Jean-Claude Fourmon – president of the fourth-generation family-owned Joseph Perrier in Châlons-en-Champagne – doesn’t seem at all deterred by the fact that, in the U.S., his brand is probably best known as “that other Perrier” that not-as-many people have tasted.
He’s quick with amusing witticisms, bordering on platitudes if not for his fantastic delivery; things like, “a day without Champagne is very sad” (truer words were never spoken, I suppose), “we all know that Prosecco is a poison” (definitely not true, but funny), “grapes, blend, and dosage make all the difference, the rest is fantasy” (refreshingly honest), and “‘Can I have another glass?’ That is how I measure success!” (not a bad watermark, methinks).
Now, if he were less affable, he might be a bit more worried about the fact that, since they export seventy-five percent of their production, having a lower profile in one of the world’s largest wine markets isn’t ideal. But Fourmon seems to think that history will prevail.
After all, Joseph Perrier has the Champagne traditions that wine geeks love: along with multi-generational family ownership, there’s multi-generational grape-growing supply agreements, multi-generational cellarmasters, equipment that’s reminiscent of a working museum, and a history that puts the brand in lock-step with the better-known Champers houses (in the early twentieth century, they shared the region’s first paper label with those other brands – only the brand names was changed on each at the time)…
Then there are the tidbits that can only come from Champers: the brand was one of Queen Victoria’s faves, and was poured on the inaugural flight of the Concorde. To top it off, JP have one of the more impressive caves of Champagne, they kind that you imagine when you dream of visiting the area: the galleries are Gallo-Roman, cut ten feet high for stability, employ an ingenious system for reflecting ambient sunlight, and still bear the tool marks of the Gauls who carved the original spaces.
In other words, if the wines are decent, then wine geeks ought to be eating this sh*t up in mouth-filling handfuls.
Well, gobble up, peeps, because the bubbly is more than decent.
NV Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut (Champagne, $50)
“Champagne should be easy to drink,” Fourmon mused when I visited, and if any of the JP wines has that marching order, it’s this crowd-pleasing Brut. Three years on the lees, split almost evenly between Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and a reserve wine that can stem up to twenty vintages. Yeasty but delicate, the combo of pear, apple, stone, and flowers is immediately appealing. The finish is lemony and long, contrasting nicely with that toasty entry. Balanced like a funambulist.
NV Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut BLanc de Blancs (Champagne, $50)
15% reserve wine, which the 100% Chardonnay allows to come through more in a more prevalent manner, with toast and bruised apple fruits accompanying the white flower arrangement on the nose. Lost of finesse here, and a nice tension between creaminess and fresh-apple crispness on the palate. The finish is long, linear, and chalky. The kind of Champers you get blitzed off of, because it’s way too easy to gulp down.
2005 Joseph Perrier Cuvée Speciale Rosé Brut (Châlons-en-Champagne, $75)
Half Chardonnay, almost half Pinot Noir, and a smattering of Meunier. Tart red berry fruits that start to get juicier and juicier as it goes down… There’s awesome minerality action and a fantastic focus to this rosé, that all eventually leads to earthy, savory notes. This had maybe my favorite mousse of the JP tasting lineup, not too delicate, not too aggressive, and all class.
2004 Joseph Perrier Cuvée Josephine (Châlons-en-Champagne, $140)
I got the impression that Fourmon is absolutely giddy over this wine; one of the stars of their collection, for sure. Speaking of the image of the wine’s namesake on the capsule, he had this to say: “she’s much nicer-looking than the widow Clicquot!” (I’ll leave it to you to read into that what you will). An almost equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, sourced entirely from Premier and Grand Cru vineyards. For an “ok” vintage, JP has crafted a stunner of a bubbly here. There’s a lot going on with the nose on this beauty, but I found its spiciness to be the most intriguing characteristic. Texturally, this is the kind of sparkler that fascinates; lithe, and linear, but not lacking in gravitas, either. The word “wow” appeared a few times in my tasting notes; there’s nary a crack in this fine porcelain display.
2008 Joseph Perrier Cuvée Blanc de Noir (Champagne, $70)
Speaking of crafting this wine, Fourmon explained that “you have to take care of it, as milk on the fire.” I’m still not sure exactly what was meant by that, but I if attention to detail is the virtue, this kind of wine is the payoff for adhering to it. This is a new, zero-dosage, micro-cuvée-style single-vineyard release that’s floral (of course!), with raspberry and strawberry nuances that are followed by clay. It’s a very interesting, geeky Champagne nose. The palate is sharp and linear, structured and earthy, finishing with tart red fruit as if spread on toast. Hipsters will lose their sh*t over it.
3 thoughts on “That *Other* Perrier (Joseph Perrier Champagne Recent Releases)”
I only discovered Joseph Perrier last year and would say it’s now my favourite Champagne house if we’re considering not only taste but value for money as well. Few can rival them for consistency in the mid-price bracket and the only one who I think does is Drappier.
I’ve always massively enjoyed Joseph Perrier champagnes but have had plenty of indifferent Champagnes from all the major houses – Moet, Veuve, Bollinger. Lanson and Taittinger.
The Joseph Perrier NV is fabulous, the Blanc de Blancs are brilliant, the Roses are lovely (particularly the 2002 vintage which is definitely better than the 04) but the Josephine Cuvee is absolutely mesmerising and my favourite. I’ve had 3 vintages – 2004, 2002 and a 1998. The 1998 was probably the star of the show – wonderfully delicate but an enormous amount of spice presented itself when it warmed up. Having said that, the 2004 and 2002 vintages were magnificent. I slightly preferred the 2004 even though most wine experts prefer the 2002 – I just thought it surprisingly had even more delicacy and finesse.
All 3 vintages were miles better than a 2003 Dom Perignon I had recently and even better than a 2004 Dom in my opinion.
Joseph Perrier is definitely underrated and I’d much rather have a Joseph Perrier 2002 Rose or 2004 Rose to Laurent Perrier’s Rose. Way more finesse and delicacy. In fact, I’d go as far as saying the Roses are both better than Billecart-Salmon’s Rose NV and that’s high praise indeed!
Wow, James, do you work for JP? ;-) I agree with you that the wines are uniformly stellar and in some cases truly exceptional. I doubt that they’ll remain in under-the-radar status in the USA much longer. Cheers!
I wish I either worked for Joseph Perrier or had a continuous supply of wine from them but that would be dangerous for my health and probably my finances. ;-)
You’d be surprised by how many people have not heard of Joseph Perrier tbh – even wine/champagne buffs. I had a long, detailed conversation with someone who used to work at Kettners about Champagne and he’d never heard of JP.
Like I said, I was blissfully unaware of JP until last year but now default to it whenever I can – along with Drappier. I’m really pleased I’ve found them – great champagne at a reasonable price. Even the Josephine cuvee is great value for what it is. I prefer it to the entry level Dom Perignon vintages tbh.
My view is that JP need to market themselves better particularly if they want to break the USA. To my knowledge, only the UK arm has a Twitter account. Not even sure they have Facebook, Instagram or a presence on any other social networks.
Look at what Jay Z/good marketing did for Cattier and their Armand de Brignac brand. A nice enough wine but far from exceptional and incredibly expensive for what it is.
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