We left Riquewhir after breakfast and drove to Chalons-en-Champagne on the N59. The road first snaked through valleys and forests with birds and squirrels and then the tunnel under the Vosges Mountains to emerge on the other side to a sunlit autumnal landscape. The 300 km journey took three and half hours. Just after Nancy, we stopped at a roadside Aire for a picnic lunch of cold meats, cow’s milk Alsace cheeses (Grand Ribeaupierre and Tomme Fermière d’Alsace), salads and wine. Munster however, was given a wide berth!
Chalons-en-Champagne, the capital of the Champagne-Ardenne region, has many historical buildings and monuments. Even though Cathedral Saint-Étienne has remarkable stained-glass windows and Notre-Dame-en-Vaux church is a Unesco world Heritage site, it is champagne that drew us to the city. Unlike Reims and Epernay, Chalons does not have many great wine producers and there is no wine tourism of note.
There were 13 Champagne Houses in Chalons in the mid-19th century (then called Chalons-sur-Marne) but Champagne Joseph Perrier, founded in 1825, is the only one that exists today. According to Tom Stevenson, the House is well worth visiting for the quality of both the champagne and the cellars. However, when I wrote to them last September asking for an appointment for a visit, I received a polite but surprising response. “We thank you for the interest in our family house, and sorry for the delay to answer. The Tourism Centre from Châlons en Champagne is in charge of our cellar’s visit. You can reach them to the following numbers & e-mail address: Tél. : +33 (0)3 26 65 17 89 / Fax : +33 (0)3 26 65 35 65 / E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org. I stay at your disposal. Best regards.“
Martin Gamman MW, UK & Ireland Director for Champagne Joseph Perrier, came to my rescue. “My apologies for the confusion” he said. “We simply aren’t set up for walk–up visits as some of our larger colleagues and therefore don’t do tours except for visits that our distributors run and these requests come through me, therefore Elodie inadvertently sent you down the alternative route which is obviously not appropriate. If you still have the slot free, Elodie can give you a private tour of the cellars and give you a tasting on the date requested, on the afternoon of Thursday 8 October 2015 starting at 2.30.”
We arrived at Joseph Perrier at 2.15 in the afternoon and were cordially received by Elodie Arnould, Assistante Commerciale. We toured the winery, visited the historic Roman cellars and sat down to taste a selection of Joseph Perrier champagnes.
Six wines were tasted.
- Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royal Brut NV: A blend of 35% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier, with around 20% reserve wine. Fruit from 20 different villages are used including Cumières, Damery, Hautvillers and Verneuil. The wine is aged for 3 years before release. It is a rich, pleasing wine with fine bubbles and a hint of autolysis. Euro 26.70 (15.5)
- Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royal Blanc de Blancs NV: 100% Chardonnay, with approximately 15% of reserve wines. Fruit from vineyards in the Grand Crus of the Côte des Blancs – Chouilly, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Bergères-les-Vertus, with some of own Chardonnay from Cumières and from the region around Bassuet. Aged for 5 years. Euro 31.80 (15)
- Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royal Brut Rose 2005: 25% Chardonnay and 75% Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, of which around 12% is AOC Cumières Rouge. The fruit is from 15 different villages but based on the family vineyard holdings in the villages of Cumières, Damery, Hautvillers and Verneuil. Aged for 3 years. Euro 37.20 (15)
- Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royal 2004: 50% Chardonnay, 41% Pinot Noir, 9% Pinot Meunier. The fruit is from Premier and Grand Cru villages – Le Mesnil sur Oger, Chouilly, Bergères les Vertus, Cumières, Mailly-Champagne, Rilly la Montagne, Sacy…Aged for 6 years minimum. A rich and powerful wine from the great 2004 vintage. Euro 39.60 (15.5)
- Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royal Blanc de Noirs Brut Nature 2008: Said to be the true expression of the House style. A blend of 35% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier, with around 20% reserve wine. 20 different villages are used, based on own vineyards in Cumières, Damery, Hautvillers and Verneuil. Average age is 3 years. (15.5)
- Joseph Perrier Cuvée Josephine 2004: 52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir all from Premier and Grand Cru villages: Chouilly, Mailly, Cumières Blanc, Le Mesnil sur Oger, Verzy. Euro 74.40 (17)
It was an enormously satisfying tasting and there is no doubt Champagne Joseph Perrier is a house well worth visiting. (Our visit and tasting cost Euro 15 per person). We bought cases of champagne as we always do, loaded the coach and set off on the A4 for Reims, 38 kilometres away.
Comments via E-mail:
- “Thank you very much for this beautiful article! Pictures are really great also! This was a good visit!!!I wish you an excellent year full of “bubbly surprises!” – Elodie Arnould, Champagne Joseph Perrier, 14 January