Ah, Jacquère… there’s a special space in my heart for your oft-austere charms.
Whilst its origins are still rather murky, ampelographers are pretty sure that one of its parents is the Gouais Blanc grape. Taking up somewhere between 50 – 60% (around 5,200 acres) of the Savoie region’s vineyards, the Jacquère varietal is still not one that most people are in any way familiar with. To be fair, the vast majority is made into very low alcohol wines and consumed in ski lodges alongside fondue with nary a nod to the identity of the grape itself.
It’s undoubtedly a mountain/Alpine grape, rarely producing wines with more than 11.5% alcohol, and therein lies its innate appeal. Its mouthwatering nature is perhaps a little too much for most palates, and I had a friend once state that it lasted liked licking the end of a 9V battery, but I do adore that style of wine, so I find myself unapologetically drawn towards them. Interestingly enough, even with this rasping acidity there tends to be very little fruit in these wines, as they are more mineral driven than anything else. If there is any it tends to be just slightly under ripe peach, something I happen to be quite into myself.
Acid freaks will undoubtedly find salvation in this varietal. Writer Andrew Jefford speaks of it “whispering stone rather than singing fruit. ” which, in my mind, captures the essence of these intriguing wines. Some producers choose to give it a bit of lees action, and in my experience this does add some texture, but also a touch of petillance that can be quite attractive.
The best wines tend to come from the two clay-rich marl “Crus” of the region, Abymes (750 acres) and Apremont (1,000 acres), but you’ll find the grape varietally labelled all across the region as the more generic Blanc de Savoie.
One final rather strange factoid about this varietal is that you’ll sometimes find it planted in the vineyards of Condrieu, in the northern Rhone, although theoretically it cannot be included in anything labelled as such. But I do wonder sometimes… how do some of those Condrieu end up with as much acidity as they do considering the nature of Viognier. I wonder…
Jacquère is certainly worth searching out if you like to challenge your palate a little.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And yes, he has to say that he is a fan.