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Laurent-Perrier champagne defies the rules of nature

The brand’s Champagne maison presents a new vintage, which brings a generational change. Lucie Pereyra de Nonancourt, the founder’s oldest granddaughter, is now the head of the empire

Lucie Pereyra de Nonancourt
Lucie Pereyra de Nonancourt, the fourth generation of Laurent-Perrier, walks through the vineyards near Reims.Jordi Adrià

If the perfect vintage is but a fantasy that nature cannot provide, it is necessary to recreate it until the ultimate expression of champagne excellence is achieved. Laurent-Perrier does so with the creation of Grand Siècle, an ensemble of three exceptional harvests and the jewel in the Champagne brand’s crown. The winery is Champagne’s youngest, but it has the fourth-highest sales in the world.

Now, Lucie Pereyra de Nonancourt, the oldest granddaughter of the founder, has taken the reins of the empire to present a new iteration of the Grand Siècle, number 26. A good hostess, she receives EL PAÍS in the Laurent-Perrier house. She points out the site’s strategic location in Tours-sur-Marne, between the Montagne de Reims, the Vallèe de la Marne and the Cotè del Blancs, the three areas of the chardonnay grape, the pinot noir and the meunier. And she introduces us to the bowels of Laurent-Perrier, to the origin of the brand and its family tree, charged with a feminine presence, and its robust trunk, the backbone of a single man.

Inside the cellars filled with bottles of Grand Siècle.
Inside the cellars filled with bottles of Grand Siècle.Jordi Adrià

The great Bernard revolutionized the foundations of champagne with his visionary ideas, despite being completely unknown. The domain did not even originally belong to the De Nonancourt family. The maison was founded in 1812 by André Michel Pierlot and takes its current name from the cellar master Eugène Laurent and his wife, Matilde-Émile Perrier, who took it over in 1887. In 1939, on the eve of World War II, Lucie’s great-grandmother, Marie-Louise Lanson de Nonancourt, bought it. After his brother Maurice died in a concentration camp, Bernard joined the resistance and was later assigned to General Leclerc’s Second Armored Division.

The entrance to the Louvois Château.
The entrance to the Louvois Château.Jordi Adrià

Due to his knowledge of wine and its origins, De Nonancourt discovered the secret cellar that hid within the famous Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s Bavarian refuge. It contained tens of thousands of extremely valuable specimens, including wines, distillates and champagnes, including Salon, which he would fall in love with and acquire in 1987. Bernard had his destiny set before him, but to take the reins of Laurent-Perrier he had to start from the basics.

Guillaume Philippe, the maison’s sommelier, serves a glass of Grand Siècle.
Guillaume Philippe, the maison’s sommelier, serves a glass of Grand Siècle.Jordi Adrià

Laurent-Perrier was the antithesis of the tastes of the time, “which were more oxidative wines, more structured, more pinot noir, very sweet, mainly intended for desserts,” Lucie points out. He broke all the rules, turning the chardonnay grape into the epicenter of his wines, substituting oak barrels for stainless steel to avoid the oxygenation and lowering the sugar level “so that the champagne could be drunk throughout the meal,” explains his granddaughter.

The hall of the Louvois Château.
The hall of the Louvois Château.Jordi Adrià

It worked, but he needed something sublime to enter the club of prestigious cuvées. So why not use the art of assemblage but with three millésimé vintages? Fresh, delicate and elegant, Grand Siècle Iteration No. 1, a blend of the 1952, 1953 and 1955 vintages, was launched in 1959. “In 70 years we have only achieved 26 blends,” Lucie notes. Patience is the key.

Lucie Pereyra de Nonancourt, in a room at the château.
Lucie Pereyra de Nonancourt, in a room at the château.Jordi Adrià

Entering the winery evokes many sensations. The architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte has created 14 double-walled stainless steel tanks, which stand out with the overhead lights that only show the tasting bottles, in this case a Millésimé 2012 and a Grand-Siècle Iteration 26. Lucie leads a comparative tasting with Laurent-Perrier Millésimé 2012 (50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir). “What we want is to recreate not a style, but rather the typicity of the vintage,” she says. The legacy continues.

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