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Champagne can be the most essential luxury

Special to The China Post--Champagne remains one of the great wine styles. It is essentially a luxury item, marketed to people as an aspiration. Some champagnes are so lovely they should be regarded as treasures.

The Champagne region is at the northernmost limit of where it is possible to ripen wine grapes. The home for Jacquesson Champagne is the village of Dizy, where the average annual temperature is only 10C.

The art of blending developed as a way to cope with a variety of vintage conditions at such northerly latitudes.

Grapes for Jacquesson champagnes are pressed gently to get the best juice, known as the cuvee. The cuvee is the first 2,050 liters of juice from 4,000 kg of grapes.

The next 500 liters are known as the taille (tail), and produce wines of a more coarse character. Champagne producers such as Jacquesson pride themselves on only using the cuvee.

All of the vineyards from which their grapes come are grand cru or premier cru — the best in the region.

Fermentation takes place in large oak foudres, which allow the wine to breath, and the wine is left on the lees. The lees are stirred weekly for several months to extract flavor. After the wine is bottled, some cuvee champagnes spend up to 15 years in the cellar prior to being released.

Jacquesson's Cuvee 735 is the current release. It has a mineral mouthfeel, with intense aromas of grapefruit and quince. If it's possible to give human characteristics to a champagne, this is like an elegantly dressed woman, lithe and feminine with a lovely sense of charm and finish.

The Jacquesson's Cuvee 736, yet to be released, was previewed for the media. Brothers Laurent and Jean-Herve Chiquet, who make and market Jacquesson champagne respectively, believe it is the best cuvee they have yet produced, based on fruit from the 2008 vintage.

Once, while on holiday in Greece, I slept on the roof of a village apartment building in mid summer. The aroma of baking bread woke me early next morning. This champagne evoked delicious memories of that morning.

Cuvee 736 tastes like a sweet from my childhood called a sherbert lemon: citrus tang combined with sherbert zing. The acidity is like the sarcastic comments of a close friend — loving and challenging at the same time.

The 2002 vintage appeared next at the tasting. It has a majestic mousse that sings in the mouth, and broad and elegant acidity similar to the sherbert lemon sweets mentioned earlier.

The nose is like the aroma of toast on a winter's morning, awaiting the gentle touch of butter and jam.

The 2007 Dizy Terre Rouge rose champagne completed the Jacquesson tasting. It is made from pinot noir grapes and has aromas of raspberry jam, though without the sweetness of jam. It is almost like a sparkling version of a burgundy from Chambolle-Musigny.

This wine has only recently been released and is almost ethereal. The name comes from the red soils around the town of Dizy. The flavors in the mouth suggest crunchy ripe red apples combined with lime zing.

At an earlier tasting the Moet & Chandon 2004 Grand Vintage champagne was made available to the press. Every grand vintage is unique and reflects the personal interpretation of that year's grapes by the cellar master — known as the chef de caves.

Vintage champagnes are rare because they are only made in years when the grapes are considered of sufficiently high quality.

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(Photo credit: www.champagnejacquesson.com)

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