Despite being quite disappointed by the 2018 wines when he first tasted them, Michel Fauconnet, long-time cellar master at Laurent-Perrier, now believes the vintage has great potential. “When we first tasted them in December, it was disappointing,” he commented. “However, now the wines have opened up, they are much more impressive.”
Yields were high at Laurent-Perrier, as were the sugar and acidity levels, so much so that chaptalisation – the process of adding sugar to the grape must in order to increase the potential alcohol level – was not necessary. “We had a huge amount of grapes,” Fauconnet recalled.
The standout elements of the harvest for Laurent-Perrier were the low pH levels – near or even below 3 in some regions; and the significant variance between vineyards – and further, the variance even between small plots of the same cru. “A warm climate makes a huge difference in the terroir,” Fauconnet explained. While wines from different regions often display unique characteristics, wines from different sub-plots within each cru are typically quite homogenous. “This year, they [the wines] are different within the cru… it’s very interesting.”
The Chardonnays in particular are all very different this year, which, from Fauconnet’s perspective, should lead to a more exciting winemaking process: “I’m glad to have a large range of very interesting things to blend in 2018.”
2018 Vins Clairs
Overall, the 2018 base wines at Laurent-Perrier have turned out extremely well. In Fauconnet’s words: “Everything is good, my work now is to find which ones are very good.”
Despite many in the region believing 2018 to be a year that favours Pinot Noir, Fauconnet disagrees. The Chardonnays we tasted were very round and balanced, with surprisingly generous aromatics. The wine from Tours-sur-Marne in particular, whilst lacking the structure seen in Chardonnays from the Côte des Blancs, was impressively sharp and elegant – enjoyable as a still wine itself.
|CHARDONNAY | Côte des Blancs | Grand Cru: Le Mesnil-sur-Oger
Very smoky with ripe lemons on the nose. On the palate you get bundles of lemon and lime richness, red apples and pineapple. Has an underlying spicy character and good acidity.
|CHARDONNAY | Côte des Blancs | Grand Cru: Cramant
Light smoky character with tropical hints: lychee, guava and white aromatic flowers. On the palate you get all those fruits and more ripe apple, great texture and medium freshness. Fatter and rounder than the Mesnil.
|CHARDONNAY | Montagne de Reims | Premier Cru: Villers-Marmery
Very chalky up front with white flower aromatics and tropical fruits like peach and pineapple. Soft acidity compared to first two, but still refreshing. Good length. Will become part of NV and Vintage. Not enough structure for GS.
|CHARDONNAY | Montagne de Reims | Grand Cru: Tours-sur-Marne
Very chalky at first and some peaches and lemon freshness. Quite easy: soft and pleasing. Will end up in some of the Coteaux de Champenois as make three of them and this is generous and easy. Perhaps doesn’t age too long.
|CHARDONNAY | Côte de Sézanne | Autre Cru: Bethon
Tighter on the nose at present, yet generous on the palate. Quite rich fruit, peaches and bundles of lemon with a good underlying spicy edge.
The Pinots were also very aromatic and give Fauconnet hope that this could be a good vintage for Laurent-Perrier Alexandra, the Pinot Noir dominant prestige cuvée rosé. “The last big vintage of Alexandra was 1988… all the good vintages seem to end in 8 and this could be another one.”
Verzy, a village which seems to have performed exceptionally well at most houses, was once again amongst the best. We were told that Laurent-Perrier are currently conducting trials on the vines in their neighbouring village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ in order to get more structure, which fell short of what they require this year.
|PINOT NOIR | Montagne de Reims | Grand Cru: Ambonnay
A lot of peaches and raspberry come forward with chalky character, very full and round and still with an underlying structure and a soft freshness to the fruit.
|PINOT NOIR | Montagne de Reims | Grand Cru: Verzy
Distinctive aromatics, pretty and chalky and lots of peaches and redcurrants. Has a good balance already with a strong structure. Very good.
|PINOT NOIR | Vallée de la Marne | Premier Cru: Mareuil-sur-Aÿ
Rich fruit, peaches and chalky and richer on the palate. This is very generous.
|PINOT MEUNIER | Vallée de la Marne | Autre Cru: Damery
Distinctive peaches, redcurrants and tropical fruits. Very rich and the plentiful fruits make the wine appear softer on the palate.
|PINOT MEUNIER | Montagne de Reims | Grand Cru: Puisieulx
Lots of peaches and apples and light body, a little bitter and short finish.
We also tasted the latest magnum release of Grand Siècle – a blend of vintages 2004, 2002 and 1999, which will be available later this year; and the incredible Les Réserves magnum – a multi-vintage blend of wine from 1995, 1993 and 1990, aged on the lees sur latte (horizontal), and released in 2012 as part of Laurent-Perrier’s bicentenary celebrations.
|Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle MV Magnum | Vintages: 2004 (60%), 2002 (25%), 1999 (15%) | 19+/20
55% CH, 45% PN | Lees Ageing: 12 Years | Disgorged: March 2017 | Dosage: 6 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 2 Years
Initially we have some reductive notes, that smokey character, then after a few minutes the fruit comes more forward: peaches, ripe apples and then the layer of pineapple. On the palate the chalkiness comes through with those layers of fruit freshness and lees character and you get more lime on the palate with complexities coming through with hints of pasty sweetness. Structured and fresh, this has a delicacy and lightness that shows the good balance in the champagne.
|Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Les Réserves MV Magnum | Vintages: 1995, 1993, 1990 | 19.5/20
55% CH, 45% PN | Lees Ageing: 22 Years | Disgorged: March 2018 | Dosage: 6 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 1 Year
Starts with some of those slight toasty notes of reduction and some evolution but the palate is very fresh. Layers of fruits and some of those nutty characters with tropical character a lot of pineapple. The texture is round and almost oily with its generosity. Good balance of richness, freshness and development. Perhaps at its moment for consumption.