Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Adventure in wine country - Day at Laurent-Perrier

Published:Sunday | November 9, 2014 | 12:00 AM
New vs old, the fermentation tanks.
A vision of the past, riddling
Driving along the outskirts of Reins. -Contributed Photos
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It's adventure in wine country! Over the next few months, join Outlook as we relay the adventures of CPJ's CEO Tom Tyler and Mike Turner, wines category manager, as they travel across France to some of the world's finest wineries.

Day 2 - Laurent-Perrier champagne

Chateau Laurent-Perrier

The House of Laurent Perrier was founded in 1812 by André Michel Pierlot. It has since gone through two transformations - the first of which was in the creation of the name 'Laurent-Perrier'. Mathilde Emilie Perrier made the uncommon decision to combine her family name with her late widower, Eugène Laurent. The new name was a statement of respect to Eugène and for the birth of a new great Champagne house.

The second transformation took place years later at the hands of Bernard de Nonancourt, son of Marie-Louis Lanson, who had purchased the house from the Laurent family. Bernard was intimately entwined with every aspect of the business- from vine to cellar. He was later appointed as chairman and chief executive of Laurent-Perrier.

With his vision of a wine that expressed his spirit of creativity and independence, he established the signature freshness and elegance of the house. His success is now reflected in the placement of Laurent-Perrier in 147 countries worldwide.

Our day at Laurent-Perrier

❐ Team CPJ - Tom Tyler and Mike Turner (CEO and wines category manager at CPJ)

❐ Team Laurent-Perrier - Nicole Snozzi (Ambassador de la Marque, Champagne Laurent-Perrier)

❐ Where? - Laurent-Perrier winery, Tous-Sur-Marne, Champagne.

Driving through pristine vineyards, roughly 20 minutes outside the city of Reins (capital of Champagne), we arrive at the gorgeous Laurent-Perrier winery. Standing out among the intricate red-brick masonry, flowers and pebbled courtyard, is a small but prominent statue of a boy 'relieving' himself in a pond. Next to him are the words "Ne Buvez Jamais d'Eau", which literally translates to "Never drink water".

As I'm reading the sign, our host for the day makes her entrance. Nicole Snozzi - Ambassador de la Marque of Laurent-Perrier. She immediately confirms that we will find no water to drink for our day at the winery, only champagne. I accept whole-heartedly.

It's late afternoon and Nicole has a lot to cover for our tour, so we begin immediately. The agenda is clear; see how the wine is made, taste the wine, and then pick our favourite. So we immediately entered a door at the edge of the courtyard. From there, we descended into the cellars below the winery. Nicole explains that, in 1881, the then 'Cellar Master' Eugène Laurent, bought the estate and excavated 800 metres of earth for his new winery. The cellars are roughly 15 metres underground; between 10 -13C, a little musky, and damp. However, I am still excited, as I know that I'm surrounded by millions of bottles of world-class champagne and years of rich heritage.

Moving swiftly from our traditional setting, we entered the modern half of the winery. Enormous concrete fermentation tanks line both walls, with stark white lighting illuminating a path through the centre. Its almost feels like a nuclear silo. Nicole explains that this contrast between new and old is a perfect reflection of the winery itself. Laurent-Perrier has always pushed the boundaries of wine-production technique, while maintaining its traditional integrity. She also believes that the champagne shares this same juxtaposition of new vs old.

Tasting

Our tasting compromised four wines- Brut, Ultra Brut, Cuvée Rosé and Le Grand Siecle. The continuity of style between the wines is unbelievable. As created by Bernard de Nonancourt, the champagnes are all elegant, fresh and beautifully balanced. The degrees of sweetness and body vary, but that iconic style remains consistent. I had previously tasted three of these champagnes, the exception being the Ultra Brut. As the name states, this wine has little to no sugar whatsoever. The result is an incredible delicacy that I had not previously encountered. Nicole however sums it up simply as "my favourite".

Highlight of the day

I was lucky enough to encounter one of the most traditional practices in champagne production, riddling. Though this process has been modernised in many wineries, Laurent-Perrier has preserved the classic method. Essentially, bottles of wine are placed in slanted racks and are methodically shaken and turned by hand every other day. The aim is to slowly move the lees (yeast) to the neck of the bottle, where it will eventually be removed. This turning and movement of the bottle also causes the remainder of the fermentation to take place by stirring up the yeast. What may seem like a simple task of twisting bottles is in fact very precise and arduous in practice.

Mike's pick ...

Laurent-Perrier - Cuvée Rosé

Though I was mystified by the Ultra Brut, the Cuvée Rosé remains my first choice. In its elegant bottle (inspired by the times of French King Henri IV), the Cuvée Rosé is daring with its combination of structure, softness and vinous character. An iconic rosé.