Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle and the New No. 25

Champagne Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle No. 25

© photo provided

Champagne Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle No. 25

Champagne Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle No. 25

© photo provided Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle and the New No. 25 Blended from three outstanding but complementary vintages, Champagne Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle is an exceptional cuvée. Its latest Itération, No. 25, was launched in London.

Lucie Pereyre de Nonancourt, granddaughter of Bernard de Nonancourt, who conceived the idea of Grand Siècle in the 1950s, introduced the tasting that was held in London to put the latest edition – or Itération – of Grand Siècle into context.

Freshness and complexity

“It is important to know a little bit about Grand Siècle,” said Pereyre whose grandfather Bernard took the reins of Laurent-Perrier in 1948 and led it through the post-war years, remaining at the helm for 50 years. “Around the time, all the houses started launching prestige cuvées,” Pereyre said. “And they all did so by selecting vintages. My grandfather also decided to make an emblematic wine. He enjoyed the vivacity of young wine, but also mature Bordeaux and Burgundy with all their tertiary aromas. He wanted to reach the high aromatic complexity of tertiary aromas but without losing the freshness.”

Creating Grand Siècle

Nonancourt achieved this by blending three vintages together: wines that would be able to age and that had already evolved a little as still base wines, before being blended – this way he got both the freshness and the complexity he desired. Edouard Cossy, global director of the house, explained that Nonancourt saw the art of blending for a prestige cuvée “as a strength rather than a constraint.” The very first Grand Siècle was revealed in 1959, a blend of the years 1952, 1953 and 1955. Since then there have only been 25 iterations. Pereyre affirmed that “Chardonnay is the backbone of the wine.” But she also noted that Laurent-Perrier had been one of the first houses to switch from oak to stainless steel and to introduce a generally lower dosage. This created a rather fresher style than was popular at the time. “My grandfather wanted his Champagne to be served as an aperitif,” she said and explained that in the late 1950s and 60s in France, men were served whisky as an aperitif and women Tawny Port – Champagne usually was served with dessert. Seen in this context, the statement makes much sense. Nonancourt wanted to have his wine served when minds and palates were fresh and attentive.

Grand Siècle today

Today, Grand Siècle is still made exclusively in stainless steel and all base wines undergo full malo-lactic fermentation. Itération 25 – the current one – and 24 were poured in bottle, 23 and 22 in magnum. Magnums of Grand Siècle are aged for 3-4 years longer than bottles and released later. “Time is really important for all the components to show themselves, Pereyre said. The iterations are always based on three vintage years – and it was with Itération No. 22 that Grand Siècle introduced the numbering of the series of prestige multi-vintage cuvées. There is a common DNA that runs through these wines, a sense of apricot-fruited, creamy richness that is given poise and structure by citrus freshness. The extra age on the magnums had a most beneficial effect.

To set the tone, Laurent-Perrier Millesimé 2008 was served, also from magnum – only the 29th vintage declared at the house since 1950 – vis-à-vis an average of 45 vintages generally declared in Champagne.