Represented by Jean-Claude Fourmon
Although Châlons-en-Champagne is the historical and administrative capital of the Champagne region, it lies apart from any contemporary vineyard areas. Several houses keep cellars there, yet the only Champagne house of any consequence to be headquartered in the city today is Joseph Perrier. The house was founded in 1825 by Joseph Perrier, the son of a wine merchant and the nephew of Pierre Nicolas-Marie Perrier, who had founded Perrier-Jouët a few years earlier in 1811. Joseph Perrier was an important figure in the area, eventually becoming the mayor of the city, which was named Châlons-sur-Marne at the time. In 1888, after Perrier’s death, the house was sold to his friend Paul Pithois and continued to flourish in the 19th century, becoming an appointed supplier to the Royal Households of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII. The house joined the Alain Thienot group in 1988, and today it is directed by Jean-Claude Fourmon, the great-grandson of Paul Pithois.
The house owns 21 hectares of vines, all in the Vallée de la Marne: 12 lie in Verneuil, and the remaining nine are spread between Cumières, Hautvillers and Damery. These vineyards provide for about 25 percent of the house’s needs, with the rest of the grapes purchased through long-term contracts. Vitry-le-François has been an especially important source of chardonnay for the house, due to its location southeast of Châlons, and the house also purchases grapes in the Montagne de Reims, Côte de Blancs and Vallée de la Marne.
Joseph Perrier’s cellars in Châlons, which extend for three kilometers, are housed in a former chalk quarry, dating from Gallo-Roman times. However, unlike the vertically-excavated crayères in Reims, such as those owned by Ruinart, Taittinger or Charles Heidsieck, the chalk caves of Joseph Perrier are dug horizontally, into the side of a hill. Due to this, they have vaulted ceilings, with rounded arches rather than the tall, pyramid-shaped pits found in Reims, and they are all built on one level, allowing wine to be transported to any portion of the cellars without the use of an elevator.
Joseph Perrier’s chef de cave is Claude Dervin, who is the third generation of his family to be responsible for the cellars here. The house owns a charming château in Cumières, which also contains a presshouse; another facility in Verneuil is used to press the grapes from the holdings there. Fermentation of the wines, along with the malolactic, all take place in stainless steel tanks, and some enameled steel is used for storage of reserve wines. It’s sometimes written that Joseph Perrier stores their reserve wines in 600-liter, oak demi-muids, but Fourmon says that this hasn’t been the case for a long time, and today these demi-muids are used only for the preparation of the liqueur d’expédition.
Information courtesy of Peter Liem's ChampagneGuide.net ©