The Wine Guy: Celebrate East Bay life with bubbles | July 4, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Living - July 4, 2008

The Wine Guy: Celebrate East Bay life with bubbles

by Gregory Peebles

Champagne Laurent-Perrier

Non-Vintage Ultra Brut

Tours-sur-Marne, Champagne, France

Draeger's Market - Blackhawk, $49.99

Founded in 1812 by Alphonse Pierlot (a cooper by profession in Chigny-les-Roses), Champagne Laurent-Perrier was firmly bound in relative obscurity for well over a century. Thankfully, Marie-Louise Lanson de Nonancourt saw significant potential in the property when she purchased it in 1938.

The House's lackluster image and fortune changed with the arrival of Bernard de Nonancourt (Marie-Louise's younger son) in 1949. A resident of Champagne since early childhood, Monsieur de Nonancourt learned all facets of the trade as a very young man. Before taking the helm at Laurent-Perrier, he was a valiant member of the French Resistance movement during Nazi Germany's occupation of France during World War II.

Bernard is still vital and active in the long-term, strategic planning of Laurent-Perrier as chairman of the Supervisory Board of Champagne. To insure his family's continued management of the House upon his retirement, leadership will eventually transfer to Bernard's two daughters, Alexandra Pereyre de Nonancourt and Stéphanie Meneux de Nonancourt.

Laurent-Perrier is now an esteemed, grande marque producer. Another considerably impressive fact, it also maintains majority ownership interests in three other highly distinguished properties: de Castellane, Delamotte and Champagne Salon (THE blanc de blancs virtuoso located in the Grand Cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and home of my single favorite wine in the entire world). This formidable collection of Houses makes Laurent-Perrier the fifth largest ownership group in the business, a meteoric transformation from its difficult early decades.

Champagnes vinified in an "ultra brut" or "brut nature" fashion are definite rarities in the United States market for they comprise considerably less than 1percent of all Champagnes made. It's Champagne without "make-up" and sold in a "naturally raw" style, no addition of dosage (a sugar-wine solution) prior to final cellaring and ultimate release to thirsty consumers. This "nouvelle," contemporary style of Champagne is a must-try for all those who fancy this winemaking region above all others, like me.

With a cuvée of 55percent Chardonnay and 45percent Pinot Noir, the color is absolutely pale, almost as clear and pure as the crystal flute itself. Astonishing!

As for the aromas, they're extremely austere. Essences of racy citrus, tart apple, honeysuckle, orange blossom and chalky minerality are true to Champagne's terrior. A faint whisper of salty sea air is quite intriguing as well.

The Ultra Brut is tangy, supremely lean and bone dry on the palate. Delicate white fruit nuances are amplified by flashy, razor sharp acidity.

This offering is the model of unadulterated crispness. It delivers a piercing, edgy and triangular mouth feel. The overall texture is just a bit coarse ... but in an invigorating, "hurts so good" sort of way.

A long, Sahara desert-like finish completes the experience. It's a rare, energizing and very compelling experience indeed.

While enjoying this bubbly, two food thoughts immediately came to mind: caviar and raw bar (sashimi, oysters, etc.). Champagne Laurent-Perrier suggests pairing with rich foods like foie gras or even an after-dinner cigar (make mine a vintage Rocky Patel, Padrón "Anniversary" or Hoyo de Monterrey "Excalibur").

One last observation: Champagnes and other world-class sparkling wines from around the globe deserve to be savored every day, not just on "special" days. Celebrate life in our beguiling East Bay, drink more bubbles!

Let your palate be the judge ...

Have comments or questions about wine? Gregory Peebles, wine industry professional and East Bay resident, can be contacted at


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