Saturday, December 26, 2020

Laurent Perrier La Cuvée Grand Siècle Brut NV Champagne

Laurent Perrier La Cuvée Grand Siècle Grand Grand Cru Brut NV Champagne

We took this to Erin and Johnny's for Christmas Day gathering. There's always room for Champagne, especially special occasions and family holiday gatherings, so I took this special bottle from our cellar collection that we have been holding for quite a while. I recall this included in the blend wine from at least one of the kids' birth years. 

This is Laurent-Perrier's prestige cuvée that is a non-vintage blending from Laurent-Perrier's very best growths and most successful vintage years. Laurent-Perrier has always preferred to keep its prestige cuvée as a non-vintage blend to which they apply four rules:

  • Blending of a selection of 3 exceptional years, chosen from the rare vintages produced by Laurent-Perrier.
  • Blending of a selection of 11 of the 17 existing Grand Crus in Champagne, whose characteristics are specific to the Laurent-Perrier style.
  • A blend made from a base year (the youngest) and 2 additional years in order to reach an ideal balance and to perpetuate this style with each iteration.
  • A blend with a majority of Chardonnay supplemented by Pinot Noir and benefiting from more than 10 years of aging in the Cellars.

In the 17th Century, during the reign of Louis XIV, France enjoyed its most illustrious era. Louis XIV became known as the "Sun King" for his benevolence and his patronage of the Arts, which became the foundation of France's rich artistic heritage. At the Palace of Versailles Louis XIV was the first French King to drink Champagne in the Royal Court.

Louis XIV's era became known as the Grand Siècle - the "Great Century". Bottled in a replica of a 17th Century bottle, Laurent-Perrier's prestige cuvées "embody luxury, magnificence and elegance fit for a king".

Alec and Linda, Champagne 2006

The NV Grand Siècle Grande Cuvée is a Grand Cru Brut based on the firm's top selection, the only Cuvée de Prestige in Champagne based on the blend and not on the vintage. Grand Siècle is not a vintage wine. Each iteration is numbered, much more rarely than vintage years in Champagne. 

Only 24 iterations have been produced in 65 years compared to the 45 vintages declared over the same period.

Grand Siècle is sourced from twelve of the most prestigious villages' vineyards; all of them classified at 100% Grands Crus. From vineyards of these villages, only the very best plots are selected, and the finest musts from the pressings; Chardonnay 55% percent of the blend, from Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger; and Pinot Noir, 45%, from Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvois, Mailly, Tours-sur-Marne and Verzenay.

We toured many of these villages and the surrounding vineyards during our Champagne Wine Experience region tour in 2006

The first Grand Siècle cuvée was unveiled by Laurent-Perrier in 1959. Each release is a blend of recent three declared vintages; one was released consisting of 2006, 2004, and 2002, another was a blend of the 2002, 1999 and 1998, another release was from the '99, '97 and '96 vintages. But, I am certain we've had this for nearly a decade longer and recall it included the 1990 vintage, birth year of son, Alec. Alas, my cellar records fail me on the provenance of this label further indicating I acquired it before my current record keeping systems were in place. 

The 1990 vintage was included in three releases, Iteration 15 ('90, '88, and '85), Iteration 16 ('93, 90 and 88) and Iteration 17 ('95, 93, 90).  Hence, my recollection is it is one of these three, however, I thought the bottles I purchased back on release contained at least two our kids' birth-years which would've been Iteration 15. This is the last remaining bottle of a half dozen we consumed over the years. C'est la vie.

The current release of Grand Siècle is Iteration 24 and consists of vintages 2007, '06 and '04.

The NV declarations make it difficult to track which release is which after an extended time but another release of this label got 97 points from Wine Enthusiast and a 'Cellar Selection' designation, 95 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 93 points from Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar.

This or a similar label got 95 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 93 points from Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, and 90 points from Wine & Spirits.

While showing its age and possibly past its apex, certainly not likely to improve further with aging, this showed great character and a distinctive profile. Honey colored, (having darkened with age from straw then butter colored), medium bodied, complex, full predominant notes of smokiness combined with nutty pecan tones gave way to hints of pain-grille and caramel and dried pear with a smooth luxuriously balanced finish. 

RM 91 points.

This had remnant of the profile it showed in its youth as written by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, "It is pure, ripe and very elegant, mixing pain-aux-raisin and honey flavors with pure chalk. Ample, highly elegant, beautifully matured and fruit-intense, with fine caramel, honey and torrone flavors, this is a well-structured Grand Siècle with great finesse and delicate freshness. Awesome."

Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar back in 2016 mentions the smokiness twice, on the main palate and again on the finish ... "A heady, mineral-tinged bouquet evokes dried pear, buttery brioche, lemon curd and anise, plus a smoky topnote. Chewy and expansive on the palate, offering concentrated orchard and pit fruit flavors and a touch of bitter quinine. The smoky note repeats on the finish, which shows impressive clarity and mineral-driven persistence."