Rare bottles of Perrier-Jouët Including 1874 go under the hammer at Christies

The fine wine and spirits auction taking place today and tomorrow (2-3 December) at Christies in London includes some 40 lots of champagne that come straight from the Epernay cellars of Perrier-Jouët. The highlight of this Perrier-Jouët Oenothèque collection of jeroboams, magnums and bottles is undoubtedly Lot 288 which is one single bottle of the legendary 1874 vintage.

It’s not the first time this bottle has appeared at the auction house. Back in 1888 – that’s the year when Winston Churchill was born — during a Christie’s sale in London on 26 March, someone called ‘P Gordon’ paid the sum of £25 for seven magnums of Perrier-Jouët 1874, setting a world auction record for a Champagne lot that stood until as recently as 1967.

The bottle – the only one of the Perrier-Jouët lots not to be physically present at the sale because it is so fragile it cannot be moved from the house’s Epernay cellars – has a selling estimate on it of between £10,000 and £15,000, but if the prices being fetched in the morning by some rare lots of Burgundy are anything to go by, this estimate may well be exceeded.

The remaining lots, span five different decades and feature notable vintages including 1964; magnums of Blason de France 1976 and 1979; 1979 and 1982 Belle Époque also in magnum. Then comes the famed trilogy of 1988, ‘89 and ‘90 PJ Belle Époque with several three magnum lots of each, with price estimates for these ranging from £1500 to £2,400 per lot. There are also magnums of 1999, 2000 and 2002 Belle Époque, plus 2004 Belle Époque Blancs de Blancs.

In a pre-auction tasting towards the end of June, I had the chance to taste some of the wines in bottle, magnum and jeroboam and this is the write-up of that tasting of ten different vintages of Belle Époque (including the 2002 and 2006 Blanc de Blancs) on Decanter.com https://bit.ly/Perrier-JouëtAuctionsRareVintages that also included the 1988-1990 trio in magnums.

Back in March 2020, prior to lockdown. I also had the chance to taste the 1982, 1985 and 1996 vintages of Belle Époque in magnum, of which only the ’82, voted the best of these three by the two MWs I was with, was included in this auction at Christies.

The 1988-1990 trilogy of fine vintages, a rarity in Champagne though it’s quite conceivable that the as yet unreleased 2018-2020 trio will bear comparison in future, was blended by the then chef de cave André Baveret with the assistance of Hervé Deschamps, who succeeded him in 1993, becoming Maison Perrier-Jouët’s seventh cellar master.

Séverine Frerson and Hervé Deschamps with me at Maison Belle Epoque

After working alongside Deschamps for two years, the current incumbent, Séverine Frerson, who took over officially in October 2020 when Deschamps retired, was responsible for choosing the selection of champagnes that went under the hammer today. For her Belle Époque – the wine that graces the Emile Gallé white anemone clad bottle — is the wine that “represents the purest expression of Perrier-Jouët style, built around three pillars: florality, Chardonnay and nature”.

Having discovered for herself, in her three years at the house, Belle Époque’s ability to age attractively, sometimes magnificently, thanks in no small part to the portion of top quality Cramant Chardonnay that sits at the heart of all the Belle Époque Cuvées, Frerson picked out a number of rare back vintages to re-release. In all these, “Chardonnay plays a central role, and even though Pinot Noir is sometimes almost as important, the blends are all constructed to showcase the Chardonnay style. We choose Pinot Noir that will help reveal the Chardonnay signature. 

“I have selected vintages, first to pay tribute to the wine heritage of the House, but also wines that represents the purest expression of Perrier-Jouët style. In this tranche of releases, one in jeroboam, four in magnum and the rest in bottle, the wines are all made by her two immediate predecessors,  Deschamps and Baveret, the man who created cuvée Belle Époque back in 1964.