Laurent Perrier Visit


Early in February Dan was invited to spend a couple of days at the Laurent Perrier headquarters, a few miles from Reims, in the heart of Champagne country.

Laurent Perrier is sponsoring the garden Dan has designed for this year's Chelsea Flower Show, inspired by the wild areas of the landscape gardens at Chatsworth in Derbyshire. Dan was invited to stay at the Chateau de Louvois, by the directors of Laurent Perrier, sisters Alexandre Pereyre de Nonancourt and Stephanie Meneux de Nonancourt, who took over the running of the business after the death of their father, Bernard de Nonancourt, in 2010. 

The Chateau was acquired by Laurent Perrier fairly recently in 1989, as a means of cementing the brand's reputation as a Grande Marque champagne house. Although originally founded in 1812 the house of Laurent Perrier was brought to prominence by Bernard de Nonancourt, after he took on the management on his return from his activities in the French Resistance during the 2nd World War, where he had been responsible for breaching  Adolf Hitler's private wine cellar, the contents of which had been largely stolen.

The chateau was originally built by Michel Le Tellier, Secretary of State for War to the young Louis XIV, and is surrounded by a landscape created by André Le Nôtre, with allÄ—es, bosquets, parterres, water features and fountains, all of which have either been rescued from oblivion or are being carefully restored from the original plans.

Joining Dan on the trip were (from left to right) head gardener of Louvois, Aurélien, Anne-Laure Domenichini-Potier, International Press Officer for Laurent Perrier, Sally Ambrose, Head of Visitor Services and Marketing at Chatsworth, David Hesketh, MD of Laurent Perrier UK, and Steve Porter, Head Gardener at Chatsworth.

A walk around the grounds of Louvois was followed by a tour of the Laurent Perrier champagne factory. We were shown the vineyards, the cellars and the bottling plants, and were given an in depth explanantion of how the various champagnes produced by the house are created from a variety of blends of the three champagne grapes; Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Each blend is mixed by the great nose of the cellar master, who knows each of the grape varieties and their differences, depending on the vineyard they come from, intimately. This knowledge allows him to replicate the final product through a painstaking process of mixing and tasting of the raw grape juice.

The mixed grape juice is then conditioned  in large vats in the cellars, prior to being bottled and given their first fermentation. During the first fermentation the bottles are held upside down in wooden frames which allow the sediment created to fall into the neck of the bottles. The bottles are turned regularly to ensure that the sediment is deposited evenly within the neck. Once the first fermentation is complete the bottle necks are frozen in liquid nitrogen. This freezes the first centimetres of wine and the sediment so that, when the stopper is removed, the frozen wine is expelled at great speed. Immediately a dosage of sugar is added to the bottle, before it is finally corked ready for its second fermentation in the bottle.