The art of entertaining with Perrier-Jouët champagne
As part of Christie’s partnership with Perrier-Jouët, wine specialist Charles Foley discusses four of the house’s signature champagnes and the best ways to enjoy them this holiday season
Maison Perrier-Jouët is one of France’s most distinctive and historic champagne houses. Founded in Epernay in 1811 by Pierre-Nicolas Perrier and his wife Rose-Adélaïde Jouët, it has established a reputation for unparalleled savoir-faire, creating intricate, floral champagnes that reveal the true essence of the Chardonnay grape.
‘Perrier-Jouët has been profoundly influenced by its founders’ love of nature and art,’ says Charles Foley, a specialist in the Wine and Spirits department at Christie’s in London. ‘Today the champagne’s complex style is as instantly recognisable as its distinctive Art Nouveau bottle.’
The founders’ son, Charles Perrier, a botanist and art lover like his father, took over Maison Perrier-Jouët in 1848. He and his wife, Octavie Gallice, moved to the newly built Château Perrier, with its vast greenhouses and gardens, in 1856. Charles’s brother-in-law and business partner, Eugène Gallice, lived in an elegant home next door.
Eugène and his sons, Henri and Octave, furnished the house, now known as the Maison Belle Epoque, with paintings, drawings, sculpture and furniture by leading avant-garde artists of the day.
Today the Maison Belle Epoque is home to the largest private collection of French Art Nouveau in Europe. Perrier-Jouët’s affinity with the movement is also evident in the white anemone motif adorning its cuvée bottles. The now iconic design was created for Perrier-Jouët in 1902 by Emile Gallé, one of the pioneers of the Art Nouveau movement. Since then, the house has collaborated with established and emerging artists from around the world, including Vik Muniz, mischer’traxler, Andrew Kudless and Luftwerk.
‘At the heart of the partnership between Christie’s and Perrier-Jouët is a steadfast commitment to excellence,’ says Foley. ‘There’s s also a long-standing shared history between our two houses.’
In 1888, Christie’s offered seven magnums of 1874 Perrier-Jouët Cuvée Reserve Extra Dry, which sold for £25 and established a record for the most expensive champagne ever sold at auction. In December 2021, a collection of rarities from Perrier-Jouët was 100 per cent sold, with the highlight, an extremely rare bottle of Perrier-Jouët 1874 — the same vintage that had been sold at Christie’s 133 years earlier — achieving a record price of £42,875.
Read on for Foley’s tips on serving and savouring four of Perrier-Jouët’s celebrated champagnes this holiday season.
Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut
A blend of more than 50 crus and reserve wines, Perrier-Jouët’s Grand Brut is the house’s signature non-vintage champagne. Its origins date back to 1846, when Perrier-Jouët introduced its historic Cuvée K, the world’s first lightly dosed champagne in the style today known as ‘brut’. Cuvée K was made with a sugar level of less than five per cent — daringly little at a time when champagnes regularly contained up to 40 per cent residual sugar. Today, Perrier-Jouët’s Grand Brut has a dosage of 8 grams per litre.
As the brand’s entry-level champagne, it is a good option for large festive gatherings. Aged for a minimum of three years, it has floral aromas, with notes of apple, pear and pineapple, moving to buttery brioche and vanilla. It is crisp and light on the palate, yet has a rich and generous finish. ‘It’s easy to drink and cost-effective if you are catering for lots of people,’ says Foley. ‘An excellent aperitif, it also pairs nicely with white meat or fish in a creamy sauce.’
Perrier-Jouët Blanc de Blancs
Although Perrier-Jouët only introduced its Blanc de Blancs label in 2017 — a non-vintage champagne made from 100 per cent Chardonnay — its history traces back to the 1920s, when the house released its first all-Chardonnay champagnes. Charming and expressive, Perrier-Jouët Blanc de Blancs is a blend of Chardonnay grapes from the finest terroirs in the Côte des Blancs, including Cramant, Avize and Chouilly.
With its lively, fresh finish, Foley recommends serving Blanc de Blancs as an aperitif. ‘It’s the lightest and most aromatic of the four champagnes here,’ he says, noting its aromas of yellow orchard fruit, white flowers and subtle hints of buttered toast.
‘I’d like to sip it while decorating the Christmas tree or the house, as it doesn’t need to be accompanied by food. That said, it does pair extremely well with carpaccio or seabass.’
Foley recommends serving Blanc de Blancs in a tulip-shaped glass rather than a traditional coupe or flute. ‘The tulip shape lets the bubbles rise and allows the aromas to be released,’ he says. ‘It also means you can swirl the champagne more easily to aerate it.’
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Brut 2014
First created in 1964, the house’s single-vintage ‘prestige cuvée’ is only made following an exceptional harvest, so it exists in much smaller quantities than the non-vintage brut, and at a much higher price. The beautiful Art Nouveau bottle is another of the cuvée’s distinctive features, making it the perfect holiday gift.
Aged for at least six years, with a dosage of eight grams of sugar per litre, this champagne has delicate aromas of fresh fruit as well as linden and hawthorn blossom, with flavours of juicy vine peach, poached pear and rhubarb.
‘It’s more complex than the signature brut because it’s vintage,’ says Foley, explaining that vintage cuvées are made from a single harvest rather than a blend of grapes from several years. ‘You’ll have more autolytic character, too. Think hints of melba toast, baker’s dough and maybe even spices like cardamom and nutmeg.’
As for pairings? ‘It goes well with sole, salmon and king prawns, as well as white meat like turkey or goose,’ he says.
Foley is keen to point out that vintage champagne should always be stored in a horizontal position at around 11 degrees Celsius. ‘When it comes to serving, chill to your preference — but remember to keep the bottle on ice once you’ve opened it,’ he says.
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Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé is crafted only in exceptional years and produced in extremely limited quantities, making it the ideal champagne for a special occasion such as New Year’s Eve.
‘This vintage cuvée is subtle and delicate yet warm and embracing,’ says Foley. ‘On the nose the focus is strawberry and peony, moving to grapefruit, mandarin and a touch of brioche on the palate.’ As such, it is an excellent accompaniment to rich, indulgent dishes such as lobster, pigeon or duck breast.
If you’re looking to make the occasion extra special, you could explore sabrage — the art of opening a bottle of champagne with a sword. In lieu of a sword, the blunt side of a knife can be used. ‘It’s a fun, theatrical party trick,’ says Foley, ‘but it should only be attempted if extreme levels of caution are taken.’