Perrier Jouet Cuvee Belle Epoque – jeroboams and magnums
Is there anything nicer then a magnum of champagne? How about a couple of vintage bottles of champagne in jeroboam? I ran into my friend, Neil Phillips, not long ago at the Harper’s Champagne summit held at the Soho Hotel in Central London recently and he twisted my arm into trying the Perrier-Jouët Cuvée Belle Epoque range of magnums and jeroboams he just happened to have on hand. As well as being a summit on all things champagne, there was a small selection of exclusive and rare champagnes for us to taste throughout the day long event.
One thing I discovered about jeroboams (capacity 3 litres) is that the champagne is decanted into the bigger bottles after it has gone through secondary fermentation. The biggest bottle that a champagne house will do a secondary ferment in is a magnum as anything larger then that and the logistics of containing the fermenting wine inside the bottle become a bit of a nightmare. Imagine jeroboams exploding in the cellar because the pressure was just too high for the glass. There is a champagne house that doesn’t decant and their full nebuchadnazzer (15 litres) specially made bottles can weigh up to 38 kilos ! Some people might complain that decanting the magnums into larger format bottles makes the champagne flat but that is a matter of opinion.
As for me, I had the pleasure to taste the 1995 & 1996 in jeroboam and the ‘2002 in magnum Perrier Jouët’s vintage Cuvée Belle Epoque, complete in their flower bedecked bottles. The bottles are even prettier and the flowery motif just seems to work better on the bigger bottles, not that I don’t like the normal sized painted bottles. There are some who say that wine ages best in magnum sized bottles and I am inclined to agree with that assessment. Whether it is because the wine has more room to develop or who knows, really? Once the bottle is sealed we still don’t know what goes on inside.
The vintage Cuvée Belle Epoque is only produced in years the Perrier Jouët deems to be exceptional and if primarily composed of chardonnay from the best slopes of the Côte des Blancs district. Of the three, I think I preferred the ’96 as it had a richer palate. I prefer vintage champagne that has nutty, dried fruit flavours and aromas along with hints of white flowers and a touch of toast. The ’96 also displayed quite an elegant body with effervescent bubbles and a rich stewed fruit palate, rich and luscious but still tasting fresh as opposed to being a heavy and tired wine. Retaining some very good acidity as well, it was a delightful champagne and there were still plenty of bubbles emanating from the bottom of the flute.
The ’95 was still going strong, peachy pears along with vanilla, butterscotch and brioche notes, a fresh palate, elegantly balanced. Despite being decanted, the champagne still had plenty of lively bubbles in it and I wouldn’t dare say this was a flat wine. I liked the ’95 but still preferred the richer and fuller ’96.
The ’02 magnum was a whippersnapper compared to the previous two. Fresh and lively, a balanced wine with good fruit and acidity showing, notes of pineapple and citrus instead of peaches and pears, there was also the flavours and aromas of vanilla on the long finish with some fine and elegant bubbles to tickle the palate.
The magums and jeroboams are available only in limited quantities from selected stockist. I do know that the Belle Epoque range is available from London department stores, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Harrod’s amongst other fine retailers (prices available on request). Jeroboams are really just double magnums so if you’re planning a celebration, why not go for it. They look fantastic on the table and although they can be a bit on the heavy side, Neil didn’t seem to have much trouble pouring the champagne. He did, however, have to use both hands!