Grand Siècle Iterations
This year of change (in what has been a transformative decade for Laurent-Perrier) will also welcome the introduction of Grand Siècle ‘Iterations’. Their prestige cuvée champagne is unlike any other. Launched 60 years ago, it broke the tradition of prestige cuvées always being vintage champagnes and is instead a multi-vintage (MV) blend of three different years.
The idea of Grand Siècle (‘Great Century’) was born from a simple observation: that nature would never provide the perfect oenological year, but that thanks to the art of assemblage, Laurent-Perrier could in fact create it. The philosophy is therefore not simply to blend the last three vintages of Laurent-Perrier, but to “create the ultimate vintage.”
The three main rules are as follows: Grand Siècle is 1) Always a blend of three exceptional vintages that perfectly complement each other; 2) Always 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir; and 3) Always a blend of Grand Crus (up to a maximum of 11 out of the 17) that performed well in the respective vintages.
One year is chosen for structure, one for finesse, and one for freshness, creating a unique combination of power and balance from wines of the very best vintages. Although the crus vary blend-by-blend, some villages feature fairly consistently, such as Aÿ, Bouzy, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and Tours-sur-Marne.
Until now, it has been difficult for consumers to establish which release of Grand Siècle they are currently drinking or have stored in their cellar, as the blend of vintages is not printed on the label. However, in response to growing consumer demand for more information, Laurent-Perrier are now releasing Grand Siècle as ‘Iterations’ (similar to Krug Grande Cuvée ‘Editions’). For the first time, the iteration number will be displayed on the neck of the bottle, which can then be matched on GrandSiecle.com to discover the secrets of each individual creation.
The launch of the iteration concept coincides with a new release for both bottles and magnums. The bottles are transitioning to Grand Siècle Iteration 24 MV (a blend of 2007, 2006 and 2004), while the magnums are transitioning to Grand Siècle Iteration 22 MV (a blend of 2004, 2002 and 1999).
|Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Iteration 24 MV | 18.5/20
55% CH, 45% PN | Vintages: 2007 (60%), 2006 (20%), 2004 (20%) | Lees Ageing: 10 Years | Disgorged: October 2018 | Dosage: 7 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 8 Months
Good depth to the gold colour; on my first smell I was caught by that “hint of the sea” character with notes of salinity. You then start to see those yellow fruits like ripe pear and apples, real zesty lemons and on the palate the apple character has a spicy edge. The mid-palate fills well with the ten years of lees ageing. The fruits are citrus and pear and some tropical notes of pineapple and with a few minutes in the glass hints of pastry richness. Great finish, fresh from minerality and hint of saline and nice, long length.
|Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Iteration 22 MV Magnum | 19/20
55% CH, 45% PN | Vintages: 2004 (60%), 2002 (25%), 1999 (15%) | Lees Ageing: 12 Years | Disgorged: July 2018 | Dosage: 7 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 1 Year
On first approach you have that attractive hint of smokiness, a result of the winemaking process where “no oxygen” produces this character, then you start to see bundles of ripe yellow fruits and hints of gooseberry. Has a lightness on the palate, really delicate and some saltiness to the yellow plums, apples and pears. The salinity and minerality giving the champagne a really light and fresh character. The lees ageing has really filled the mid-palate, giving an almost velvety texture to the champagne. Very fine with a hint of spiciness and a fresh mineral finish.
Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV
Despite being best known for producing the world’s favourite rosé champagne, Laurent-Perrier are a Chardonnay-dominant producer. Chardonnay constitutes the majority component in all of their mixed-variety blends and is therefore the most crucial ingredient. Further, the value of the white grape is such that the blanc wines are always the first to be tasted post-fermentation. In short, Chardonnay is in the DNA of Laurent-Perrier.
The absence of a Blanc de Blancs cuvée from their prestigious range might therefore perhaps come as a surprise. In fact, Laurent-Perrier themselves have long been aware of this and have been working to remedy the discrepancy for more than a decade.
Back in 2004, Laurent-Perrier purchased Champagne Malakoff and its vineyards, the most impressive of which were located in the famous Côte des Blancs region of Champagne. Almost overnight, Laurent-Perrier’s access to the prized high-quality Chardonnay grapes for which the region is famous substantially increased.
In 2017, the house revealed that their improved access to Chardonnay was put to use in reinvigorating their house non-vintage. A new champagne was unveiled to replace their old non-vintage: La Cuvée NV, one of the defining features of which was the hike in Chardonnay content. However, that wasn’t the only project their new proprietorship helped establish.
Long-time winemaker Michel Fauconnet (a Chardonnay expert, who has also been producing the revered Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs champagnes for more than two decades) spied an opportunity to not just improve their brut non-vintage champagne, but to produce the cuvée that’s long been missing from their range: a Blanc de Blancs. After nearly a decade, the house have finally revealed their new creation: Laurent-Perrier Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV.
The 100% Chardonnay blend is based on equal proportions of the 2012 and 2013 vintages. The high reserve content of 40% contains wine from several previous vintages, with a significant contribution from 2009. Both the base and reserve wines originate from the same Grand and Premier Cru vineyards: Chouilly and Cramant from the Côte des Blancs and Villers-Marmery from the Montagne de Reims. Chef de Cave Fauconnet commented: “We are looking for the fresh Chardonnay character, with a balance of minerality… nothing big and heavy.”
Notably, the champagne is a Brut Nature (zero dosage was added post-disgorgement), making it the only Grande Marque Blanc de Blancs with no dosage. The house have considerable experience in zero dosage vinification, having first produced a non-dosé champagne in the 19th century. They later founded the official category with the release of Ultra Brut NV in 1981, which is still produced today. However, Fauconnet predicts that, being all Chardonnay, the new Blanc de Blancs NV cuvée will have much better ageing potential than Ultra Brut NV, which is 45% Pinot Noir.
We tasted a preview with Fauconnet at the house in Champagne last week and were very impressed: super fresh on the palate, with a balanced and linear precision throughout, and layers of powerful fruit and spicy complexity. The perfect Blanc de Blancs sibling to the world-famous Blanc de Noirs, Cuvée Rosé NV. Fittingly, Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV will be sold in the same iconic bottle shape for which Cuvée Rosé is so well-known.
|Laurent-Perrier Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV | 17.5/20
100% CH | Base Vintages: 2012/2013 | Reserve Wine: 40% | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: September 2018 | Dosage: 0 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 6 Months
Has initial Chardonnay aromatics, some small hints of evolution on the nose and lots of ripe apples and an underlying layer of chalkiness. The palate has the freshness, the chalk and the ripe apples show again with hints of mango, pineapple with nice layers of spice. Seems very balanced, not crying out for attention.