Founded in 1811, Epernay-based Perrier-Jouët has always taken a progressive, forward-thinking approach to the art of winemaking. That tack has enabled the house to uphold the highest traditional standards of the Champagne region while setting some new standards of its own. In 1858, for instance, the company became the first house to produce a vintage Champagne, establishing a precedent that eventually expanded other houses’ offerings, which previously were confined to blended, nonvintage wines. Perrier-Jouët also created what is arguably the world’s most recognizable Champagne bottle, a container bearing the Japanese-influenced enameled anemone motif conceived in 1902 by Art Nouveau artist Emile Gallé. The design had been forgotten until 1964, when it was rediscovered in the Perrier-Jouët cellars. In 1969 the company reintroduced the Gallé bottle with the release of its tête-de-cuvée, Fleur de Champagne (known outside the United States as Belle Époque).
If my notes on the past several vintages are any indication, Perrier-Jouët continues to excel, making appreciable strides in quality—good news to those for whom the lovely and collectible bottle is reason enough to purchase Fleur de Champagne. As one might expect with any great Champagne, laying any of these bottles down for several more years will only improve their contents further and enhance one’s enjoyment once the cork is finally popped.
Cellar master Hervé Deschamps insists the Fleur de Champagne Rosé ($300) be a Chardonnay-dominated wine, with grapes sourced from grand crus in the Côte des Blancs; he uses Pinot Noir and a touch of Pinot Meunier only to provide color and structure without giving the wine an overly tannic character. The 2002 vintage is lush and fresh, offering tantalizing notes of vanilla that flirt with the bright berry fruit. Clean, long, and elegant, with a vibrant and persistent bead, this timeless expression of Champagne is sparklingly sophisticated.
Perrier-Jouët, +188.8.131.52.38.10, www.perrier-jouet.com