Confused by the Champagne shelf? Me too. Prestigious-sounding names blur together. Navigating the cursive fonts, French, shiny labels, crests, colors, and high prices might send you to Prosecco.
Stop. New Year’s Eve is near. Do not succumb to the baby blue cheapness of LaMarca or mimosa-mandated Mionetto. Stick with me. You can still pop open affordable Champagne without going for Nicolas Feuillatte. Let us hone in on options from a no nonsense Champagne house that will not disappoint: Laurent-Perrier.
Here are some tid bits to charm your guests or partner(s) with. Laurent-Perrier began in 1812 by a cooper and bottler, while Napoleon attacked Russia and the British went to war, again, with America. But women really kept it alive. By the 1880s, widow Mathilde Perrier pulled off what Veuve Clicquot did a generation ago, and turned LP into one of Champagne’s esteemed houses. Eugenie took over in 1925, then sold it to Marie-Louise Nonancourt in 1939.
WWII nearly destroyed them. Marie-Louise lost her son and heir to a concentration camp. She mortgaged 1,000 hidden cases. Luckily, son Bernard de Nonancourt, a member of the Resistance, survived. He turned LP into Champagne’s third largest house by his retirement in 2005. Now his daughters Alexandria and Stephanie head it, making Laurent-Perrier Champagne’s largest family operated house.
BRUT Non- Vintage: $40
Big house Champagnes can either be great and expensive or mediocre and cheap. They rarely manage affordability and quality. So it’s risky that LP typically lets Chardonnay dominates their house blend: at 50%, backed by 35% Pinot Noir, and 15% Meunier. Also, sugar dosage is low at eight grams. So much Chardonnay and low dosage would terrorize your palate with acidity. However, LP counters this with 20% reserve wine and waits a minimum of three whole years on lees.
What you get for $40 is an impeccable balance of poached white pear fruit, lemon rind acidity, and fluffy white baguette core that carry for a medium length. LP’s Brut is light, lively, and lovely (4 of 5). It will please most as a New Year’s Eve toast, but would taste pleasant with white, light seafoods and french fries.
BRUT ULTRA Non-Vintage $60
Impress your inner wine geek with Ultra Brut. Bernard Nonancourt re-invented no-dosage Champagne in the 1980s, after two hundred years of sickly sweet fizz. Think of it as sugar free Coke, actually, don’t.
To compensate, LP waits for riper grapes from 15 villages, blends 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, and then ages it at least four years. That time on lees mellows out the enamel etching acidity. Instead, you get gloriously delicate white fruit and flower aromas, a taut palate that races with acidity and granny smith apple flavors, chalk, yet showcasing toasted biscuit and smoke. It lacks LP Brut’s seamlessness, but is serious, food hungry bubbly, if a bit two-sided: yeasty yet citric. Very good (4 of 5). Tame this with fat, Belgian fries, scallops, even foie gras if you dare.
Cuvée Rosé Non Vintage $85
LP brought back Rosé in 1968 with a retro bottle harkening back to their 1812 birth. Pinot Noir is the only grape. It comes from OCD harvesting and sorting in only 10 villages around Bouzy. Most pink Champagnes add still Pinot for color. But LP makes its rosé like a red wine with a three day maceration of skins for color. Secondary fermentation takes four years minimum like the Brut Ultra.
Aromas and flavors bounce with cranberry, raspberry, orange peal, and chalk. A whiff of almond and vanilla calm it slightly thank to all that lees time. But LP’s rosé will own your palate. It is complex, refreshing, and outstanding stuff (5 of 5).
Pairings can range anywhere from sushi to grilled fish, to prosciutto, even foul, steak, raspberry tarts, and Chinese sweet and sour dishes would work. I would avoid spicy dishes though.
Demi-Sec NV $40
Ah, the much forgotten Demi-Sec. The vineyards, blend, and aging match the Brut. However, 40 grams of sugar get dosed into every liter. But this is Champagne. Acid is our friend. Their Demi-Sec is refreshing and satisfying like a perfect lemon tart. Honestly, skip desert and drink this. Now you can pair Champagne with spicy Thai, Indian, Korean, or Chinese foods. Very good 4 of 5.
So, this New Year’s Eve support a house run mostly by women even today. The Brut will please all. The Brut Ultra will impress your geeks. The Cuvée Rosé will change your life. And the Demi-Sec will replace desert. You will spend less than the other grand houses, yet in my opinion get more balanced, interesting, approachable bubbly for your buck.
Happy New Year