Of Perrier Jouet, Bubbles & Butterflies
Love your champagne? So do we. One of the best (in our humble opinion) happens to be Perrier Jouet. Here, its chief winemaker Herve Deschamps talks a little about the history and what goes beyond each bottle of bubbly.
A little into the history of the house. What is there to know about Pierre Nicholas, the founder of Perrier Jouet?
He's the son of a wine grower. His family owned several hectares of vines around Epernay. An enthusiastic botanist and astute wine merchant, he was well-versed in the making of champagne. The House was founded a year after his marriage to Rose Adélaïde Jouët with whom he shared the passion for nature and champagne. They were relentless in the pursuit for perfection, whether in building up their vineyard holdings, tending the vines, monitoring wine quality or making their champagnes.
What makes the making of Perrier Jouet’s Belle Epoque so special this time?
While preserving the House style, I blended this cuvée to emphasise the unique character of the 2007 vintage. My blend brings out the freshness and elegance of the chardonnays (50%) from the grands crus of Cramant and Avize. From the Montagne de Reims, the pinots noirs (45%) display a generosity and delicate complexity that prolong the chardonnays’ finesse. Finally, the rounded charm of the pinots meuniers (5%) from Dizy provides the finishing touch to this beautifully balanced cuvée. Six years of ageing in Perrier-Jouët’s cellars and a low dosage (9 grams per litre) further refine the generosity and sophistication of this great vintage.
How would you characterise its taste and bubbles?
On the eye, the champagne appears light gold with clarity and fine, vibrant bubbles. On the palate, we can taste a persistent freshness before the bold attack, revealing white fruit flavours complemented by notes of almond milk.
The smaller the bubbles, the better the champagne. How do you do it?
There are still many researches explaining the differences found in champagnes. It is known that champagne getting to the sparkling process at 12°C (Maison Perrrier-Jouët cellar’s temperature) is better for light bubbles. On the other hand, a long cellaring process (for example six years for Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque) allows the carbonic gas produced by the sparkling process to dissolve and therefore to delay its release when it is served. The chardonnay also presents in its composition, proteins that we don’t see in pinot noir or pinot meunier. Proteins are great factors for the foam content.
The grapes used for the champagne: can they be eaten and why?
Grapes used for champagne can be eaten indeed, as their ripeness comes close to those we eat. Although their size is smaller that the muscats or chasselas, the grape harvester loves using grapes used for champagne to make pies.
Blending grapes: what makes the perfect ratio?
The blending process depends completely on what style the cuvee takes inspiration from. Every year, the wine quality is different and it is my job to guarantee the balance and harmony of the blendings.
In the vineyard, how do you keep the bugs and pests away from the grapes?
As nature is part of Maison Perrier-Jouët’s core values, it is very important to us to adopt the right pest management by using “soft” methods such as le confusion sexuel – tricking a male butterfly into not mating with the female of its species to keep the caterpillars away. Also, with foliage aeration, we do away with the young shoots that are more sensitive to diseases. This reduces the apparition of diseases like mildiou or oïdium.
There are plenty of people outside the region of Champagne producing wine similar to champagne. Is there anyone you admire for their production methods and ethics?
I believe that Maison Perrier-Jouët has its very own unique style and it takes inspiration from the founders who were passionate about botany and nature. Maison Perrier-Jouët is an iconic champagne house known for the finesse, floral and elegant notes of its wines.