We were lucky enough to be invited by Laurent-Perrier to Champagne in France to learn all about the famous sparkling wine that we supply to our guests.
From start to finish, the journey physically as well as the historic journey was something quite special. Landing in Paris, first thing was first – Champagne. Muddling through the iconic streets and taking a seat in quaint Brasseries and authentic cafes, tasting various glasses of what we’d come here to explore, the range of Champagne available is rather fascinating. From where the vineyard location is and therefore the type of grape planted and grown, to the physical material that the sparking wine is fermented in, the processes that is entailed to achieve the crisp bubbly tipple that we all love, is frankly outstanding.
On the day that we embarked on the journey to the famous Champagne house, we were spoilt with panoramic views of the country’s countryside. Unspoilt, natural beauty. Knowing that we were embarking on something quite special made the experience more warming. Hidden away from the public eye, we turned in to what looked like a townhouse, but behind the immaculately decadent walls was a new world. The world of Champagne.
Greeted by our guide, we were shown around the house, learning all about the history of the family and how the Laurent-Perrier name that we know and love to this present day came about. The house is not open to the public and tours are on strict invite only so lapping up the impressive story was a privilege and therefore high on the agenda. We headed into a room of impressive stainless-steel tanks where the wine fermentation process takes place once the grapes have been pressed. We were told that the switch from wooden barrels came in the 1970’s and revolutionised the Champagne making process. The stainless steel keeps the liquid fresh, at a low temperature of 16 degrees and therefore allowing purity, resulting in the finest Champagne possible. The juice stays in the tanks for a few weeks and the wine maker tastes each day, until he is satisfied that the famous taste of Laurent-Perrier has been created.
Next, we headed into the darken cellars, lit only by low lighting where hundreds, upon hundreds of the famous bottles were on show. Our guide explained that each bottle was placed in wooden racks at certain angles, ready for manual daily rotation to ensure sedimentation was minimal. Having learnt the making process, it was then time to try the Champagne…
Tasting four out of the Champagne house’s collection alongside a light lunch, the Ultra Brut, La Cuvée, Grand Siècle and Cuvée Rosé were poured perfectly by the house sommelier. Each individual wine has its own blend consisting of a different variety of grape, alongside different characteristics; almost giving each blend a personality. The flagship La Cuvée is named “the perfect balance” with the wine coming from the purest grape juice and embarking on a long ageing process; it’s the perfect apéritif and partner for poultry and the finest fish.
A newfound knowledge for the sparkling wine allows a newfound knowledge of food pairings, serving occasions as well as the history behind such an iconic brand and a Champagne that is stocked in our enchanted place on the hill. A once in a lifetime trip enables a large step into better educating our guests on what they are drinking during their visit; something that we’re proud to be able to do.
Birth The House of Laurent-Perrier was founded in 1812 by André Michel Pierlot and took the name Vve Laurent-Perrier when Mathilde Emilie Perrier, the widow of Eugène Laurent, combined the two-family names after she decided to expand the business. Eugénie Hortense Laurent, her daughter, inherited the House in 1925 and sold it to Marie-Louise Lanson de Nonancourt in 1939.
Rebirth During WWII, Marie-Louise Lanson de Nonancourt ran the business while two of her sons, Maurice and Bernard, joined the French Resistance. In 1945, Bernard de Nonancourt began an exacting apprenticeship, learning every aspect of winemaking from vine to cellar, before his appointment in October 1948 as Chairman and Chief Executive. At that point, the House was employing around 20 people and shipping 80,000 bottles a year.
Expansion Fired by a passion for champagne, a respect for traditional values and, most importantly, for people, Bernard de Nonancourt inspired Laurent-Perrier with his independent spirit and creative audacity. He established privileged working relationships with the grape growers and cleverly combined innovation and tradition. He created the signature Laurent-Perrier style of freshness, lightness and elegance and developed a unique range of champagnes which are today exported to more than 160 countries worldwide.
The founders A former cooper and bottler in Chigny-les-Roses, André-Michel Pierlot settled in Tours-sur-Marne in 1812 as a négociant in the wines of Champagne. It was in this village, on plots named Les Plaisances and La Tour Glorieux that he founded what was later to become Laurent-Perrier. His son, Alphonse Pierlot, succeeded him and, not having any heirs, he subsequently bequeathed the House to his cellar master, Eugène Laurent.
Following his accidental death in 1887, Eugène’s widow, Mathilde Emilie Perrier, took the helm of the business and combined her own patronymic with that of her husband, naming the business “Veuve Laurent-Perrier”. With her strong character and reputation for integrity, she developed the business, restored its finances, and masterfully kept the House going throughout the Great War. In 1920, she paved the way for the international expansion of the brand by entering a partnership with Sir Alexander Fletcher Keith McKenzie to invest in the British market. Eugénie-Hortense Laurent succeeded her mother in 1925. Hard-hit by the economic crisis between the Wars and heavily in debt, she sold the estate to Marie-Louise de Nonancourt in 1939.
The builder Bernard de Nonancourt dedicated his life to a single passion: Laurent-Perrier. His courage, convictions and energy transformed a small Champagne House purchased by his mother in 1939 into a global brand. Bernard de Nonancourt and his elder brother Maurice joined the French Resistance. Only Bernard survived and joined the Maquis underground, where he met the founder of the Emmaus movement, Abbé Pierre. Later on, he was assigned to General Leclerc’s 2nd Armoured Division (2ème DB). When he returned, his mother insisted he undergo an apprenticeship to fully understand the business, being a vines labourer, cellar and office worker, and a sales representative. In October 1948, aged 28, he was appointed Chairman and Chief Executive of Laurent-Perrier. He was one of the rare owners of a Champagne House to have done all the jobs of his future employees. Bernard de Nonancourt injected a dynamic momentum into the business. Keen on innovation, strongly attached to champagne traditions and to quality, he forged the commercial culture of Laurent-Perrier and created a renowned brand with a range of unique champagnes. Up until his death on 29 October 2010, he made his vibrant stamp on the House of Laurent-Perrier, which will remain forever.
The Cellar Master A message from Michel Fauconnet, Laurent-Perrier’s third Cellar Master. “I was fortunate enough to be accepted as a trainee for a Champagne House with great ambitions and scope for expansion. I found the job fascinating: from the raw materials–grapes – you obtain a bottle of champagne. Forty years later, this transformation still enthrals me! I got my experience from working from the bottom upwards over several years. I know every stage of production from having worked there: I was a cellarman from 1974 to 1976, a supervisor in 1977 and a foreman in 1981. I learned a lot about the technical side in the winery and have been Cellar Master and Production Manager since 2004. I took over from Alain Terrier, whose assistant I had been since 1983. The job has changed enormously. The Cellar Master used to be the man who made the wine. These days, he also takes care of supplies. So he is responsible for the wine from vinification to bottling. I have spent my entire career at this House and share its passion for champagne, and its values of exacting standards and perfectionism. My job is to make those vins de plaisir that are perfectly attuned to the spirit of the House of Laurent-Perrier.”
The estate In 1881, when Cellar Master Eugène Laurent inherited the Alphonse Pierlot Champagne House, he provided it with the essential foundations required to produce great champagnes, namely the houses and land to create a fully-fledged estate. He purchased vines in the very best terroirs of Bouzy, Tours-sur-Marne, and Ambonnay, excavated 800 metres of cellars, and set up a tasting laboratory. That is how the Domaine Laurent-Perrier (the Estate) was anchored in Tours-sur-Marne. This picturesque village is ideally situated at the crossroads of the three main wine growing areas of the Marne département: the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs. It is also part of the 17 Champagne villages ranking in the prestigious ‘Grand Cru’ area.