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Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs: One Of The Finest Champagnes I Have Ever Enjoyed
The 2002 Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs was one of the wines served at dinner. I was blown away; it was so ethereal, gossamer in a glass. I was keen to learn more: as production is so small, it had yet to make an appearance in Australia.
Though the house was founded in 1811, its flagship wine, Belle Epoque, did not make an appearance until the 1960s, with the launch of the 1964 vintage taking place at the Alcazar Nightclub to celebrate Duke Ellington’s seventieth birthday. You can still track down photographs of Duke at the piano on that very evening with a magnum of the 1964 vintage sitting atop it.
Back then, it was small production with only 5,000 bottles released.
It is worth taking a moment to acknowledge the efforts of the winemaker’s brilliant chef de cave, Hervé Deschamps, who has been the man behind all of the Perrier-Jouët wines for many years now and has made every single release of the Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs.
When the very modest Deschamps took the role as chef de cave in 1993, he had already been with the house for a decade. Extraordinarily, as the house was founded in 1811, he is only the seventh cellar master.
It was in his very first year, 1993, that he created the first Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs, the very first Belle Epoque of any kind for which Deschamps had full control.
Deschamps has described its development and release as his proudest achievement. Since then, there have only been four more vintages released: 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2004. It is a very limited production; only 10,000 bottles of the 2002 were produced for the entire world, for example. Deschamps hopes that quantity will double over time.
Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs consists of less than one percent of the entire Belle Epoque production (the Rosé is around 8 percent).
Deschamps is a strong supporter of the 2002 vintage, believing it to be a great year – and he is not alone in that. He also likes the 2004, noting the stone fruit character it offers and comparing it to the 1989 vintage.
The Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs 2002 is one of the finest champagnes I have ever enjoyed: it is elegant, ethereal, full of finesse, stunning, and beguiling. It is elegance with a steel backbone, possessing a wonderfully creamy texture, peaches and cream with notes of honey, stone fruit, florals, grapefruit, and hazelnuts.
Its impeccable balance pairs with an underlying intensity and immense length.
by Ken Gargett
A single harvest, a single grape variety, a single terroir.
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs champagne is not only the rarest Perrier-Jouët cuvée, but also the most emblematic – the culmination of the House’s 200-year expertise in revealing the intricate floral facets of its signature Chardonnay grape. Sourced from just two legendary parcels of vines, Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs is the expression of a single grape variety, a single terroir and a single year – a sublime champagne shimmering with golden light, whose freshness and purity are the exhilarating prelude to an explosion of lush floral notes.
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs is crafted from 100% Chardonnay grapes from only two small parcels of vines – Bouron Leroi and Bouron du Midi – within Cramant, one of the most prestigious Grand Cru villages in the renowned Côte des Blancs. These two exceptional plots, covering just 6.8 hectares/16.8 acres, were among the first acquired by Maison Perrier-Jouët in the mid-19th century, when Charles Perrier, the son of the founders, used his extensive knowledge of viticulture and the terroirs of Champagne to identify their potential for yielding the supreme expression of the Chardonnay grape. Bouron Leroi and Bouron du Midi do indeed unite all the conditions necessary for revealing the unique floral character of Chardonnay. Set halfway up a gentle southeast-facing slope, they enjoy ideal exposure to the morning sun, while their chalky soil maintains constant levels of humidity throughout the year.
The small size of these prized plots, and Maison Perrier-Jouët’s meticulous approach to viticulture, mean that only a limited quantity of grapes can be produced in any given year, while a vintage is declared only in years of near-perfect conditions. Consequently, no vintage of Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs numbers more than 40,000 bottles.
2002 / A harvest, a grape variety, a terroir, two plots, a legendary cuvée.
It called for extreme precision. The blending of this rare cuvée, fashioned from two plots and a single grape variety, required unparalleled precision and intuition and a balance to which only the greatest cellar masters can aspire. Hervé Deschamps is the 7th Perrier-Jouët Cellar Master in 200 years to possess such expertise, handed down in the purest traditions of the House. A tradition that establishes this profession firmly among the ranks of creative crafts, in which each cuvée is conceived as a unique work of art, based on a subtle blend of intuition, sensitivity and expertise.
The two most refined plots in the Perrier-Jouët vineyard, Bourons Leroy and Bourons du Midi, went into the making of the Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs 2002. In the heart of the Côte des Blancs, in the Cramant terroir, renowned for the quality of its chardonnays, these two plots benefit from the purity of the Champagne soil, whose chalkiness retains the humidity, allowing the deep roots of the vine to flourish. Their South-South-east location is ideal, half way up the slopes, ensuring that the vines receive maximum exposure to the sun each day.
2002 was a fine year for the maturity of the grapes. A dry year. After a spring characterised by average temperatures, with a little hail, the absence of rain led to an early flowering. The rain-free period lasted until July, and despite the August rains, the soil remained dry. A dry and sunny September encouraged the grapes to mature. The harvest began on 15th September with the chardonnays, in good weather conditions. The potential alcohol content was very high, reaching 13° in certain plots, while acidity levels were at their lowest since 1988. It was a legendary year.
The transparent bottle is graced with nothing other than its iconic anemone, designed by Emile Gallé in 1902, showcasing the incredible luminosity and the remarkable delicateness of the wine within. Produced in very small quantities, the Belle Époque Blanc de Blancs 2002 is the House's most precious cuvée.
"A unique cuvée, Belle Époque Blanc de Blancs reveals the purity and authenticity of the Perrier-Jouët terroir."
Hervé Deschamps, Cellar Master
Dosage: 8g/l - Matured for at least 8 years in the cellars of the House.
A cold winter and a mild late spring cued for a perfect June allowing early and fast flowering. Outstanding weather conditions prevailed and the season went on without dramatic turns. Rains in August raised concerns regarding gray rot, but finally sunshine and dry conditions throughout September resulted in an abundant crop of largely healthy fruit (11,930 kg/ha). Dehydration due to wind further aided in achieving perfect ripeness and additional concentration. This, and the cool nights, helped in retaining fresh acidity and, despite the ripeness (10.3% potential alcohol), the wines did not suffer from heaviness or a lack of life. A near-perfect vintage, which produced balanced Champagnes consistently around the region. The best show an impeccable combination of freshness, power, structure and finesse. However, some have matured aromatically quicker than expected and are already past their peak. 2002 produced an abundance of spectacular champagnes, such as Dom Pérignon (the entire range), Krug Vintage and Clos du Mesnil, Piper-Heidsieck Rare, Louis Roederer Cristal and Cristal Rosé, Ruinart Dom Ruinart and Dom Ruinart Rosé, Salon Le Mesnil and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, to name a few.