Reportage of a love because I had never been to Champagne, although I loved it. I admit that I would drink nothing else, at all hours of the day. Champagne, champagne and more champagne: champagne is capable of turning an ordinary moment into a special occasion! Then you know I'm all for highlighting the goodies among Italian sparkling wines, but that's another story... 😋 When Valentina Brivio of the Guardans Cambò agency in Milan invited me to spend two days in Champagne, in Reims, on an organised trip to discover the historic winery Laurent-Perrier I was really happy about this wonderful opportunity! I must admit, despite being an avid Champagne taster, I had never been to this part of France... although something is brewing! 🤩🤫 On this trip, then, I had the good fortune of very nice and very knowledgeable fellow adventurers:

  • Bruno Petronilli, Journalist and Editor-in-Chief of James Magazine (whom I am looking forward to visiting in Umbria);
  • Nicholas of Molfetta, Journalist Editor in Chief of LC Publishing Group, including Food Community;
  • Leila Salimbeni, Author of Gourmet Passion;
  • Anna Prandoni, Journalist and Editor-in-Chief of Italian sandwich, Director of Great Cuisine of Italian Gourmet;
  • Paolo Pittaluga, Journalist of Avvenire;
  • Mariella Tanzarella, Journalist of the Republic in the entertainment area for over 30 years with his own food and wine column;

And of course Valentina Brivio and his boss Isabel Guardans who for over 20 years has been handling public relations for major companies both in Italy and abroad! Also invaluable is the presence of Silvia Cremonini, Head of Trade Marketing at Laurent-Perrier in its new branch in Bologna. And finally, thanks to Nicole Snozzi, Ambassadeur de la Marque by Laurent-Perrier for accompanying us on this journey by telling us about the world she represents. 

With the introductions over, I would say that we can now immerse ourselves in this extraordinary photographic reportage of Reims and especially of the Laurent-Perrier company! 🤩 

Landed at the airport of Paris-Charles de Gaulle we set off immediately to make things big: on the big bus, incredibly driven by a beautiful driver (I don't know about you, but I've never seen a bus driver before...) there was a Silvia Cremonini very organised with Champagne Laurent-Perrier on ice and simply delicious fingerfoods! Reims is just over an hour from the airport, but done like this, the journey is really pleasant! 

If you haven't seen it yet above, I've condensed the video from the story I did on Instagram... pity only the rather gloomy day! 🤭 Anyway, the photos came out nice and there were some really spectacular blooms in Reims! Reims, along with Épernay, is the beating heart of Champagne, a city of about 185,000 inhabitants in the Grand Est region. We stayed at theHotels Continentaldelightful both in the rooms and in the common areas, a stone's throw from the station and right in the centre of Reims. Oh, and I fell in love with the shower in my room, I think I was there for at least an hour... adjectives like 'giant' and 'divine' are belittling it!

After an hour's rest -read washing, make-up and hair- we went for a nice walk! Reims Cathedral deserves to be seen if only for the beautiful blue stained-glass windows of the axial chapel painted in the mid-1970s by the famous Russian painter Marc Chagall

"If every life inevitably runs towards the end, we must, during ours, colour it with love and hope". Marc Chagall

As a History of Architecture enthusiast, I was delighted to visit one of the most beautiful manifestations of the Gothic style: the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Reims. It stands on the remains of the Gallo-Roman baths Durocortorum (the Roman name for the city of Reims) and remained unfinished from the original design. It was consecrated in 401 by Bishop Saint Nicasius, and from 987, with the start of the Capetian dynasty by Count Hugh Capet of Paris, all the kings of France were crowned until 1825 with the coronation of Charles X, the last king of France.

In short, a great afternoon wandering around this elegant city that smells of beauty and cleanliness. The afternoon ended in my 'toyland': a delightful little shop right in front of the hotel where they only sold cigars, rum and chocolate... to my boyfriend's delight, I found a really delicious Nicaraguan Vintage 1997 cigar! 

It was aperitif time and here we are again in the bar of the Hotel Continental where we were served a Laurent-Perrier 2002 champagne that literally won me over! Too bad the combination of the aperitif wasn't as good as Silvia's: a bowl with something inside that reminded us of Greek yoghurt and cucumber sauce, but even more acidic, and some 'burnt' bread: gentlemen, that's how we kill you a proper wine... 🤭 let's just say that food and wine pairing is not the hotel bartenders' forte! 🤧

Champagne Laurent-Perrier Brut, Magnum bottle, Vintage 2002

55% chardonnay, 45% pinot noir | 12% vol | disgorged Q4 2011

It has a beautiful intense and brilliant straw yellow colour with a fine and numerous perlage. On the nose, I detect ripe and pleasantly oxidised notes, among which I recognise very toasted bread crust, melted butter, honeyed rum, dark chocolate, white pepper, canestrelli biscuits and rock salt. The finish is slightly tuffaceous. In the mouth it is crisp, creamy and still quite fresh. Commendable structure and great elegance. Long finish of toasted hazelnuts. 

The problem with starting with a bottle of this level is that going back is hard... very hard! So at dinner we continued along the same path, it's just a pity we didn't try the demi-sec as well, on which a rallying cry went off that "the election just got out of hand!" We were in the Au Petit Comptoir' restaurant in the centre of Reims where we were served a menu, with a choice of meat or fish, that didn't excite me... luckily we made up for it with a sublime lunch the next day! 😍 The foie gras -which I adore- was nothing special, and the chicken... the cheeses and the chocolate cake were decent. Then of course they have a very convenient menu formula, but I wouldn't recommend it!

Champagne Laurent-Perrier Brut, standard bottle, Vintage 2006

55% chardonnay, 45% pinot noir | 12% vol | disgorged Q4 2011

It has a beautiful, bright straw yellow colour with delicate golden reflections and a very fine, very numerous perlage. The nose is particularly elegant and fine, with notes of butter, lemon marmalade, white chocolate, brioche and candied pear. In the mouth it is crisp, very fresh, with great acidity and structure. Long, citrusy finish.

Overall, I saw it as much further back than 2002. Of course four years is four years, but it gave me the impression of having a very long life ahead of it. Probably 2002 is now at its peak and close to beginning its waning phase. I am convinced that this 2006 will still not be at its peak in 4 years' time, especially considering that we are talking about a magnum bottle in 2002 and a standard bottle in 2006! I also had the feeling that the 2002 vintage was much warmer and milder than the 2006, but I don't really know so if you know and write it down in a comment I thank you!

Anyway, we had a pleasant evening, ending with an excellent rest at the hotel, which was much needed! In the morning I had a delicious breakfast buffet set up in various places in the bar and everything was delicious! I had lightly salted butter and smoked salmon with a crazy seed bread!

Champagne Laurent-Perrier: a visit to the winery

Our driver took us to the company at Tours-sur-Marnein a journey that made us discover, albeit in passing, some truly wonderful sights. The cellar is really beautiful, especially inside! I would say that if you go to Champagne, it is definitely worth a visit, if only to admire its absolute magic.

This corridor of concrete barrels, culminating in a tasting room 'for VIPs' and/or grand occasions, is extraordinary. Each vat is assigned a Grand Cru or Premier Cru of Champagne: as you walk through you can read Ambonnay, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger or Tours-sur-Marne...

The rooms are so clean that you almost wonder if someone works there or if it's just a museum... well done!

The magic, however, comes when you reach the vaults where the bottles age on the lees... you can get lost in these galleries, guardians of treasures and so skilfully lit! I took I don't know how many photos... and I would never leave (also because I found something to disgorge...)! 🤫😁

Barely perceptible, it is a quiver, a quivering eyebrow, the gaze that lights up, the heart that seems to take its first step, misses a beat, and then returns even more enthusiastic. A man dips his nose into a glass. He does more than that. A screen saturated with words, with sensations, opens in a corner of his memory, an invisible spirit unfolds notes in his mind. The man hints at a gesture, gives the 'la' like a conductor. His orchestra, his first violins, his woodwinds, his brasses, his percussion... they are wines, hundreds of wines, all born somewhere, in one of those territories he knows like the back of his hand. The man listens to them, one after the other, perceives what they want to tell him, then he puts them in line, harmonises this cacophony to compose his grand whole, a symphony, an assemblage.

The talent of Champagne is precisely this permanent miracle: transcending poor soil and a difficult climate through the purest of effervescences. From the depths of the cellars champenoises, cathedrals hidden beneath the chalk, shadowy men elevate the wines to make them take flight: the bubbles rise to the surface of the earth and then shoot up towards the sky, carrying infinite messages: those of the grape varieties, the vintages, the soil varieties. In this practice, Michel Fauconnet, chef de cave at Laurent-Perrier, excels. At his side, we explored time, right up to the genesis of Grand Siècle. At the wire of the day, the mystery of blending remains impenetrable. Champenois genius is also this.

Orianne Nouailhac

Upon entering the beautiful tasting room, I was quite curious to taste the wines, also because the premises were there! I also very much appreciated the choice of the four wines to taste, although I would have dared the other Champagne Rosé produced by the Maison because they had already let us taste this 'base' the night before and even gave us a bottle! 

Also crazy is the fingerfood with seared beetroot stuffed with foie gras!

And of course, as the photo shows, my ever-present Moleskine Wine Journalmy faithful companion in every tasting. Curiously I had run out of another one and tried to buy it at the station in Milan, if I'm not mistaken they asked me for 29€. I bought it on Amazon for 19€ free shipping... incredible! (Here is the link to purchase!)

Champagne Laurent-Perrier "Ultra Brut" [blue label].   

The first champagne wine without dosage, it is made exclusively from a vintage selected for its perfect balance between beautiful maturity and low acidity. The Maison is keen to emphasise that it is the fruit of a specific blend, and not simply 'un brut non dosage' as is often used in Italy. 

55% chardonnay, 45% pinot noir from 15 different crus that vary according to the characteristics of the vintage. The ideal ageing period is at least 6 years.

It has an intense and brilliant straw yellow colour. The perlage is very numerous and quite fine, forming an evanescent froth. The nose is delicate, elegant and quite complex. I recognise notes of butter, cedar, acacia flowers, spring honey and white peach. The palate enters creamy and with a great acidic backbone, with a bubble that tingles. Overall, it is shifted to hardness. Quite long. It perfectly deflates mortadella, but lends itself to be paired with seafood: from fatty fish such as salmon to shellfish, due to their markedly sweet tendency.

Champagne Laurent-Perrier 'La Cuvée' [white label edged with a gold frame].

Beyond 50% chardonnay, beyond 30% pinot noir, the % of pinot meunier varies between 10% and 20% | between 20% and 30% of reserve wines to ensure stylistic consistency | the grapes come from more than 100 crus that vary according to the characteristics of the vintage.

It has an intense and brilliant straw yellow colour with a numerous and fairly fine perlage that forms an evanescent froth. The nose is delicate, elegant and not particularly complex. I recognise vivid hints of bread crust, blood orange, lemon and hibiscus flowers. On the palate it enters creamy, you can really feel the dosage (in my opinion it is a 'well-dosed' brut), but it is not at all annoying! Very elegant and consistent, it is a perfect dance between gustatory balance and excellent drinkability.

Champagne Laurent-Perrier 'Grand Siècle' [black label].

55% chardonnay from the Grand Cru of Avize, Cramant and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, 45% pinot noir from the Grand Cru of Ambonnay, Bouzy and Mailly. | Aged at least 7-8 years in bottle | Blended from 3 exceptional vintages chosen to be complementary: one for its structure, one for its finesse and one for its freshness.

 It is a beautiful bright golden yellow with a very numerous, quite fine and persistent perlage. The nose is complex, intense, fine and elegant. I recognise notes of coffee, black cherry, Greek yoghurt, bitter cocoa, Seichuan pepper. In the mouth it is creamy, consistent, fine and enveloping. Long finish and great potential for bottle ageing.

 

Champagne Laurent-Perrier "Cuvée Rosé" [pink label].

100% pinot noir from crus located south and north of the Montagne de Reims, including the famous Côte de Bouzy, in particular the crus of Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvois and Tours-sur-Marne | Aged at least 5 years in bottle

 It is a beautiful, intense and brilliant cherry pink colour with a fairly fine and very numerous perlage. The nose is very pleasant, quite complex, delicate, fine and elegant. White flowers, wild strawberries, cherries and currants The most striking feature of this wine is its exceptional drinkability, one glass really does pull the other! You can feel the dosage well, but it is still elegant and fresh. Quite a long finish, as an aperitif. 

We dined in a beautiful, finely furnished room, which opened onto a garden where I enjoyed the splendid and exceptional sunshine. 

Champagne Laurent-Perrier "Brut Millésime" 2007

5o% chardonnay from the Cote des Blancs: Choully, Cramant, Oger, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, 50% pinot noir from Montagne de Reims crus: Verzy, Verzenay, Mailly, Louvois, Bouzy

The 2007 vintage began with an exceptionally mild winter followed by a spring that felt like summer. This led to an early harvest at the end of August that yielded grapes of great quality and exceptional ripeness. It is an intense, bright golden yellow colour with a very fine and numerous perlage. The nose is vertical and citrusy, fading into an almost brackish note. The palate is consistent, intertwining flavours of white flesh fruit. Great structure and long finish.

Nougat de foie gras de canard de la ferme des Saturnins aux fruits secs et confit d'oignons rouges. | Saturnins' duck foie gras brick with dried fruit and red onion jam - In combination Laurent-Perrier Brut Millésime 2007 😍 - 💪 Superlative food and wine pairing!

Mignon de cochon ibérique, farfalle à l'encre de seiche, sauce crémeuse au Savagnin | Iberian pork, squid ink butterflies and creamy Savagnin sauce (white grape variety) - In combination Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle 😍 💪good food and wine pairing, delicious sauce, why butterflies?

Fine Gelée aux fruits rouges, sablé et sorte thé fruiti rouges | Red berry sorbet, red fruits, on pastry laid in a red berry tea served at room temperature - In combination Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé 😍 💪 Matching that surprised me: being a 'not too sweet' dessert, a rosé champagne with a little sugar dosage also suited us. Great assonance of aromas that enhanced each other.

At the end of lunch, I delighted in this walnut cake that I can only describe as divine... the shortcrust pastry on top of which rested a walnut cream and a half walnut on top was excellent. I chose to pair it with Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle and I would say that this combination was also particularly successful! 😍 💪

When the chef and his staff came out, I couldn't believe it: but they really are so young!!! Really well done, apart from the squid ink farfalle which I found superfluous in the dish both in taste and texture, for the rest I liked everything. Note of merit to the Foie Gras, better than this I have only eaten in Sauternes, on that wonderful evening in the company of Pierre Montégut, technical director of Château Suduiraut, a man who won me over like few others in my life. And who I curiously remember was fascinated by me being Italian because he was a devourer of coppa piacentina! (To make me understand him, he gave me a coppino...🤭 but then he uncorked a 1975 Sauternes and I forgave him immediately! If you like read the live article HERE).

The table service was also excellent, something I rarely experience!

At the end of this article I would like to open an interesting discussion about a diametrically opposed way of making wine: is wine made in the vineyard or in the cellar? In a decade where the trend, particularly in Italy, seems to suggest that wine is made in the vineyard and in the cellar you can only spoil it, I challenge you to discuss this with one chef de cave such as Michel Fauconnet. Reading their magazines and listening to the Laurent-Perrier ambassadors, one thing is clear to me: the pride of the hand of man in creating the wine that most reflects him. No mystical intervention of nature, but only construction on construction startingOf course, from excellent grapes. The key word for this Maison therefore is 'construction'. In some ways, I also find it right. While it is wonderful to open a bottle and savour the climatic progression of the vintage, I find this philosophy more appropriate for wines with a less demanding price tag. If I want to drink a great champagne, which I may even have paid for, it is fair for me to expect consistency in quality between the bottle I already know and the new one. Of course the vintages it is made from are different, but the blending of them must give me a wine on the same wavelength. Or I risk being very, very disappointed! What do you think? Have you ever been disappointed by a different vintage of champagne? Write it to me in a comment!

Cheers 🍷❤

Chiara

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