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Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque is the original Belle Epoque vintage cuvée, first appearing in 1964. Instantly recognisable throughout the world, its bottle is adorned with the graceful spray of Japanese white anemones created for Maison Perrier-Jouët by Art Nouveau master Emile Gallé in 1902.
Working at the vat, plot by plot, the Cellar Master tastes and tests time and again, finally isolating the wines, turning each cuvée into a unique wine that expresses all the characteristic elegance and finesse of the House of Perrier-Jouët. "I throw myself into each composition with one combined effort, like the creative flow of an artist, at that moment when intuition, sensitivity and skill somehow inexplicably come together." Hervé Deschamps.
In 1902, Emile Gallé designed a delicate spray of anemones to be engraved on the prestigious cuvées of Perrier-Jouët Champagnes. The House has remained loyal to this artistic heritage ever since.
For Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque, Séverine Frerson specifically selects Pinot Noir grapes from two crus, Verzy and Mailly-Champagne, in the north of the Montagne de Reims, both characterised by their chalky soils. “Pinot Noir grapes from Mailly-Champagne in particular have an elegance and finesse that harmonise perfectly with our signature Chardonnay from Grand Cru terroirs in the Côte des Blancs,” she says. “They therefore enhance, rather than overwhelm, the delicate floral structure of the wine.” The result is an elegantly structured cuvée with a clear floral dimension, making Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque an outstanding example of the art of blending in the Perrier-Jouët style.
The other champagne dynasties founded before the end of Napoleon’s era may boast with noble origins or at least with well-off founders, but not so with Perrier-Jouët. The Ruinart and Clicquot families were wealthy merchants; the Moët family was part of the local nobility. Perriers had been craftsmen and their social status started to change only during the 18th century. Pierre Nicolas-Marie Perrier founded the champagne house in 1811. Because the name Perrier was not unusual enough, he combined it with Jouët, the maiden name of his wife.
Under the guidance of Charles Perrier, the next generation built the foundation for the success of Perrier-Jouët, both in the royal courts of Europe and among British customers. Charles, the youngest of Pierre Nicolas’s sons was the one most interested in his fathers’ business. English language was a prerequisite for working on the champagne market, and young Charles was sent to London to learn the language in 1834. The young man was positive, energetic, lively, and he had what it took to succeed in the trade. In 1835 Charles announced that he was ready to return home and get back to work – with limitless amounts of energy to put into his fathers’ business.
Perrier-Jouët became wealthier and emerged gradually as a competitor to Moët and Ruinart. Strong ties to Britain were strengthened, and by the year 1847 some 75 % of the production was sold to the British. Perrier-Jouët was a pioneer in producing dry champagne, which the British loved.
Perrier-Jouët was one of the most prestigious dry champagnes, but it was also the result of some ambitious product development. When vintage wines became the name of the game, Perrier-Jouët was the first to mark vintage dates on corks in 1858. A decade later, it started printing them on the labels as well. This development marked also the beginning of a market divided between non-vintage and the more expensive vintage champagnes.
Originally hailed as the best of the 1988/1989/1990 trilogy, the wines have developed quicker than anticipated with premature oxidation having crept in early on. Thus, I have downgraded my rating from five stars to four stars. There was frost damage in April but the vintage was made by the long, hot and dry summer. Rains in the latter half of August somewhat elevated the rot occurrences. Picking began during the second week of September and the crop was the third largest at the time (11,963 kg/ha) and the wines had excellent alcohol and acidity levels. The ripest vintage since 1959 is showcased by the depth and finesse of the Champagnes. The cuvées still drinking impeccably include the whole range of Dom Pérignon (Rosé, P2, Rosé, Rosé P2), Philipponnat Clos des Goisses and Louis Roederer Cristal..