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Jeroboam ageing ‘mystery’ to be solved

The effect of producing vintage Champagne in Jeroboam formats is not yet fully understood and is likely to be one of the next generation of winemakers’ most intriguing challenges, according to Veuve Clicquot’s senior winemaker, Cyril Brun.

Cyril Brun, senior winemaker at Veuve Clicquot, with a Jeroboam of Cave Privée 1989

His comments came during a masterclass on the Champagne house’s Cave Priveé Collection, which features a 1989 Jeroboam and 75cl bottle, offering a direct comparison between a late-release vintage Champagne Jeroboam and standard bottle for only the second time in its history.

The Champagne house has bottled Jeroboam formats alongside all of its vintage Champagnes for the past three decades; however only two pairs, ’88 and ’89, have ever been disgorged and bottled to allow for taste comparisons.

Noting the “dramatic” difference in flavour profile and colour between the two formats of the same vintage Champagne, Brun said it was something his team could “not explain” and that it had raised questions for the next generation of winemakers.

Recounting an earlier tasting of the 1989 Jeroboam vintage Champagne compared with a standard bottle, Brun said: “We organised a lunch in France and invited friends that we considered to be very good Champagne tasters. We served this wine blind as a Jeroboam, magnum and a bottle. At the end of the lunch everyone said it’s nice to have a vertical tasting because we had the feeling we had two different wines, and yet we had the same wine, just in different sizes. We didn’t think we would have such a dramatic change between one size to the other.”

It is known that larger formats can have a significant impact on the maturation of a Champagne because they hold more wine but have the same neck size ensuring an equal amount of oxygen is exposed to a much greater volume of liquid.

However Brun said understanding the impact that a Jeroboam format can have on a vintage Champagne and identifying as yet unknown factors, would be an interesting challenge for the next generation of winemakers to unravel.

“It is something we want to try and better our understanding of. I don’t think we are going to master this because I feel like there are some other parameters that are not yet part of the equation”, he said.

“Every time we make a vintage we want to do a separate batch to analyse the different types of disgorgement and closures and we will even go further by looking at where the different batches are being kept in the cellar. If you are talking about 15 to 20 years ageing even half a degree might have an effect.”

Cave privée Collection Veuve Clicquot
Veuve Clicquot’s Cave Privée Collection

In explaining the focus on Jeroboams, Brun said the difference in flavour profiles seemed to be more obvious between older wines and bigger formats, adding that it was “more significant with vintage” Champagnes, while stating his belief that Jeroboam tastings would in the future provide a new reference point for late-release vintage Champagnes.

The Champagne house has been selling its Cave Privée 1990 blanc and 1989 rosé since 2010 when it introduced the late-release concept.

It has since moved onto the 1990 rosé and 1989 blanc, the exact opposite of its former offering, with its most recent release being the 1979 rosé in magnum and bottle and a 1982 blanc in magnum and bottle.

Brun has previously spoken of his preference for larger formats telling consumers “expecting a bit more from a bottle of Champagne” to upgrade to a magnum.

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