2004 Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque

Beautiful Inside and Out

imagesLit only by candlelight, this sensationally beautiful bottle is visually so much more magnificent than on the store shelf where it might seem a touch over the top. It embodies perfectly, that magnificent time in Parisian mythology, where style, art, jazz, intellectualism, and glamour were revered during the 43 years of peace, beginning in the 1871, during the Third French Republic, up until World War 1 began in 1914. They retrospectively called this time, La Belle Époque, or the beautiful era.  Fleur de Champagne‘s iconic bottle design originated in 1902 when the Art Nouveau pioneering artist and glass maker, Emile Gallé,  created the gold tipped anemone flower image. But it wouldn’t adorn the bottle for another 62 years, when Perrier-Jouët  released its first bottling of the tete de cuvee Belle Époque.

2004 Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque

The wine itself is magnificent. Light, airy, and creamy, given weight and richness with bread dough, toast, light lemon curd, creme brûlée. The palate is rich, broad and round, creamy and super silky, with a softness that belies the beautiful acidity and impossibly tiny bubbles and an airy, delicate mouse. Yeasty, bready fullness and bright lemon, lime, grapefruit notes roll on and on. A simply beautiful and remarkably, deceptively, powerful wine that is all refinement and complex exquisiteness.  Breathtaking. 96 points.

Perrier Jouet vineyard areas
Click on map to enlarge

Perrier-Jouët is a large Champagne house, owning 266 acres of vineyard, and almost half of which are from Grand Cru villages that are spread across the heart of Champagne, but it also buys a significant amount of grapes, bringing their total production to roughly 250,000 cases. The house style is one of elegance, focusing to make wines that are airy and floral, with very fine bead. Theirs is a doughier and less acidic style than its nearest stylistic neighbor Billecart-Salmon. The Belle Époque is given a light to moderate 9 grams of dosage per liter.

In 1959 Perrier-Jouët was bought by Champagne G.H. Mumm, which was bought by Allied Domecq. When Allied Domecq folded, Pernot Ricard bought both Champagne houses.

Perrier-Jouët has significant holdings in the three major Champagne Growing regions, Valley de Marne in the center above the city of Epernay, in the Montagne de Reims to the North East, and the Cote de Blancs south of the River Marne below Epernay.  Montagne de Reims is the celebrated home of Pinot Noir in Champagne. The actual Montagne is a small, 300 hectare, completely forested plateau that is surrounded on its southern side by vineyards of the region that stretch to the river.  In the center of Champagne, just above on the Eastern edge of the sub-appellation the Vallee de Marne, Perrier has vineyards in the Grand Cru villages of Dizy and Ay.   They also have significant holdings in the Cote de Blancs on the Epernay side of the Marne River. This region is Chardonnay dominated, with 95% of that area being planted to that grape.1375105397_the-finest-vineyard

It should be noted that the Champagne region is very large, and not contiguous. Rather it is a series of villages or sub-appellations that are in an area 150 kilometers (around 100 miles) from North to South, and 120 kilometers across. The bottom map illustrates this  Conversely, Reims and Epernay are 24 kilometers (15 miles apart.  And Avize is under 10 kilometers from Epernay, so we are talking about a relatively compact in the scope of what may be labeled as Champagne.

The Champagne Region is not contiguous, but a series of sub-appellations 120 km across.
The Champagne Region is not contiguous, but a series of sub-appellations 120 km across.

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Diary of a Winebuyer

About Me: Thirty years ago, I graduated with a degree in political science from the College of Letters and Science at the University of California at Berkeley. Having grown up at the height of the Cold War, I still have vivid remembrances of being instructed to hide under our elementary school desk, covering our heads. The young, white, female teacher, training us without explanation, to face away from the windows. I suppose it is not all that surprising that I had a particular interest in the realpolitik of international relations. My fascination grew with the discovery that certain conditions almost uniformly exist where all revolutions ferment. Did this mean that the revolutions which had occurred in the first half century were revolutions which had been usurped by Marxists who were in the right place at the right time? Probably. A favorite professor was A. J. Gregor. This was a man who, while rakishly wearing a Gestapo-styled black leather motorcycle jacket, exuded expertise on fascism (which he looked the part) and Marxism. Improbably, he did it with a significant swagger. Then in my last semester, I had the blind luck to take a class on Asian Marxist revolution, and the professor, who just happened to be visiting that year while he worked on some unnamed project, was Chalmers Johnson. In retrospect, I should have known his name, as he was a luminary in the political science community but at that time, I did not. It was a remarkable opportunity to experience the ivory tower, but I seem to remember being anxious to get on with life. After college, I drifted through a few of jobs that were of interest to me. One of my former high school teachers said to me. "If I were in your shoes, I'd get a job as a flight attendant." So in order to be young while I could still afford to, I accepted a job serving chicken or beef at Pan American. With that airline losing money faster than it could sell its routes, I got a job doing cellar work at David Bruce Winery. This was the beginning of my wine career. All during this period, I wrote a still unpublished novel about homegrown terrorists the U.C. Berkeley campus, attempting to use some of what I learned in school, weaving in the Vietnamese political and military strategies of Dau Tranh as professor Johnson had lectured years before. Since the early 1990's, I have been involved in the wine industry, selling fine wine in both the retail and wholesale arenas. I have approached learning about wine, by always challenging myself to question how I know what I think I know? And in an effort to try to find answers I've turned, with varying degrees of success to wine books. Overall, I've not been happy with the quality of most wine writing, finding the authors either to lack any deep knowledge, or unable to move much past what I consider to be superficial information. I recognize that wine writers have to monetize their work, but I believe this has dramatically held back our knowledge and understanding of wine. I have set out to add to our industry's base of knowledge where I can. My first series, 'The Terroir of Burgundy' (which I should probably re-edit and complete some kind of conclusion, but I got involved in this project), can be viewed here. I currently work as a sales and marketing manager for a Burgundy and Bordeaux importer based in Atherton, California.

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