To launch the new Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Itération No 25, the Champagne house’s Lucie Pereyre de Nonancourt chose London’s Elystan Street restaurant where Michelin-starred chef Philip Howard and David Hesketh MW presented the new multi-vintage cuvée alongside a paired tasting menu and earlier iterations of Grand Siècle. Victor Smart took one for the team to find out how this stunning new cuvée was born and the guiding winemaking principles behind it.
“Each of the Grand Siècles are shifting from a bright, celebratory drink to a much more subtle, multi-layered experience a bit more comparable to a top-flight white Burgundy,” writes Smart about the new Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Itération No 25.
Once, the precise vintages that went into Laurent-Perrier’s prestige cuvée was more or less a secret. The quest then was for consistency. The idea was that each iteration of the Grand Siècle would display the distinct house style so well that the consumer would be blithely unaware when new vintages were insinuated into the blend over the years.
Now that provenance is everything all that has changed. Indeed Laurent-Perrier has invited us along to the Elystan Street restaurant off London’s King’s Road not simply to get acquainted with the just-released Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Itération No 25 (12% abv retail £180 a bottle) but also to spot the subtle differences with earlier offerings.
Before we get down to taste we have a chance to chat with Michelin-starred chef Philip Howard and David Hesketh MW, who is in effect the Grand Siècle brand ambassador. Both are mad-keen cyclists. We also meet our host, Lucie Pereyre de Nonancourt, whose family has owned Laurent-Perrier for four generations.
On arrival we’re handed a glass of Laurent-Perrier Vintage 2008 (12% abv retail £54 a bottle), a good benchmark for the vertical tasting of Grand Siècles to follow. This is to comprise four iterations each going back 20 years, each a blend from three vintages. The new Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Itération No 25 is drawn from the years 2008 (65%), 2007 (25%) and 2006 (10%) and the dosage is 7g per litre.
Pereyre explains that there are three principles that the Laurent-Perrier cellar master have to abide by when making the Grand Siècle: that three exceptional and complementary years are to be blended together; this blend should be Chardonnay-dominant with a supplement of Pinot Noir selected among 11 of the 17 Grands Crus in Champagne; and it should be blend benefitting from more than 10 years ageing in the cellars. ‘Only the art of assemblage can offer the perfect year,’ says the firm rather portentously.
In the case of Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Itération No 25 the blend comprises 60% Chardonnay, the rest Pinot Noir. The blend comes from nine of the 17 Grands Crus and the wine has been aged for 12 years on the lees.
So how was Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Itération No 25 tasting?
The difference from the 2008 single vintage is clear. The Grand Siècle no.25 has all the same freshness, vivacity and persistency but far more aromatic complexity – “multi-layered with more dimensions as the vision of my grandfather demanded,” explains Pereyre. With a glorious white/ gold colour, there’s citrus fruits on the nose and hints of apricot on the palate.
We’re now asked to compare with the earlier iterations, commencing with Itération 24, roughly a couple of years older. One distinguished writer sees more similarity than difference; another sees a marked difference, detecting the scent of rain on dry earth in one offering.
As we move back in time to Itérations 23 and 22 (the latter taking us back to the turn of the century), the differences do become more obvious to me. But clearly, there is endless scope for debate here .
Meanwhile, for the obsessively discerning drinker things don’t quite stop here. First, each iteration goes into both individual bottles and then magnums – Laurent-Perrier releases the latter last. Also each iteration is ageing year by year. So a single iteration is forever undergoing vanishingly small transformations.
The food arrives immaculately presented. To start are gougères with truffle, followed by a stunning pasta dish, strozzapreti with morels (the acidity of the wine working very nicely here with the richness of the food) and then a main course of turbot with white asparagus and sea beet. We conclude with a dish entitled “Milk Many Way with rhubarb“ – a sort of mousse affair with about four different forms of milk, including dehydrated.
As the meal winds down, something interesting happens. The chill starts to go from the wines, the bubbles moderate and the flavours open up even more. Each of the Grand Siècles are shifting from a bright, celebratory drink to a much more subtle, multi-layered experience a bit more comparable to a top-flight white Burgundy. As “we are a house built on chardonnay”, to Hesketh this is no surprise And he gives this advice to the perfectionist: open a bottle of the cuvée prestige at 8 degrees and drink while it gradually warms to 14 degrees. A great way to savour the arc traced from a brilliant fizz to an oh-so subtle still.
Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Itération No 25 is brilliant in character with a white gold colour. An intense nose of fresh citrus fruits followed by subtle aromas of grilled almonds and brioche. The wine has a fresh and toasted attack. The finish is persistent with notes of citrus fruit. Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Itération No 25 has exceptional aromatic depth.