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Laurent-Perrier Brut 2000

Another Champagne this week, as I continue to reflect on this region and its wines through my tastings, alongside the ongoing publication of my Champagne guide. Last week in my guide I discussed the Champagne grape varieties and the making of the vins clairs, and this week I will be getting to grips with the méthode traditionelle, the in-bottle secondary fermentation which transforms the base wine into the sparkling libation we all know.

Looking beyond that, however, I am building up to a discourse on regionality in Champagne, or if not a 'discourse' then at least an acknowledgement that it exists! And with that in mind this week's wine makes a nice contrast to the wine featured two weeks ago, the 1996 Gosset Brut Millésime, as both are sourced from grandes marques based in the Vallée de la Marne, the river that runs east-west between the Montagne de Reims to the north, a bejewelled mountain encrusted with Pinot Noir, and the Côte de Blancs to the south, which provides the region with a rich seam of Chardonnay. Here in the valley there are just two of Champagne's 17 grand cru villages, these being Aÿ where Gosset are based, as I discussed in my write-up of their 1996 Brut Millésime, and a little further upstream there is Tours-sur-Marne, where Laurent-Perrier can be found.

Take a look at a map of the region and Tours-sur-Marne is perhaps not likely to impress; it is a small riverside town, sitting just to the north of the waterway which is divided into two here. The northern section is a canal which runs roughly east-west, rejoining the river (or originating, depending on which way you are travelling I suppose) just before it reaches Cumières. The second, immediately to the south is the Marne itself, meandering slowly along. Look around for vineyards, however, and you will struggle. To the north around the town there is only farmland, and on the other side of the river it is the same, with a small wooded area just to the south-west. This close to the river this is perhaps for the best; the soils here are alluvial and thus very rich, too rich for the vine.

Laurent-Perrier Brut 2000

Head north out of the village and take a left-turn when you reach the fork in the road, though, and you will soon stumble across the vines of Tours-sur-Marne, up on the slopes above the village. There are about 50 hectares, a smallholding compared to some other grand cru villages, situated not far from Bouzy. And yet, despite this seemingly illustrious position, these vineyards do not hold the same reputation as those in some other grands crus. Never mind; no-one expects the team at Laurent-Perrier to limit themselves to these vines just up the road from their headquarters, and indeed this house owns more than 100 hectares (more than double the size of Tours-sur-Marne's vineyards) and through its contracted growers it has access to another 800. This is Champagne after all, when blending, house style and the 'magic' worked by the chef de cave rules above all else.

The wine in question, the Laurent-Perrier Brut Millésimé 2000, is a 50-50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and as is by now I hope obvious it is not sourced from Laurent-Perrier's backyard vineyards, but instead takes advantage of Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims, and Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs. From the former, Laurent-Perrier have utilised fruit from Verzy, Mailly, Ambonnay and Bouzy, whereas on the Côte des Blancs the fruit originated from Avize, Cramant, Oger and Chouilly. A common source of Chardonnay for this cuvée, Mesnil-sur-Oger, was excluded this year as a result of August hail. As for the wine itself, it shows a vigorous bead in the glass, and is still a touch yeasty on the nose, but beyond this there is a nice praline note, alongside some bright citrus fruit elements. Very fresh on the palate, lively, with suggestions of smoky roasted nuts and praline, with a fruit profile like that on the nose. Freshly framed by acidity, although not over the top, good concentration and depth. More importantly it has a very forceful and vibrant style, sappy and youthful, to be honest brutally youthful at present, and so there is plenty of room here for development I think. A good wine, but I would advise popping it into the cellar for 3-5 years to see it at its best I think. 17+/20 (1/3/10)

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