Champagne to welcome the new year
If I were a champagne producer, my new year’s wish might be that the results of my efforts would not be limited to enjoyment on special occasions.
After all, the Sun King Louis XIV, who ruled from age four until he was 76, was advised by his doctor to drink champagne with every meal for most of his life — which he did.
It is also the custom of our Queen to enjoy a glass or two before retiring for the night.
This is a lead in to our Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Champagne, as 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 per cent grands crus such as Ambonnay, Verzenay, Mailly, Avize, Cramant, Chouilly and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. A recent review by Wine Enthusiast magazine rated it an almost perfect 97/100. $195.85.
Out of the more than 100 major champagne houses and 19,000 small producers, there are eight that have been granted a Royal Warrant, something that only the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles can do. It is Charles who has granted one to Laurent-Perrier.
Only 10 per cent of champagne production is designated vintage and therefore from one specific year. In this way they follow port firms that also only declare a vintage in exceptional years. We presently have Laurent-Perrier 2007 and, although this may seem quite old for a white wine, this one should remain enjoyable until 2030 as champagne has a potential for a very long life. The blend is of equal parts of chardonnay and pinot noir. $72.50.
Although vintage champagne is a special treat, it is the non-vintage blends of various years that really establish the “house styles” of the various firms, and they account for most of the overall sales. Laurent-Perrier’s style and personality are defined by its very high proportion of chardonnay. Purity, freshness and elegance — essential characteristics, expressed in this champagne — are a good introduction to the spirit of the house. Pale gold in colour, fine bubbles feed a persistent mousse; a delicate nose with hints of fresh citrus and white flowers. The wine’s complexity is expressed in successive notes like vine peach and white fruits. There is a perfect balance between freshness and delicacy with fruity flavours very present on the finish. Its remarkable balance is supported by a subtle effervescence and our Laurent-Perrier Brut Non-Vintage sells for $57.60.
The world’s most asked for rosé champagne is Laurent-Perrier, that is also one of the few rosés still made by the saignée method. This more difficult but rewarding custom, is to let the clear juice sit with the dark skins until a perfect colour is arrived at. Most today just add regular, dark pinot noir juice to the clear wine. Grapes from carefully selected plots are meticulously sorted and de-stemmed before going into the vats, and the controlled maceration helps with the colour extraction and the development of the full aromatic richness of the pinot noir.
Rating 96/100 from the Connoisseur’s Guide, this is how they describe it: “Elegant and fruity at the same time with a quick invitation from bright, pure cherry-ish notes and then filled out handsomely by whiffs of chalky soils and well-integrated, rich and uplifting yeast-driven scents, this wine manages to be both vigorous and layered at one and the same time. Its bubbles are insistent, finely carved and add to the early sensations of lightness and energy yet also carry the wine long into a balanced, refined finish. Its latter palate grip is exactly what one should expect from the genre. A bottle of this 100 per cent pinot noir will cost you $99.50, and it is truly wonderful.
This has mostly been a Laurent-Perrier story, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the third largest selling champagne overall, and it also happens to be the one that outsells all others in France. I refer to Nicolas Feuillatte that was founded in the 1970s. Their brut reserve non-vintage is composed of 20 per cent chardonnay for elegance and delicacy, 40 per cent pinot noir for roundness and structure, and 40 per cent pinot meunier for fruitiness. Pale gold in colour and an abundance of delicate bubbles. Floral aromas of fruit with subtle predominance of white fruits: pear, apple, almonds and hazelnuts. Wine Spectator magazine rates it 91/100 and says: “Flavours of crème de cassis, lemon curd and pastry riding a creamy mousse and framed by crisp, well-knit acidity.” $47.80.
May all your pain in 2019 be cham-pagne.
• This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail email@example.com or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). Visit wineonline.bm