Yesterday I went to a champagne dinner. It was a black-tie affair at Hotel du Vin in Harrogate and they were pouring Laurent-Perrier.
I took my old dinner jacket out, dusted it and made sure I could still get into it. The poor thing had not been exposed to new wine stains since its last outing at Maison Ruinart in Reims several years ago!
The taxi dropped me right in front of the green doors of Hotel du Vin. “I am from Bradford” the driver said. “I love Harrogate.” I told him to pick me up after dinner. “Ask Central to send car 21” he said with a smile and politely refused my tip.
Peter and the gang were already there. They were huddled in the semi-darkness behind the stairs sipping something red. “I could use a G&T” Charles murmured.
James poured Laurent-Perrier Brut on the terrace. Like all Laurent-Perrier wines, the Brut is Chardonnay dominant (50%) and the fruit is from a large number of Premier Crus with an average rating of 94%. The dosage seems modest and the wine has retained its Chardonnay freshness. It did taste good and had nothing to do with it being the first drop of the day! (16)
A pretty girl in black served canapés and James refilled the flutes. We munched crab mayonnaise bruschettas, mushroom aranchini and smoked salmon blinis as a cold north wind blew. We shivered and sipped and moved indoors.
The long, wide table was elegantly laid for dinner. Brigitte Hennessy, the lady from Laurent-Perrier, gave a brief history of the House. Ultra Brut was poured and Mosaic Chicken & Tarragon Terrine wrapped in Serrano ham was served.
My very first encounter with the zero dosage style was in fact at Laurent-Perrier in Tours-sur-Marne way back in 2003. It was a shock to the system from which I have not recovered. A zero dosage champagne could only be made in a hot year when grapes achieve high sugar levels and low acidity. The absence of added sugar makes the wine age quickly. “This Ultra Brut is a blend of 80% vintage 2006 and 20% reserve wines” Brigitte said. “We make it only in vintages years when the grapes are ripe and have high sugar levels.” That made a lot of sense. The wine had tension and freshness without enamel stripping acidity and was nicely poised. “I prefer it to the Brut” Ramani whispered. (16)
Then came the Grand Siècle, Laurent-Perrier’s Prestige Cuvée, first launched in 1959 in its majestic bottle, “a re-creation of the hand-blown bottles used to contain the very first champagnes at the French royal court.” That was the time of the Sun King. The pewter serving cradle, specially designed for the Grand Siècle bottle is hand-crafted by Meilleurs Ouvriers de France of Orfèvrerie d’Anjou. The Grand Siècle is 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir and the base wines are from 11 of Champagne’s most prestigious grands crus in the best vintages. The Chardonnays are from Avize, Chouilly, Cramant and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and the Pinots Noirs from Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvois, Mailly, Tours-sur-Marne, and Verzenay.
“The base wines for this Grand Siècle were from the vintages 1999, 2002 and 2004” Brigitte added. It was magical and did not really need the medallions of monkfish with tomato consommé and heritage carrots it was served with. (17.5)
Cuvée Rosé is a special Champagne. Instead of blending white and red base wines to produce a rosé, Laurent-Perrier employ the saignée method with Pinot Noir only, predominantly from Grand Crus. It is a cut above rosés from many notable Houses and paired enormous roast barbary duck breasts with a madeira wine jus, pommes Anna and Savoy cabbage & pancetta. (17)
The final wine of the evening was the Demi-Sec served with Laurent-Perrier champagne & elderflower jelly with mixed berries. I am not a fan of the Demi-Sec style but it had only 25 g/l of residual sugar and was surprisingly pleasant. (14)
There were only twenty four of us for dinner but it was an absolutely delightful evening. James, the head sommelier conducted the event expertly and Brigitte’s erudite comments added a polish to the evening.
A text arrived from car 21 that it is waiting outside to take me home. I finished my coffee, grabbed my coat and stepped out into the cold night.
- “As always, a lovely read.” – Richard Fox, Harrogate, 20 September