Prestige Cuvées - The Ultimate Champagne Experience
Wednesday, December 31, 2014 in News
In the world of Champagne, Prestige Cuvées symbolize the ultimate in luxury. Made to the highest of standards, these precious bottles offer wine lovers the pinnacle Champagne experience. So what sets these cuvées apart from a Champagne House's regular offerings and does the experience match up with the luxury price tag?
Prestige cuvées are exquisite luxury Champagnes, typically sourced from the very best parcels of fruit, carefully blended and aged extensively in Champagne’s cool chalk cellars.
Although traditionally the majority of prestige cuvées are vintage Champagnes, Krug’s non-vintage Grande Cuvée can be considered the first prestige cuvée in its own right. The philosophy behind the Grande Cuvée was to create the greatest non-vintage Champagne possible every year. An exquisite Champagne it was to be vinified plot by plot and carefully blended from a large library of reserve wines. First released in 1850, Krug’s Grande Cuvée began a trend for producing prestige cuvées, a trend that would ultimately be replicated by all the top Champagne houses.
In terms of vintage Champagnes, Louis Roederer’s Cristal can claim to be the first vintage prestige cuvée. Created in 1876 for Tsar Alexander II of Russia, the Champagne was made in a sweet, ultra-rich style that was favoured in the Russian court at the time. However after the Russian revolution in 1918, production of the wine stopped until 1945, when the cuvée was again publicly released.
While Cristal may have been first to market, it is Moët & Chandon that can be credited for developing the modern trend of vintage prestige cuvée that would sweep through the 20th century. Ironically this trend began at the height of the Great Depression. Contrary to the economic cliamate of the time, the director of Champagne Moët & Chandon Robert-Jean de Vogüé convinced the board of directors at Moët to create a luxury vintage Champagne. It was to be named Dom Pérignon and was earmarked for export markets. The first vintage of Dom Pérignon 1921 arrived in London in 1935 and was a great success. One hundered boxes were subsequently shipped to New York the following year. It was at this point that the modern trend of prestige cuvée Champagne began in earnest.
From the 1950’s onwards, a flurry of prestige cuvées were launched to market. Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne was released in 1952, followed by Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle in 1960 and Pol Roger’s Winston Churchill 1975 vintage released in 1984.
In more recent years however, it is the trend of single vineyard cuvées that have captivated the market. Among the very first was Champagne Philipponnat, with Les Goisses in 1935, (renamed Clos des Goisses in 1957). Winegrowers including Anselme Selosse and Pierre Larmandier began producing single vineyard champagnes during the 1980’s with Krug’s Le Clos du Mesnil and Le Clos d’Ambonnay the most famous examples of this trend.
Rare and exquisite, prestige cuvées make up a very small percentage of total Champagne production. Produced in tiny quantities, their rare and exclusive nature is part of their overall allure. However it is their pedigree, careful assemblage and long ageing which render them breath-taking in their refinement and complexity, and ultimately worthy of their luxury price-tag. What then could be better for life’s greatest celebrations?