Sun-kissed: Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2015

Belle Epoque is the luxury cuvée from the Maison Perrier-Jouët in Épernay. It stands for a feminine style and floral aromas like no other. How strongly will the powerful, hot 2015 vintage leave its mark on the Champagne?

3 mins read

Even the champagne glasses are different this year. The anemone is still there, but it has turquoise leaves. And it is dusted with golden pollen by a delicate hummingbird of the same color. The packaging of the Édition Limitée des Belle Epoque 2015 is even more exuberant. Birds, bees, beetles and dragonflies perform a veritable “pollination dance”. Designed by Mexican artist and product designer Fernando Laposse, the package is perhaps the most successful evolution of the classic Art Deco design of the Belle Epoque since Perrier Jouët launched its artist program in 2012. A tip for all those who don’t need any more glasses. Laposse also has a minimalist case called “Cocoon” for the Millésime 2015. (More information about the remarkable collaboration can be found here).

From 1902 via 1969 to 2015

Of all the Prestige Cuvées, Belle Époque with its iconic Art Nouveau design by Emile Gallé is one of the most successful. The original design goes back to the owners of the Maison at the time, Henri and Octave Gallice, who met the artist Emile Gallé in 1902. He was not only one of the pioneers of the Art Nouveau movement, which used nature as a source of inspiration, but also a well-known botanist. Back then, he decorated a magnum bottle of the house with a white Japanese anemone. His work fell into oblivion, however, and Perrier-Jouët only rediscovered it in 1964. Reproduced by a modern glassmaker, the anemone first adorned Perrier-Jouët bottles again in 1969. The cuvée named “Belle Epoque” was such a success that it was soon to replace the house’s actual prestige cuvée, Blason de France, as the top bottling.

2015 is the fifth Belle Epoque vintage in a row. A record, without the house specifically pointing this out. Unlike 2011, which was a precarious vintage in terms of quality and in which there was no prestige cuvée from many Grandes Marques, 2015 is undisputed. In fact, this year was not only one of the hottest growing seasons ever in Champagne, but also one of the shortest. The enormous drought reduced the yield by a fifth, but also resulted in healthy grapes. This initially made for the usual headlines. In the finished Champagnes, however, strange green, herbaceous notes could be detected, particularly in the Pinot Noir, the cause of which is unclear. It may be due to a lack of phenolic ripeness or drought stress. (A discussion is provided by Peter Liem.) In any case, vines that grow on water-storing limestone soils seem to have coped better with the problem.

The current vintage

In vintages in which origin – and in Champagne this means the highest possible proportion of Grand Cru sites – plays such an important role, prestige champagnes have an advantage. Belle Epoque is traditionally composed of 50 percent Chardonnay, 45 percent Pinot Noir and 5 percent Pinot Meunier. This year, the Chardonnay comes from the Côte des Blanc communes of Cramant, Avize, Mesnil-sur-Oger and Chouilly. The Pinot Noir comes from crus in the Montage de Reims: Mailly, Verzy, Verzenay and some from Ambonnay. And finally, Pinot Meunier from Dizy in the Grande Vallée de la Marne. A noble vineyard that the house used to refer to as its “magic triangle” of Grand Cru sites. In 2015, the house hardly had to make any special adjustments to the vintage.

With one exception: colleague Ulrich Sautter noticed a rather low pressure during the tasting. And cellar master Séverine Frerson confirmed in conversation that the dosage de tirage had been adjusted, resulting in a pressure of 5 instead of 6 bar, but that the alcohol content had also remained below 13 percent.

Incidentally, in the “solar” 2015 vintage with its continental climate, the Belle Epoque returns to the lavish, hedonistic style that could be found in 2012. This is in stark contrast to the “Atlantic” 2014 vintage with its classic elegance or the vertical, long-lived 2013 vintage. On the nose, there are aromas of peach, apple, grapefruit, some ginger and pastry cream. On the palate, the champagne is dense, soft and has a luxurious texture. The dosage, obtained from a solera since 2012, is quite present, but gives the wine a captivating kick with its deep fruit sweetness. 95 points. Incidentally, for the first time, the back label bears a QR code, which currently only leads to fairly general information. In future, according to Frerson, it will provide more information about the cuvée and allow the journey of each bottle to be tracked.

Image rights

For the images: Stefan Pegatzky / Time Tunnel Images
For the design pictured : Perrier-Jouët and Fernando Laposse

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