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The idea of Grand Siècle was born from a simple observation: that nature would never provide the perfect oenological year, but that thanks to the art of assemblage, Laurent-Perrier could in fact create it.
Going well beyond rare vintages, Grand Siècle is created choosing not one but three exceptional years which complement each other perfectly. We must then wait for at least 8 years of ageing in our cellars before it can be enjoyed.
The pinnacle of the art of blending, Grand Siècle is the unique expression of the pursuit of excellence in Champagne; it is to ‘blend the best with the best to obtain the best.’
In the 17th Century, during the reign of Louis XIV, France enjoyed its most illustrious era. Louis XIV became known as the "Sun King" for his benevolence and his patronage of the Arts, which became the foundation of France's rich artistic heritage. At the Palace of Versailles Louis XIV was the first French King to drink Champagne.
Louis XIV's era became known as the Grand Siècle - the "Great Century". Bottled in a replica of a 17th Century bottle evoking the radiance of that period, Laurent-Perrier's prestige cuvées embody luxury, magnificence and elegance fit for a king.
When it came to his prestige cuvée, Bernard de Nonancourt decided to highlight two of Champagne's traditional realms of proficiency: the blending of different crus and different vintages. Grand Siècle is the epitome of Champagne cuvées, as it blends complementary wines from Laurent-Perrier's very best growths and most successful vintage years.
Grand Siècle is made with a pinot noir and chardonnay blend, with the latter being slightly dominant. Twelve of the most prestigious villages supply these grapes; all of them classified at 100% Grands Crus such as Ambonnay, Verzenay, Mailly, Avize, Cramant, Chouilly and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. Within the vineyards of these villages, only the very best plots are selected, as are the finest musts from the pressings. The blended wine is then aged during the second fermentation on the yeast for approximately five years.
It has a bright color, with a brilliant yellow hue. Its subtle aromas of honey, hazelnuts, grilled almonds and brioche, make this the perfect companion for refined dishes. It pairs just as well with poultry and truffles as it does with veal and morel mushrooms.
Grand Siécle is an enigmatic champagne. Laurent-Perrier’s prestige wine, created by Bernard de Nonancourt, is cloaked in mystery. The origin of the grapes, the mixing ratio of the different varieties, and the age and production volumes of the wines are closely-guarded business secrets. What secrets does the prestige champagne, Grand Siècle, hide, and is the wine whose name honours the great epoch Laurent-Perrier’s best weapon in the face of increasing competition?
It seems that the microclimate in Champagne is bad for men, since many houses have had strong champagne widows, whose husbands have died untimely deaths. One of these houses, whose history perhaps embodies that trend more than any of the others, is Laurent-Perrier. The history of the house has been written by Mathilde Emilie Laurent-Perrier as well as Marie-Louise de Nonancourt. Now two sisters from the owner’s family, Alexandra and Stéphanie de Nonancourt, sit in the management group. It is no coincidence that Bernard de Nonancourt has chosen to produce champagnes with feminine elegance.
I set off from the champagne capital, Reims, towards a little village called Tours-sur-Marne. The cellars of Laurent-Perrier have been located here, at the crossing of the three main winery areas of Champagne, since its foundation in 1812. It is almost as if the village equals Laurent-Perrier, so easily is the impressive main building of the house found. Before I turn in to the yard, I notice a huge pile of soil next to the house. I wonder what they are going to build here.
We start by seeing the production facilities. We walk through the inner court towards a small loading dock. The small, one-truck dock looks like a relic, but our host assures us:
- Believe it or not, all eight million bottles of our yearly sales are sent off to the world from this dock. Our facilities have become hopelessly confined, and that is why we have a big investment project under way, to be finished during the coming year.
We go and see what the huge pile of soil is hiding behind it. Impressively large production facilities that are built mainly underground are under construction. Soon Laurent-Perrier will be able to say goodbye to the confined work premises. The massive investment projects alone reveal the huge success of Laurent-Perrier’s recent history.
Up to this point 1996 has been considered a fantastic vintage which produced classic wines; the best since 1990. A long, dry summer produced grapes of record ripeness with record acidity. Some, including myself, question how the 1996s are aging. The wines are generally characterized by a distinctive rather lemony acidity and very good attack, but some wines now seem terribly austere, while others already seem dangerously short of fruit. None of the subsequent vintages are quite as distinctive as 1996, which in the more successful cases should almost certainly be drunk after the 1999s.