“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!”-Dom Pérignon
My sister and I are standing next to the door in our matching button down the back pants jumpsuits. Trays in hand loaded with coupes of champagne. We insist on helping. As guests arrive we give out champagne. There is a fountain in the dining room of this country home. Sometime during the party we decide we should refill the coupes for the guests. We circulate and get glasses. Not sure how we keep each glass belonging to each guest straight but it works out. About the third or fourth circulation of refilling we decide we want to taste this sparkling goodness. See what all the fuss is about. We love it. Then the refilling process becomes one for us and one for them. When no one sees us of course. We drink one and then refill. Drink one more and then refill another and so forth. We soon have a case of the giggles as we are getting a bit drunk and then suddenly have to pee. Abandoning our unofficial duties, we make our way down the hall to one of the bathrooms. Between the giggles, the shushing one another and the hold stills I can’t unbutton this button, we pee in our pants. Yup. We pee in our pants. We are now sitting on the floor in soiled jumpsuits and instead of giggles, we are laughing like hyenas. I think we are in the eight years to ten years old age range. Neither one of us remember. What we do remember is that we liked the champagne from the very first sip. That is how I first came to love champagne.
As for Laurent-Perrier, I can’t remember the exact circumstances that lead to our meeting and they do not matter to me now. All I know is that we met and now know each other and after hanging with some members of the Laurent-Perrier team last summer at Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival, I love it even more. Several months after observing the bubbles of a Laurent-Perrier Brut in my glass, I reach out to the Laurent-Perrier House and ask if they will answer some of my questions on the subject. They agree! I am beyond thrilled. So if you are like me and want to know how many bubbles are in your glass of champagne or how many grapes go into the the bottle of Laurent-Perrier or the type of lightbulbs used in the cellars of this 200 year old mostly women run Champagne House uses, you have come to the right place. Answers to these questions and more below. And the next time you reach for the bottle of Laurent Perrier, pop that cork, and consume those bubbles you will have a new appreciate with every sip! I certainly do.
**** photos taken by me with the iPhone or the Nikon. All different times and different bottles. Research was fun too! See the photos of some other champagnes I also tasted and met..
Me: I read for Grand Siècle three years are selected. One for structure, one for finesse and one for freshness. Could you please explain a little bit about each of these characteristics? What does good structure for champagne mean? Finesse and freshness? how much of each and which grapes carry each characteristic that may go into this wine?
LP: All Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are Grand Cru and are selected from certain parcels within the vineyards that are known to match Laurent-Perrier’s style. But in certain vintages, one particular style characteristic may be more accentuated. When blending the three vintages for Grand Siecle, we choose one vintage that favors structure, one for finesse, and one for freshness. Structure refers to the balance of acidity of the wine and relates to its ability to age for an extended period in our cellars, and even after disgorging. Finesse underlines the delicateness and elegance, as well as the complexity of aromas. Freshness describes the vibrancy of the wine that even after long ageing ensures that it’s still lively on the palate and on the nose.
Me: If you could serve any style from your portfolio to anyone, which would it be, who would you choose and what would you want to eat with this style?
LP: We would serve our Grand Siècle to Charles De Gaulle. He helped the Laurent-Perrier House choose the name of the wine, so it is only fitting that we share a glass with him! We would pair the champagne with a forest truffle chicken.
Me: How did it all begin for the Laurent Perrier house?
LP: It is a long 200 years old story. Please see all details at:
Me: Please describe a bit about the style of champagne in your portfolios..
LP: While all our champagnes are different, they are all crafted in line with our House style of freshness and elegance.
Me: How many bubbles are in a glass of Laurent Perrier?
LP: Roughly one million, although we’ve never counted. We’ve never been able to keep ourselves from drinking the glass of LP long enough to count…
Me: Approximately, how many calories per glass of champagne?
LP: It depends of the style of the champagne- it can vary from 60 for our Ultra Brut to 150 calories for our Demi-Sec. Most glasses of champagne, like LP Rosé, have about 100.
Me: What does Brut mean?
LP: It describes the sugar level in the wine. Namely, the added sugar has to be between 6 and 12 grams of sugar per liter.
Me: Why is rose champagne more expensive than brut?
LP: That really depends – every champagne House makes its Rosé differently. At Laurent-Perrier we make our Rosé through a maceration process, using only Grand Cru Pinot Noir grapes. We also age our Rosé for a minimum of 5 years in the bottle, even though the legal minimum is only 15 months.
Me: What is the most popular champagne in your house?
LP: Our La Cuvée Brut NV is the most popular but our Rosé is catching up!
Me: Who is your biggest competitor? One in your house and/or from another company?
LP: We have different competitors for each of our champagnes. They vary categorically.
Me: How many grapes does it take (approximately) to make one bottle of champagne?
LP: It varies- between 350 and 500 grapes.
Me: How long does it take to make one bottle of champagne?
LP: It depends of the style, and champagne House but at Laurent-Perrier it takes us between 3 and 15 years to have a fully aged, ready to drink champagne, that embodies the style and quality of the House.
Me: Please describe each grape and flavor profile of each usually found in champagne. Who and how were these grapes decided?
LP: Most champagnes use exclusively Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. They all have different flavor profiles depending of where they are sourced. Generally speaking Chardonnay will bring acidity and structure, Pinot Noir strength and body while Meunier will add fruitiness in the short term.
Me: What is a blanc de blanc?
LP: It is a champagne made exclusively from white grapes.
Me: What does cru mean?
LP: A cru is a vineyard within a village in Champagne.
Me: What does Grand Cru mean?
LP: Grand Cru refers to the highest classified vineyards rated 100% quality on the historical scale used in Champagne called the “echelle des crus”.
Me: How do you ferment your champagne? Steel? Oak barrels?
LP: We use only in stainless steel tanks! We were actually one of the first Houses to introduce stainless steel to the region. It guarantees a fresh, clean, and vibrant champagne that allows the flavors of the grapes – not of the barrel – to shine through.
Me: What is malolactic conversion?
LP: It is a natural process that transforms malic acid into lactic acid. It brings creaminess to the wine.
Me: Do you get the same quality of wine from a split bottle of champagne as a magnum?
LP: It depends of the House. At Laurent-Perrier the wine in splits are first aged in magnums and then transferred into the splits and finished in a screwcap. The quality is almost completely retained.
Me: Are your bottles riddled by hand or by machine?
Me: If by machine, when and why did this start?
LP: We use gyropalettes for certain of our champagnes as they are safer, and more precise. These have been the standard in champagne for decades.
Me: What does it mean if a champagne is vintage?
LP: It means that the wine has to come from grapes harvested the same year. For example, a vintage 2008 will only have grapes that were picked in 2008.
Me: How many do you have?
LP: Only one at a given time. We are launching our new vintage 2008 very soon.
Me: Do you have designated champagne tasters to see the process of each style?
Me: Who are they, if yes?
LP: We have plenty on our wine making team. We cannot share their names. However the person in charge of this process is our Chef de Cave, Michel Fauconnet. He has been with us since 1973 so he really knows what to look for when he tastes.
Me: What does the term dosage mean?
LP: It refers to the amount of sugar added after disgorgement.
Me: What does appellation signify on a champagne label?
LP: It refers to the area in which the grapes were grown, how they were grown, and how the grapes were made into wine. Each appellation has its own set of strict regulations regarding these processes. For example, in the appellation of Champagne, all grapes must be hand harvested and no irrigation is allowed.
Me: What is Millard reaction?
LP: It is a reaction within each bottle of champagne that gives wine flavors of toast and vanilla. This only occurs after many years of cellar aging on the lees.
Me: Where do you get your grapes? Do you grow your own?
LP: We own vineyards that supply 10% of the grapes we need to make our champagnes. We buy the rest from Champagne growers with whom we have long term partnerships.
Me: How do you organize your wine while processing? Village?
LP: We organize it by grape, cru and vintage.
Me: What makes champagne, champagne? It can’t be champagne if it’s not from Champagne, right? And then the method for production is also very specific, right?
Method traditional. Will you please explain?
LP: That’s exactly right! For a wine to be called “Champagne” it has to be made from Champagne grapes in the methode champenoise.
Me: What is traditional method?
LP: The traditional method is the way all champagnes have to be made. It is very complex and lengthy but it guarantees the best quality of wine. The term “methode champenoise” can only be used by champagne producers while the term “traditional method” can be used by any sparkling wine following the specific rules of champagne.
Me: How does this method differ from other sparkling wines like Jura, Cava, Prosecco, etc? Is it true that Crémant is produced in the similar method?
LP: The key difference in methode champenoise is that secondary fermentation – when the champagne gets it bubble – must occur in the bottle in which the champagne is sold. That’s different from, say, prosecco, which gets bubbly in a giant tank and is then transferred to bottles. Cava uses methode champenoise; for Jura it depends on the specific wine.
Me: What are other rules of making champagne?
LP: Every step of the winemaking and grapegrowing process, from planting, to pressing and aging and everything in between.
Me: How long have some of these rules been in place?
LP: Champagne became an AOC in 1936. That was the first time the entire region adopted a large body of rules.
Me: Who decides these rules? These rules of wine making?
LP: The appellation of Champagne is governed by two organizations: the INAO and the CIVC.
Me: What is the reason or occasions of traditional sabering?
LP: It is a fun (and dangerous) way to open a bottle of champagne. It originates from the Napoleonic armies.
Me: Should your champagne be store on its side or stand up?
LP: Always lying down, in a cool, dry, shaded area.
Me: Does the shape of the bottle matter for the style of champagne? Color of the bottle?
LP: They do not. Most champagne producers will use a dark green glass bottle to protect the wine from the sun. Clear glass risks damaging the wine inside.
Me: Do bubbles, texture decrease over time?
LP: Over time, bubbles refine, texture evolves.
Me: What is the temperature for making champagne?
LP: Not sure what you mean by this – there are different temperatures at different points of the production process.
Me: What is the ideal temperature for storing champagne ?
LP: It depends on the champagne but generally between 50 and 54 degrees Fahrenheit. The most important thing is that the temperature remains consistent.
Me: What is the ideal temperature for serving champagne?
LP: It depends on the champagne but generally between 46 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Me: Do you add any liqueur to your final fermentation process?
LP: We had a liqueur de tirage to stimulate a secondary fermentation. We then add a liqueur d’expedition which contains the dosage.
Me: Please explain the macération process for your wines?
LP: Rosé in Champagne is made by assemblage (adding still red wine), saignée (using only free-run juice), or maceration. Laurent-Perrier follows its own maceration technique:
1. Pinot Noir from 10 grand crus is harvested by hand into small baskets and brought to our press house in Tours-sur-Marne used exclusively for Rosé.
2. The grapes are hand-sorted and then placed in a destemmer whichseparates each berry from the grape cluster. This is unusual as the vast majority of grapes in Champagne are whole-cluster pressed.
3. The grape berries are placed in a stainless steel maceration vat. Only grapeberries picked at the same time from the same cru are placed in the vat.
4. Temperature-controlled maceration (cold soak) takes place for 48-72 hours,with free-run juice being pumped over the cap every 8 hours.
5. After maceration, the free-run juice is removed from the vat and placed in afermentation tank.
6. After primary fermentation is complete, base wines are selected for the finalblend.
LP uses this maceration process for our Rosé because it results inmaximum aromatic intensity, vivacity, and freshnessas well as our intense and distinctive deep pink color.
Me: What foods pair best with champagne?
It depends vastly on the champagne style and house. Below three specific Laurent-Perrier pairings:
-La Cuvée Brut NV with every day food like cheese risottos, broccoli pasta etc.
-Cuvée Rosé with salmon, duck, Asian dishes or pizza.
-Grand Siècle with elevated dishes such as truffled chicken, caviar or delicate white fish.
Me: The cuvée rose is crafted for fragrance not color. Could you please explain what that means?
LP: This means that we do not make our Rosé to look pink- rather we make it to match a particular taste and it turns pink in the process. Others just add red wine to their champagne for the color.
Me: What is one thing about your brand you would like us to know that isn’t on your website?
LP: We are the largest female run and family run house in Champagne!
Me: How do you hire your staff?
LP: We hire our staff based on their skill set, and propensity to adhere to Laurent-Perrier’s culture of quality and honesty.
Me: How do you hire workers for picking? What type of fertilizer is used?
LP: We hire seasonal workers every harvest that are specialized in picking grapes.
Me: We use a very low amount of fertilizers and they are all natural.
Me: How often are your wines checked?
LP: Every day.
Me: How many bottles are usually in your cellars at one time?
LP: Several million bottles.
Me: What type/wattage of lightbulbs are used in your cellars?
LP: We use sodium lighting in the cellars when needed so as to not damage our wines.
Me: What is an optimal beyond perfect conditions for producing champagne?
LP: The Champagne region’s climate, soil and grapes – essentially, our terroir. A long mild growing season with lots of sun helps too.
Me: Do you have a comment on the latest claim that champagne is good for preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s?
LP: It has not yet been scientifically proven. We’ll leave the research to the capable scientists.
Me: Please confirm that champagne is lower case and the region is upper case when being used in the middle of a sentence?
LP: Confirmed – that is what we prefer, however most people use their own rules. Until everyone understands that Champagne only comes from Champagne, we prefer the proper noun capitalization.
Me: Ideally, what is the best glass for serving champagne? Coupe? White wine?
LP: Tulip shape glass is ideal to concentrate the aromas.
Me: Why do so many people drink in flutes? When did that come about for champagne?
LP: Flutes became popular in the 18th century. They are popular as they are only used for champagne and retain as many bubbles as possible.
Research and Development
Until Next Time…