Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs: One Of The Finest Champagnes I Have Ever Enjoyed
by Ken Gargett
Perrier-Jouët’s famous flower-trimmed bottle, the exquisite Belle Epoque champagne, is one of the most recognizable and well-known wines on the planet. Far less encountered are others in the range, including Rose and Blanc de Blancs.
My first encounter with the Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs – and I’ll happily confess that it is one of my absolute favorite wines, let alone champagnes – came a number of years ago when a group of us had the opportunity to visit Perrier-Jouët and stay at the remarkable Maison Belle Epoque on Avenue de Champagne in Epernay, France.
The Maison Belle Epoque was the original home to Pierre and Adélaïde Perrier, who founded the house in 1811 (Jouët being Adélaïde’s maiden name). The Maison Belle Epoque is a veritable museum.
I remember being shown my bedroom for that evening; the bed looked rather minimalist to me, but I was asked to take care as if it had just been valued at €300,000. I didn’t sleep a wink.
The 2002 Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs was one of the wines served at dinner. I was blown away; it was so ethereal, gossamer in a glass. I was keen to learn more: as production is so small, it had yet to make an appearance in Australia.
Though the house was founded in 1811, its flagship wine, Belle Epoque, did not make an appearance until the 1960s, with the launch of the 1964 vintage taking place at the Alcazar Nightclub to celebrate Duke Ellington’s seventieth birthday. You can still track down photographs of Duke at the piano on that very evening with a magnum of the 1964 vintage sitting atop it.
Back then, it was small production with only 5,000 bottles released.
It is worth taking a moment to acknowledge the efforts of the winemaker’s brilliant chef de cave, Hervé Deschamps, who has been the man behind all of the Perrier-Jouët wines for many years now and has made every single release of the Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs.
When the very modest Deschamps took the role as chef de cave in 1993, he had already been with the house for a decade. Extraordinarily, as the house was founded in 1811, he is only the seventh cellar master.
It was in his very first year, 1993, that he created the first Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs, the very first Belle Epoque of any kind for which Deschamps had full control.
Deschamps has described its development and release as his proudest achievement. Since then, there have only been four more vintages released: 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2004. It is a very limited production; only 10,000 bottles of the 2002 were produced for the entire world, for example. Deschamps hopes that quantity will double over time.
Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs consists of less than one percent of the entire Belle Epoque production (the Rosé is around 8 percent).
Deschamps is a strong supporter of the 2002 vintage, believing it to be a great year – and he is not alone in that. He also likes the 2004, noting the stone fruit character it offers and comparing it to the 1989 vintage.
The Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs 2002 is one of the finest champagnes I have ever enjoyed: it is elegant, ethereal, full of finesse, stunning, and beguiling. It is elegance with a steel backbone, possessing a wonderfully creamy texture, peaches and cream with notes of honey, stone fruit, florals, grapefruit, and hazelnuts.
Its impeccable balance pairs with an underlying intensity and immense length.
Interestingly, its pressure is marginally lower than is typical, giving this wine the impression of being more akin to a first-class white Burgundy than a fizz. Beware, as the bottle is clear, allowing for adverse impact by light stroke, so keep it in its protective box until you are ready to enjoy it.
I’ve only ever seen the Belle Époque Blanc de Blancs 2004 in magnum (yes, not the worst thing to happen), and yet, even taking that into account, the 2004 seems destined for marginally earlier drinking than the 2002.
Both are sensational, but the 2004 has jasmines, florals, stone fruit, and an appealing underlying minerality all wrapped up in a pleasing ripeness. Glorious.
These wines are hard to find, even on the best wine lists. Speak to a quality retailer or keep your eye out. Naturally, they are also not cheap, though local taxes will ensure prices vary widely. Expect to pay the equivalent of several hundreds of Euros per bottle.
And that will seem like a bargain after your first sip!
For more information, please visit www.perrier-jouet.com/us-en/champagne-collection/belle-epoque-blanc-de-blancs-2004.