Some people think it’s masochistic to taste wine at ten o’clock in the morning. All that acidity, they say (and they’re probably talking about California zinfandel or Maipo Valley merlot). You guys have no idea. All I can say is, all y’all are pussies. You want real punishment, try a morning of tasting young vins clairs in Champagne that are still in mid-fermentation and that haven’t yet gone through malo.
Yesterday at 10am I was at Jacquesson, here in Dizy, tasting a range of 2008s with Jean-Hervé and Laurent Chiquet. The Chiquets are extremely enthusiastic about the vintage, and Jean-Hervé (shown in this photo with Laurent’s assistant Marie-Pascale,) notes that the average maturity for the house was above 10.5 degrees of potential alcohol, with acidity above eight grams per liter and pHs as low as 2.95. “It’s the closest vintage ever to 1996,” he says, “but with even more malic acidity.” That high degree of malic acidity will soften after the malolactic, but in the meantime it makes for some oral calisthenics.
We tasted about 15 still wines, all from the large oak foudres that contribute to Jacquesson’s style. They were all in different stages of fermentation, of course, but overall it seems that all three varieties were very successful. I loved the chardonnay from Avize Champ Caïn, which will almost certainly be bottled as a single-vineyard wine (it’s likely that with the high quality of this vintage, Jacquesson will produce all four of their single-vineyard bottlings this year) — rich in body and already subtly complex, it showed a detailed depth and fragrant length that surpassed the other chardonnays we tasted. Meuniers from two different parcels in Dizy were firm and pleasingly ripe, while a pinot noir from Dizy Mocque Bouteille was lively and bracing, with a delicate interplay of stone and red fruits (I was particularly keen on tasting this wine, as it comes from the slope just behind my house). Pinot noir from Aÿ Le Léon was vividly fragrant and downright severe in its razor-like structure — it’s the same vineyard that forms the base for Philipponnat’s racy and minerally Cuvée 1522 — while the saignée pinot noir for the Dizy Terres Rouges rosé showed a surprisingly luscious fruitiness and delicious layers of tense, lively fragrance.
I imagine it will be slightly easier to taste the 2008s at the proper time, in February or March of next year. But not by much. It’s thrilling to see the birth of a great vintage, but I’m afraid that I won’t have much left in the way of teeth and gums after we’re done with it.