A Closer Look At Grower Champagne With Champagne André Jacquart

1er Cru, Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Le Mesnil, Sur Oger, Vertus
Grower Champagne, such as this exceptional bottle, from Champagne André Jacquart, is often terroir-driven. Credit: Jill Barth

Many consumers have become accustomed to assuming that the grapes for their wine somehow always grow in relation to the winery. While frequent wine drinkers learn differently very quickly, many folks that pull a wine off the shelf attribute all of the work to the name on the label.

This is all part of the learning process, perhaps one of the most intricate points of understanding wine. I’ll keep it brief and very basic.

Sell Or Make

Wine grape growers work in vineyards around the world. In some cases the vineyard owner and his close associates (even family) work in the vines, in other cases the vineyard owner is a third party that hires out the care of the vines. Either way, when the grapes are harvested, the vineyard owner needs to make fast use of them, either by selling them or making wine.

In terms of a sale, it could be to one or many buyers in amounts specific or bulk. Any number of arrangements exist.

In terms of making wine, the vineyard owner could also be the owner of a winery where she or he makes their own wine. They could also be a member of a co-op, a facility that makes wine by capturing grapes of a given region (from many growers) to produce wine for the group, which can then be labeled by the winery owner, the co-op or even an additional party, depending on the arrangement.

These are the two most basic options for wine grape growers: sell or make. In that range, an infinite number of schemes and combinations exist.

Markets And Appellations

Plenty of people care that Winemaker Jill made wine from grower Jason’s Driftwood Vineyard in St. Barth. And yet… plenty of people don’t — call it a red American wine and that’s good enough for them. This is the marketplace, the economics of a realm where agriculture meets marketing, where taste meets regulation. Each and every bottle was crafted with a string of business decisions dangling from it — it’s just the truth. This should come as no surprise considering that growing and making wine is a livelihood, many things are at stake for the proprietor.

Take Champagne, for example, one of the most recognized symbols of wine in the world (even kids know about it). Champagne means that the grapes were grown in Champagne and that the winemaking process followed the strict regulations of the AOP, of which there is an overflowing handful ranging from planting to packaging (and everything in between).

Champagne is also fascinating because underneath that place designate buzzes one of the most interesting societies working through that grow-sell-or-make equation I described above.

Much of the Champagne consumers recognize (and the majority of it purchased in America) comes from a maison or house. A house may or may not own their own vineyards. Even though they may craft from a portion of their own grapes, they must purchase grapes in order to produce their wine in the amounts they make. Obtained fruit could comprise most of their wines or just part of their production. For example, they may purchase grapes for one wine but use exclusively estate grapes for another.

By the way, this happens in all wine regions — not just Champagne — but in Champagne, this is very common and dominant with wines sold in the American marketplace. Many Champagne houses strive for a consistent style, creating non-vintage, unfailingly recognizable bottles crafted through the cellar master’s blending to the expectations of the house. This designation is called Négociant Manipulant and it pertains to the grands maisons as well small and family-owned operations.

Another prominent option is when the grower is also the winemaker. They may sell some of their grapes, but rather than purchasing from anyone else, their product is crafted with grapes from their own vineyards. This designation is Récoltant Manipulant or Champagne de Vigneron — also, Farmer Fizz or simply, grower Champagne. In this model, the winemaker has control over how the grapes are grown and harvested. They aren’t subject to the marketplace to obtain grapes or to the vast consumer marketplace that expects a homogenized product. They can address terroir and take creative hold in the cellar if that’s what they feel is right.

Champagne André Jacquart

Take for example Champagne André Jacquart. André Jacquart came from a grower family that had sold their grapes for four generations. In the late 1950’s, Jacquart deviated from this tradition, crafting his own estate-bottled Champagne in Grand Cru-classified Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. In the intervening years, the operation progressed, moving to a new facility in Premier Cru-classified Vertus and eventually passed into the capable hands of the fifth generation, Jacquart’s grandchild, Marie Doyard. Doyard’s pedigree comes from the Jaquart side as well as her paternal side — her grandfather Maurice Doyard was key to integration of the AOP. Even so, her career wasn’t in winemaking until she made the personal decision to take over for her parents when they retired in 2003.

Champagne André Jacquart, under the lead of Doyard, represents a modern-style of Champagne de Vigneron. This is Doyard’s influence — she wants her wines to fill a particular niche. This begins with her sustainability efforts in a culture raisonnée, an environment where vineyard protection products are used only when necessary. Doyard also employs oak instinctively for complexity — an element that fell away from common practice in Champagne but can now be found in certain cellars — which is something her parents and grandparents didn’t do.

Doyard oversees a property of 24 hectares, a collective of plots from both sides of her family in Mesnil-Sur Oger and Vertus villages. Doyard and her team can choose parcel-by-parcel how to care for the vines and when to harvest. Being a vigneron allows Doyard the discretion of her know-how and senses at every level.

I tried André Jacquart Expérience Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru NV, a blend of 60% Vertus Premier Cru, which is vinified in stainless steel, and 40% Grand Cru Le Mesnil-sur-Oger vinified in older Burgundy oak barrels. Doyard’s team does not allow malolactic fermentation. The wine spends a minimum of five years sur lie and has very low dosage. These are active choices, implemented by Doyard in an effort to produce a terroir-driven, gastronomic (rather than stylistic) Champagne.

The French Winophiles

Our French Winophiles writer’s group has dedicated August to the theme of Grower Champagne. Join us for a chat at 10am central time on Saturday, August 18, 2018. Look for us on Twitter with the hashtag #Winophiles. Here is what we have in story for reading material:

  • Jeff of FoodWineClick will be Taking a Saber to Farmer Fizz
  • Camilla of  Culinary Adventures with Camilla says Skip The Butterbombs and Pair Champagne with Alpine Cheeses Instead
  • Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles will dive into Farmer Fizz? An exploration of Grower Champagne
  • Jane of Always Ravenous will be Pairing Pizza with Grower Champagne
  • Nicole of Somm’s Table  will be offering 5 Champagne Toasts
  • Payal of Keep the Peas serves up Champagne: Le Vin du Diable 
  • Lynn of Savor The Harvest will be sharing Fourth Generation Grower Champagne – Pierre Peters and Bourgeois-Diaz
  • On L’Occasion we are taking A Closer Look At Grower Champagne With Champagne André Jacquart
  • Gwendolyn  of the Wine Predator is sharing  #Winophiles In Epernay’s Grower Champagne Heaven with author Caroline Henry and winemaker Elodie D
  • Our host Martin at ENOFYLZ Wine Blog, is taking a sip of Grower Champagne From The Chalky Slopes Of Avize: Franck Bonville Prestige Brut Blanc de Blancs

 

Next month, on September 15th, our theme will be Cahors, hosted right here by L’Occasion!

 

 

The bottle of wine was provided as a media sample, but all opinions are my own.
Advertisements

23 Comments Add yours

  1. pedmar10 says:

    Great memories my first Champagne drank in the Champs-Elysées trying to impress my girlfriend later wife and eventually visited the property! (it works)

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      I love it! There isn’t a more romantic drink than Champagne, something about the sparkle. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  2. It’s fun to see there are still so many choices, even though there are also SO many rules!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Isn’t that the truth? It would seem that the selection would be homogenized, but that is far from the case. Sort of speaks to the diversity in winemaking style and terroir. If there ever was a wine region ‘control group’ I think Champange might be the closest thing we’ve got.

      Like

  3. I enjoyed your “sell or make” context for Champagne. I think it’s a fresh lens one can look through to understand the grower/house dynamic. The Andre Jacquart sound like a bottle I would enjoy immensely!

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      I’m sure you’d love it.

      I kinda broke it down in this story — maybe a bit too ‘back to basics’ for this group, but I think it could help consumers understand some background. Thanks for hosting and reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Robin Renken says:

    I am finding the stories behind grower Champagne so fascinating. I am really interested in Marie Doyard’s choice for oak influence. Is this using new french oak on part of the wine? How does that change the flavor in the Champagne. Is it similar to the influence on a regular wine or does that change with the second fermentation?

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      No new oak at all for Doyard, it’s actually old 225-litre barriques, from Burgundy, previously used on chardonnay. I don’t see most Champagne producers seeking anything like “oak influence” as producers in other regions might. The appeal is the oxygenation, which softens the wines in some ways, adding complexity or creamy character.

      I haven’t tasted enough of it to really say much on the topic of *new* oak, but I understand it’s being used by a very limited number Champagne producers, evoking “oaky” aromas and profiles.

      Like

  5. We were so disappointed to miss this theme as Grower Champagne is a favourite! Look forward to contributing next month…off to start researching Cahors!

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Glad to have you join Cahors!

      Like

  6. Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger is one of my favorite Grand Cru vineyards. I particularly love the 2002s (when made by small high quality producers, Pascal Douquet is my fave!)

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Putting it on my list — we need a Winophiles allocation for all the wines we recommend!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. As someone that lives in Europe and is pretty familiar with wine making in both France and Italy, the way Champagne functions with growers and houses really isn’t all that common. Most wine producers are a do it all operation from growing grapes to producing. Until I recently went to visit Champagne, I didn’t even realize it was so different.

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      That’s why I wrote this at a down-to-basics level. It is so unique and as you said, it’s not always understood by wine consumers.

      Out in Lodi, CA they have had a similar (much less structured) environment of mainly farmer/growers — however they sell their grapes outside of the region, unlike Champagne. Anyway, the farmers have a superb momentum now, making their own wine. The topic is fascinating and I love hearing about the “dance” (a term I heard used in Lodi) between grower and maker —- and the apex of when those roles combine. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  8. Lynn says:

    From what I hear, with 24 hectares Champagne André Jacquart is on the larger side for a grower. And oak- I’m reading about more and more producers in Champagne increasing use of it. The gastronomic style! Enjoyed your article Jill!

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      It’s true they are on the larger side, with land coming from both sides of Doyard’s legacy family. I’m hearing more about oak too — and I can understand why these makers would want to have it at their disposal. Old oak, on part of the cuvée, seems to be Doyard’s method.

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  9. Great post explaining the choices involved in wine – sell or make. I am most interested to taste a Champagne with an oak element.
    Yes! to Winophiles receiving an allocation of wines recommended.

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      I think finding oak influence in growers Champagne is becoming more common!

      Like

  10. Nice breakdown explaining the grow or make process and highlighting the difference of grower Champagne. I am guessing many consumers are unaware of the difference. I was sad to have to sit this one out, but my TX ambassadorship to Franciacorta prevents me from featuring other sparklers on RRB.

    Like

    1. Jill Barth says:

      Thanks Michelle — This is consumer-friendly piece, I hope.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.