Charmed by the champagne house of Ployez-Jacquemart
As we pulled up through the gates of the champagne house/B&B of Ployez-Jacquemart we heard a doorbell go off. I walked back through the gate to get a picture and the bell went off again. Ah, a sensor gate, a very good way to know when people have entered the compound, either on foot or by car, especially when the winemaker is in the kitchen or round the side in the winery.
A jolly, small round French woman came rushing out the front door to greet us. It was the owner and winemaker of Ployez-Jacquemart, Laurance Ployez. I could already tell that Laurance was very passionate about her wines and on a tour of the winery and cellars she was bursting to give us as much information as possible about her house and they wines that they make.
Laurance is one of the small grower/producers that make up the bulk of Champagne producers. Most own no more than 3 hectares. Based in Ludes, Ployez is family run champagne and has been since 1930 when it was founded by Marcel Ployez and Yvonne Jacquemart. Laurance grows pinot noir and pinot meunier which come from the Premier and Grand cru villages of Ludes and Mailly and all work is done by hand. As is common practice, she guys in grapes, in this case, chardonnay but only from a carefully selected band of growers, some of whom she’s worked with for over 20 years. Everything is done by hand and only the first pressing juice is used, from the picking to the riddling, she oversees it all.
Although they have no particular house “style”, Laurence is always trying to create a wine that is unique to her. They use the “methode traditionalle” and long bottle fermentation as well as not letting their wines go through malolactic fermentation, so they will keep their fresh qualities for many years. They also change the blend every year depending on the quality of the grapes. There is no “recipe” at Ployez-Jacquemart. They also keep the dosage to a minimum. Most years their dosage is 6g/ltr but often it can be less. Recently, many champagne houses have been lowering their sugar dosage but Laurance said they have always had low dosages and only in the past few years have they begun to designate their champagne as “extra brut” on the label because of consumer demand.
Laurence opened the 1996 L. d’Harbonville for use to sip on the terrace overlooking the garden. At first glance, it was a deep golden hay colour, we could tell it was still very lively, lots of tiny bubbles streaming from the bottoms of the glass. A fresh but complex nose and palate, apple, pear, lemon and lime along with toasty, brioche notes on the nose. Sipping it was a wake-up call for the mouth! Racy and drinking like a 5 year old, excellent acidity, the flavours of the wine slowly opening up as we drank it. Laurence opined that it was still a baby and would be ever better given more time. She makes wines for the long run.
Two-thirds chardonnay and one-third pinot noir, the wine was a delightful companion to the gruyere puffs that were served alongside it. A wonderful way to end the afternoon – in the French countryside accompanied by a glass of bubbly – bliss!
As the winery also doubles as a B&B we had a long and delicious dinner accompanied by many of Ployez-Jacquemart’s champagnes. After the ’96 we had the ’98 L. de Harbonville before sitting down. A completely different beast, this one did not have as much complexity as the ’96 but had a firm structure with fresh apples and pears on a crispy palate. I can see why she opened the ’98 first, these champagnes are built to last a long time.
Cantaloupe wrapped lobster accompanied the non-vintage Passion. Made up of primarily 2005, this was perfect with the sweet lobster, mineral notes on nose followed by an elegant mouthful of green apples and lemons, very fresh indeed. The blanc de blanc 2002 had a nutty candied grapefruit profile to it with a strong finish, served with turbot, it turned it into a silky and luscious experience. The blanc de blanc 2000 however was again entirely different, complex and changing constantly in the glass, in one instance it was minerally and chalky, the next full of fruit and toasty notes. A very interesting wine to drink, a “contemplation” champagne, if you will.
Ployez-Jacquemart also do a rosé and the 2007 was a subtle mouthful. Onion skin in colour and coming in a clear glass bottle, it was quite eyecatching. On the nose and palate, candied red fruits and nuts but pleasingly dry and refreshing. The flavours and aromas being there but not overpowering the senses. I liked it so much, I bought a bottle to bring home.
Ployez-Jacquemart is one of those champagne houses that people always hope to find when they venture on holiday to Champagne. Beautiful wines, friendly winemakers and a B&B attached! The B&B has only 5 rooms and is done up in a very charming, French country-living in style. You may go for the champagne but you’ll want to stay because of the charming location and hosts.
Ployez-Jacquemart champagnes are available in the UK through Direct Wines but I’d recommend going over to Ludes and picking up a case or two and hanging around for a long weekend instead.
The Winesleuth was a guest of the CIVC on this particular trip. Thanks, guys!