Champagne Perrier-Jouët and the Boursot family

Champagne Perrier-Jouët

Champagne Perrier-Jouët and the Boursot family were inextricably and continuously linked for 130 years between 1828 and 1960. The old family firm of A. Boursot & Co was the sole importing agent for the United Kingdom, based on a solid friendship between the Boursot and Perrier families dating back to the early nineteenth century. ThIs partnership was responsible for a number of "firsts" in the wine world.

The Wine & Spirit Trade Review of December 1935 says "It may be said without the scintilla of exaggeration that the inspiriting record of Perrier-Jouët in England is intimately and inextricably mixed and blended with the history of the Boursot family." And goes on to say that "Perrier-Jouët has attained a worldwide repute but it was England which gave it the first impetus and laid the foundations of its wider success".

Few people might know now that in the mid-19th century, champagne was sweet, made primarily for the huge Russian market and its taste. It was in around 1868 that Perrier-Jouët mistakenly sent a shipment to London that had not been sweetened in the normal way. Adolphe Boursot, as was customary in those days, tasted samples from the shipment on its arrival and was surprised to find that the wine was "dry". However, instead of sending the consignment back, he decided to trial it on some of his better customers, and thereby started a fashion that the whole world has since adopted. "Brut" became the norm.

Perrier-Jouët Perrier-Jouët

Additionally, when a Mr. Staples was to become the next Lord Mayor of London, he suggested to Mr. Boursot that he wanted to buy 100 dozen Perrier-Jouët for his term of office and suggested it would be a good idea to put a label on the bottle. Until then the brand was only on the cork. I wonder if this was the beginning of brand advertising?

At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, the Boursots sold 70% of Perrier-Jouët's production of one million bottles - a staggering amount even by today's standards. After all, it was not as if, by then, they were the only agents selling champagne! Queen Victoria and Edward VII enjoyed it, extending their Royal Warrants to the brand.

In 1874 Henri Gallice took the reins of the company from his uncle, the childless Charles Perrier. In 1902 Gallice decided that he would commission a young master glassmaker to create a special anemone bottle to commemorate the era of the Belle Epoque. The idea was abandoned and the prototype was lost, but subsequently found in 1964 at the back of a cupboard. The Seagram Corporation who had bought Champagnes Mumm and Perrier-Jouët in 1959, decided to commercialise this beautiful bottle and thereby launched Belle Epoque, the "de luxe" cuvée (or blend), in its distinctive anemone flowered bottle.

Perrier-Jouët, Grand Brut Champagneclick on image to see documentNowadays the company has been sold through the hands of Seagram to Allied Domecq, and more recently on to its present owners Pernod Ricard. With 65 hectares of prime vineyards, particularly in the best chardonnay areas, and with six miles of underground cellars under Epernay, Perrier-Jouët is one of Champagne's finest sparkling gems.

"PJ", as it is affectionately known, has always been a great favourite of champagne cognoscenti. Joe Gilmore, who for 35 years was head barman at the Savoy's American Bar, once told me that "Perrier-Jouët was always my perfect brand of pouring champagne - it has a fullness of fruit and it is not acid, as so many champagnes can be. It appeals to all tastes and is really easy to appreciate."

So when you enjoy a glass of PJ, spare a thought for your wine merchant in Ardres, great great grandson of the person who put this delightful brand on the world map.

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Boursot's Wine Collection
9 Rue de l'Arsenal, 62610 Ardres, France
Wine Consultants SARL RCS Saint-Omer 481 778 876 00013
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Email: ardres@boursot.co.uk

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