Bienvenue Floriane Eznack en Australie. It’s an honour to welcome you. Let me tell you that I’m very impressed to see a woman oenologist, wine maker, chef de cave. I have read that you love communication and sharing your passion about the Champagne Jacquart. I think we are going to have a lot of fun.
Could you please introduce the Jacquart brand to our readers?
Champagne Jacquart was created by wine growers in the streets of Jacquart in 1964. 30 wine growers went together to Reims and decided to create their own wines from their own vineyards. It was a way to say that they didn’t want to sell everything to trade and keep their independence.
It’s a human brand, without people, the brand doesn’t exist.
Today, a Champagne cooperative owns Jacquart. There are around 1800 wine growers attached to 3 caves. They bought the brand Jacquart in 1998. The wine growers own the vineyards from generations ago. They own the grapes and the sell to brands such as Jacquart. Nowadays, 70% of wine growers are part of cooperatives to balance the trade.
In Champagne, the vineyards are not very big. It’s divided up by heritage but it’s also very expensive today to maintain a vineyard.
And what is your role at Jacquart?
Actually I have two roles: chef de cave (winemaker), from creation to promotion of Champagne. Today, the image of Jacquart goes through me. I represent the maison. I help the distributors and I train our prescriber.
Thank you Floriane for this introduction to the world of Champagne. Could you tell me how you found yourself in this world? Did someone in your family influence you?
Not at all. No-one in my family owns vineyards. My parents were diplomats. My sisters are in totally different industries. I was always interested in wines because my father was an amateur and he sparked an interest in me and my sisters to learn to savour wine.
With her smile and sparkling eyes, I can see Floriane plunging deep into her memories.
Wine is very French. In France, we speak about cuisine, about bouffe (another word for food) and wine.
As my parents were diplomats, they often had visitors at home and of course one of the favourite topics of conversation was wine. So I was listening, interested, finding the conversation great but in fact, I wanted to be veterinarian or fighter pilot.
When I met Floriane, I could immediately sense that she was a strong and determined woman who could achieve everything she wanted. And when she confided in me that she wanted to be a fighter pilot, my only response was a kind of admiration and a desire to know everything about her and her amazing journey.
Fighter pilot? Both or…? (giggles)
No it was one of them.
My first dream was to live in Australia but at the same time to be a fighter pilot.
How funny! So you also wanted to live in Australia, why Australia?
Because it is so far away that I didn’t know anything about it. So for me it was the country of the unknown where you could do so much, develop a lot of things. And it’s a beautiful country – the Great Barrier Reef, the koalas… all that makes you dream when you are a child and even when you are a teenager. But most of all, it’s far, far from parents, far from everything.
What about your dream of fight pilot?
Well I tried to be a fighter pilot. I missed out unfortunately. I was refused for the fighter pilot training (even after passing all the health examinations) but they offered me to be a transport pilot in the army (my father reminded me of this recently). But at the time, when you are 20 years old, it’s everything or nothing so I said no. If it’s not a fighter pilot, then it will be nothing. So I started to think about another job and I thought about being an oenologist. C’est sympa! (very French expression to say it’s cool).
I wanted to be oenologist not a wine waiter, thats’s another job, you have to work in restaurants, with the clientele and define what wine goes with the menu, and that didn’t really interest me. I was interested in creation, the creation of wine. When I made up my mind, I chose L’Ecole de Reims (Reims School) for two reasons: firstly because it was very practical, close to Paris because at the time I was studying biochemistry in Paris and I had my mates in Paris and the second reason was that I thought Champagne is also a product with international renown. Everyone envies us for Champagne and even in Australia, they call it “French Champagne”.
Actually, I wanted to ask you about it. Since I live in Australia, I can’t avoid correcting Australians when they say French Champagne because it’s a pleonasm. Champagne par définition (by meaning) can only be French right!
Whatever the sparkling, we want to call it Champagne. It’s a worldwide reference and everyone loves Champagne. It’s a luxury product that makes us dream.
What was your first experience in Champagne?
I had no idea at all about Champagne. I grew up in Bordeaux, in Charente, a region more focussed on red wine than Champagne. I couldn’t tell the difference between different Champagnes, but I learnt to love Champagne. I realised that it was a very diversified world.
I studied, I spent two seasons in the South-West of France in the Ducs of Gascogne (Gers region) to learn vinification. It was totally different.
I really wanted to work in Champagne so I applied to very international maisons (houses). I found an oenologist job at Veuve Clicquot and worked there for 4 years from 2006 to 2010. I was in a big team. Clicquot is a wonderful school to learn from but on the other hand it was very strict and boring, everything was codified and we had to follow historical rules. Later, I had the opportunity to start in the role of oenologist in 2011 at Jacquart that was at the time a young brand, not very well-known. I started at Jacquart without any knowledge of the house, I only knew the general manager who had also been at Clicquot before. There was everything to develop.
So it was a new challenge for you to express your creativity?
Oui because in fact it was young house turned toward the future, a concept different from Clicquot that was turned toward its history.
I had carte blanche to create all the prestigious cuvées. It’s a chance that you don’t often get in Champagne because once again it’s usually highly codified, it has a very traditional spirit, we have to pay tribute to a vineyard or a person so we follow rules.
Then my boss asked me to introduce him a project and realise it.
How was the beginning at Champagne Jacquart?
The first year, I got to know my team because of course I was not alone. We have 3 cellars and each cellar has its chef de cave (winemaker). I coordinate these 3 winemakers to create a homogeneous wine which is our brut Mosaique, the standard bearer of the brand. My mission was also to improve it, to enrich it.
I got to know my 3 colleagues well and vice versa, so that we could speak the same language during the tasting.
So the first year it’s more about listening, observation, and soaking up the style because I went from a very Pinot Noir house to a very Chardonnay house, an opposition of style. I needed time to adapt.
The second year, I introduced projects and it worked. I totally trust my hierarchy. My colleagues and I have 4 different personalities, but we appreciate each other, we get along very well.
Are you the only woman?
I am the only woman, the youngest person of the team. I never had a sexist remark. We all love each other. Behind the closed door of the tasting room, we talk, we change the world, and we speak about different topics. Each end of session of assemblage (collection) – usually March, April, May, it depends on the year – I’m pleased because we finished with the cuvée de prestige (prestigious cuvee) to realise that we are doing better every year and it’s a good feeling.
That’s interesting that you say you never had a sexist remark because I imagine the Champagne industry a world of men. Right?
The Champagne industry is more and more open to women but that’s true it’s still very dominated by men.
Did you ever feel difficulties because you were a woman?
Overall yes. I was in the Gers, you may think it’s a region that’s a bit tougher or ruder but at the end of the day, it was easier over there than in Champagne. In Champagne it’s a closed industry even if it’s starting to slowly become more open. Even though women had more the tendency to drink Champagne, until now the oenologist women were more in analysis laboratories, marketing and communication but not really in assemblage. There are only a few women winemakers in Champagne.
However, there are more and more women wine growers who are taking over family exploitations which is good however as winemakers of a house making more than 1 million of bottles, there are not many. Today we are only 4 or 5 women.
In the future, there will be more because today 80% of students in oenology are women.
Why is there this fad for Champagne for women?
There was always a fad for Champagne for women. There always was a strong connection between women and Champagne. The development of the Champagne we know today happened thanks to women. 250 years ago, it was reserved for an elite, from the European nobility to Russian tsars. But it was the women, the mistresses who were consuming it. With the explosive cork and its bubbles, it was a fun and festive wine, it was not very serious not as serious as non-sparkling wines that men were drinking. The women loved it and for example Don Juan or Casanova loved to buy it to seduce women.
Also there were a lot of wars. Unfortunately the region of Champagne was very close to the wars with Germany during the First and Second Wars so women needed to continue to make wine. At this time, there was sadly a lot of veuves (widows). After once the wars finished, the men came back.
What are the main qualities of a good Champagne for you?
We have to get frank wines. After that it depends on the style of the house. At Jacquart, the idea is to highlight the Chardonnay by using black cépage (grapes) which are the Pinot Noir and le Meunier (a very Champennoy grapes) to bring elegance, finesse.
I want the Champagne to be very straight up, clean, this evokes the freshness and also recalls the Chardonnay that is very clean in the mouth. We have to imagine 3 dimensions in our mouth: the height, the length and the width, the volume. The Chardonnay is going to take two dimensions: the length and the height, the aerial side of wine that is going to stick a bit longer on the palate due to the mineral style. Other important points are the finesse of aromas and the finesse of bubbles so it’s a finesse of texture.
I’m more interested in working on the finesse of wine than the aromas.
The wine of Champagne is a bit like Whiskey or Cognac, we taste a style of product that we love and we always want to be the same because we connect with a brand, a universe or a specific style. For this we are going to use wines from young millesime (year) which are going to age longer in the cellar. We are also going to work more on the texture of bubbles, more we are going to age the wine, the more it becomes complex the more we get fine air bubbles.
Are you telling me that you can almost guess a Champagne just by watching the bubbles?
Yes however you have to be cautious because often we judge the bubbles in the mouth. Actually, the bubbles have to be aesthetic but often the bubbles are pretty fine for a Champagne from a quite rich assemblage. We are going to use between 80 and 120 different cru at Jacquard to give some richness. According to the cru, the terroir (local product), the Champagne is also different. We speak about Champagne chalk cellars and this is what makes a sparkling wine different.
What we are looking for with the bubbles is to be aesthetic in a glass without exploding in the mouth. We want to give it just a light additional feeling of freshness or creaminess. We are especially going to judge the effervescence: velvety, silky, creamy, ample or fine, etc.
Do you remember your first glass of Champagne?
I was 5 years-old (giggles). I was thinking you would have told me 10 or 12 years-old. No no I was 5 and I finished all the glasses of Champagne when my parents had people at home for entertaining.
Champagne is what kids love, it’s sweet, and bubbly.
Can you see a difference in the consumption of Champagne between France and Australia?
Globally we do not consume enough Champagne in France or in Australia but we do consume more in France because there is always an occasion to celebrate: when you go to visit friends, it’s easy to bring a bottle of Champagne.
It’s true that it’s very symbolic for us, it’s connected to parties, special moments.
Oui, it’s a moment that we want to be special and we have a lot of moments like this (a reunion, a good day, professional success…). It’s a positive wine with a party-atmosphere, happiness. When we don’t feel good, we drink a glass of Champagne and we feel better so it’s rare because there are not a lot of wines that have this positive aspect.
The Champagne market in Australia is huge but 20 years ago we didn’t speak about Australia, in the Champagne industry Australia didn’t exist. There was only an elite that drank Champagne. Today, Australia is the 5th market export country for Champagne. But it’s dominated by few brands. Now, Australia is open to new brands but doesn’t yet have the right Champagne education because this happened very quickly over 10 years.
I have seen Australians drink Champagne for breakfast, well we do not this in France. Not yet, but it may happen because we brunch more and more often in France.
The difference is more about the way we are going to appreciate Champagne.
What would you like to say to Australians drinking Champagne?
With Champagne you have to be curious, you can’t only focus on one brand just because it’s reassuring like Moët or Clicquot (because you have seen it everywhere) It’s a bit sad. Champagne is a wine and with a huge diversity. Otherwise it’s like you’re saying Shiraz is the same everywhere in Australia.
What do we need to know when we drink Champagne?
Often I hear Australians saying “true Champagne” or “French Champagne” and when I hear this I understand that we really have to explain everything from the beginning
Champagne is strict rules, it’s a lot of patience. When you taste it it’s the past but at the same time the future which means when we create it, it’s in the future but the wine is 4.5 years old. Plus in Australia it’s hot and you drink it cold sometimes too cold. The best temperature is between 8 and 12 degrees.
Jacquart in one word?
Actually it’s a young brand with a contemporary style of wine: very Chardonnay, more modern.
Champagne Jacquart Duo St Valentin
Previously you told me that as a child, you dreamt about Australia, when did you first visit Australia?
Why did it take you so long to come?
Good question. I travelled a lot but maybe I was waiting for the right opportunity.
Merci beaucoup Floriane for sharing with my readers and me your love for Champagne. It was absolutely fascinating and interesting to hear you speak about your passion. Of course, after this interview it was time to celebrate and open a bottle of Champagne Jacquart.
Visit the website Jacquart:
ALCOOL ABUSE IS DANGEROUS FOR YOUR HEALTH, CONSUME AND ENJOY IN MODERATION.
L’ABUS D’ALCOOL EST DANGEREUX POUR LA SANTE.
Merci Nicola Thayil from NHM Translation for the correction