By Kimberly McDonald
You gotta figure that anyone who has been in business for nearly 200 years really knows what they’re doing, right? So you know the folks at Laurent-Perrier are the definitive when it comes to French Champagne. After all, it was in 1812 that they produced their first House Champagne. Today the label is synonymous with excellence…but do you know which Laurent Perrier champagne is right for you? For the sake of journalistic integrity, I sacrificed and went on a little taste test, so that you–devoted and loyal readers–will know what to expect from the Laurent Perrier Champagne you choose this holiday season (and beyond).
Beginning with the Demi-Sec. From my highschool French and a couple of years spent living in Paris (more years ago than I care to admit to) the very name of this Champagne says it all. Sec means dry and demi…means some version of small…and the name fits. This is a not-too-dry, perfect for dessert Champagne. The taste is rich and creamy and you will definitely detect some honey and fruit while drinking it. If you’re not a big fan of super-dry Bruts, this is the Champagne for you.
Moving on to the Cuvée Rosé Brut. Well, it’s Pink…and I love Pink. This has always been one of my very favorite Pink Champagnes. The reason? It tastes amazing. Seriously…try it. They use 100% Pinot Noir grapes with the skins on (this gives it the oh so pretty pinkish hue). Some lesser Champagne/sparkling wine makers just blend red and white wines to make their pinks…but not the masters. They know that taking their time and doing it right results in…well, perfection. The Cuvée Rosé Brut goes very well with anything from fish to duck and is special enough to stand on its own as the perfect apèritif. If you enjoy fruity (strawberryish) tasting Champagne that is not too dry but definitely not sweet…you can’t go wrong here. Plus…did I mention that it’s Pink?
Ever heard that wine and Champagne from the even years are superior (as a generalization) to those of the odd years? Well, I have. As one who avoids generalizations…I’ve never paid much attention to those rules. The Brut Millésime 1996 might have changed my mind. In all fairness, I didn’t taste the 1995 vintage, but the 1996 was superb. Made with a mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, the taste is so pleasant and light. It goes well with poultry and fish and would be an excellent choice for a hostess gift for Holiday parties. It is the quintessential “can’t go wrong here” Champagne.
The Brut L-P is the line’s “House Champagne”. Blending three varieties of grape: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. An ideal apèritif Champagne that also works well with light fare and hors d’oeuvres. The best word I can come up with to describe this Champagne is Flirty. Weird, I know…but it’s true. It is subtle but not bland. It is bubbly. It is fresh. I think this particular vintage is also a good choice to use for mixing Champagne cocktails and mimosas.
The Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut is a variety of Champagne that, typically, I would say is not for everyone…yet it is one of the most versatile. Mixing again the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (a bit more of the Chardonnay) and no added sugar after the fermentation process (bustin’ out some technical wine talk for you here–impressed?) this is an old school Champagne and Laurent Perrier is one of the last Champagne houses to still produce it. I understand it is one of the most difficult Champagnes to produce as well. The taste: Pure. This is the Champagne I want to drink when I’m sitting under a cabana at the beach, or poolside in St Tropez. This is the Champagne I would choose for oysters or sushi. I recommend that you try this at least once…just to know what really dry Champagne is, at its finest.
The last Champagne in the Laurent Perrier family is the Grand Siècle. This is their Prestige Cuvée and as much as I love my Cuvée Rosé Brut, this one rivals it for pure enjoyment. This is Champagne Craftsmenship. Apparently to make the Grand Siècle there has to be a blend of the most prestigious growths and exceptional vintages. Now, I’m no aficionado…but I know what I like, and I like this Champagne. It is voluptuous, golden, rich (not sweet). I also like the Laurent Perrier adage that “Grand Siècle is made for women and those who love them”. If you consider the delicious Brut L-P as Flirty, the Grand Siècle is downright Seductive. They have also just launched a new label and box (which features a calla lilly that was photographed by Jean-Baptiste Huynh–well known artist).
The Laurent Perrier tradition of excellence continues. Hopefully I’ve given you enough here to fool your friends into thinking you’ve become a sommelier in your spare time (yeah…that’s why you haven’t been at the gym much lately…wink wink). Whatever the occasion, the Laurent Perrier family has a Champagne to help you celebrate it. If you are unable to locate any of these Champagnes, you can email the folks at Laurent Perrier and they’ll help you find one of their retailers. Their contact email address is [email protected]