Friday, May 23, 2008

Wine of the Week: Jacquesson Brut Cuvée No. 732

Some friends and I recently enjoyed a bottle of Jacquesson’s excellent Cuvée 732, based on the 2004 harvest. If you haven’t been following the wines of Jacquesson lately, they’ve recently discontinued their Brut Perfection, which was a non-vintage wine much in the same spirit of any other, in favor of a numbered, vintage-specific cuvée. The idea of the new cuvée is to not only express the style of the house, but also to frame that expression within the context of a specific base year.

Now wait a minute, you say. All non-vintage wines are based on a given year, and so by definition express the character of that harvest. Yet there’s a difference here: most non-vintage wines are blended in an effort to suppress the character of the base year, whereas Jacquesson is blending only in an attempt to make a more complete wine, while actively embracing and highlighting the character of the base year. It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one. It also results in different styles of wine.

The Cuvée 732 is a perfect example of the Jacquesson aesthetic, combining richness and complexity in a harmonious package. Graceful and vibrant, it demonstrates a wonderful sense of clarity and energy on the palate, its aromas of Meyer lemon, red apple and young ginger feeling fragrant and inviting. In fact, it might be my favorite of Jacquesson’s new numbered cuvées so far, although I also recall having a particular fondness for the 730.

Yet besides the 732’s merits as a wine, I also realize how much I appreciate Jacquesson’s back labels. Not only do they happily give you the base year of the cuvée and the varietal composition (39 percent chardonnay, 36 percent meunier and 25 percent pinot noir in the 732), but they also print the disgorgement date and amount of dosage. It’s a remarkably forthcoming and candid approach considering that many champagne producers are jealously secretive about this sort of information. Admittedly, I don’t really need any of this information to enjoy the wine. I can happily drink the contents without knowing any of that stuff. But as someone who has an active interest in champagne beyond simply imbibing it as a beverage, my enjoyment of it is enhanced if I am better informed about what I am drinking. It’s simply a matter of establishing a context.

Jacquesson is imported into the United States by Vintage ’59, Washington, DC, and Estate Wines, San Rafael, CA. Vintage ’59’s suggested retail price for the Cuvée 732 is $65.