On the Trail

At Laurent-Perrier

Gary Westby
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Of all the places to visit in Champagne, no place is more civilized and elegant than Laurent-Perrier in Tours-sur-Marne. Alex and I arrived yesterday afternoon and we were greeted with an unbelievable magnum of Grand Siecle Les Reserves, which will undoubtedly be one of the very best Champagnes of our trip. All though I have been visiting this great house for two decades now, it is always full of good surprises, and this was certainly one of them.

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The ladies of Laurent-Perrier explained that this magnum was disgorged from their private reserves to mark the 200th anniversary of the house back in 2012. It is a combination of 1990, 1993 and 1995 and about half each Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, exclusively from Grand Cru fruit and all stainless steel fermented. We learned that Bernard de Nonancourt who created Grand Siecle in the 1950’s was not satisfied with just one vintage for his best wine, since he didn’t feel that one harvest ever had it all, no matter how good it might be. So instead, he chose one vintage for freshness, one vintage for power and one for finesse and blended them together to make Grand Siecle. In the case of the Les Reserves, the 1995 is power, the 1993 freshness and the 1990 finesse. In the case of the current release Grand Siecle that we have on the shelf, it is 2002, 1999 and 1997. We are always recommending this small production tete de cuvee to Champagne lovers looking for the best of the grand marque experience.

We were also lucky enough to taste the unbelievable 2004 Laurent-Perrier "Cuvée Alexandra" Brut Rosé Champagne, which has been the top bottle from our staff summit two years running. At Tours-sur-Marne it showed no less well! This Champagne is only produced in years when the right grand cru Chardonnay and the right grand cru Pinot Noir ripen at exactly the same time. They wait for this because they co-macerate and co-ferment a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, a method that I think is unique in Champagne. Usually, the Chardonnay comes in long before the Pinot Noir, so sometimes they have to wait a long time to make it! It is worth the wait, and this bottle had the complexity of the greatest Bordeaux or Burgundy, but the weight and effortlessness of a ballerina.

Thank you Laurent Perrier for the excellent visit!

-Gary Westby