street and Chrysal, the latest Japanese alternative in the Hakhassan Oriental stable. I had come for a tasting lunch with Floriane Eznack, the new winemaker (barely 30) at Champagne Jacquart. I remember her well as the bright assistant to my friend, the great Philippe Thierry of Veuve Clicquot; together they were making red wine for the peerless Grande Dame Rose. Her new job at Jacquart is to streamline the rather confusing number of cuvees and to concentrate on what this fine former cooperative has always done best: to draw on the fine crus of its members' parcels on the Cote des Blancs to fashion a string of vintage blanc de  blancs in a generous style at once richly gourmand  yet elegantly fresh to give immediate comfort to the impatient gastronome with a busy schedule . The main target is the fine restaurant trade.

Before tasting a quartet of  chardonnay vintages 2005 back to 1999, we had a sneak preview of the new vins clairs from the 2012 harvest.At first, this looked like one of the most difficult of recent vintages, teetering on the edge of disaster -hot march, no sunlight for four months, a prolonged failure of flowering, attended by wind, fierce hail, heavy rain, disease. But then the sun came out in a hot August and a fine calm September that chased away oidium, mildew and botrytis - at least in the best kept vineyards, while others languished with rotten grapes. Selection is everything, more than ever before. Yet Jacquart have done a fine job in salvaging a reduced crop- half its normal volume - of excellent wines: Meunier Villedomange, fruit, structure ,depth and ongoing pleasure;  Pinot Noir Mailly, flavours of blackcurrants energized by acidity; and Chouilly. a lovely expansive wine with a core of cool controlled intensity of Chardonnay flavours not seen since the potentially great 2008 harvest. Judgment is reserved until we taste a broader range of the raw material in glacial January & February.

Jacquart Blanc de Blancs Vertical 6.xii.2012

2005 - ripe-looking, gold with green lights, reflecting hot, maybe too hot conditions at harvest time. Opulent to the point of unctuousness, very much a 'continental' rather than a 'maritime' vintage. its richness gives it crowd appeal and it was appreciated by the other tasters. not my cup of tea - lack athletic energy, poise and class. it doesn't refresh. * (*) 14

2004 - more subtle hue of intertwining yellows and greens. a bit reductive for the moment but this should pass to reveal a smoky, flinty character in a classic style. A good 04 *** 16

2002 - an interesting mix of Chouilly, Vertus and Sezanne. gives immense pleasure now with scented
 flavours of warm brioche and honey - gorgeous mouthfeel, creamy, subtly mineral. perfectly balanced, complex, more to give to 2015. Grand Vin ***** 18.5

1999 - much better than average for this low-acid year. Golden fruits, fresh and dried, spicy .perfect mature aperitif for watching the cricket. **** 17

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