We all know great prestigious names like Belle Epoque, La Grande Dame, Cristal, Winston Churchill and Dom Pérignon. But what really defines a prestige champagne? Champagne may be the most controlled district in the world, but when it comes to how a prestige champagne should be produced, there are no rules at all, which can be very confusing.
Prestige champagnes are almost always the wines that every company considers to be their ‘top of the line’, but no team in the world prevents them from packaging a simple standard champagne in a flashy bottle and then trumpeting that this is the house’s jewel. There are small worrying tendencies that some companies, due to the popularity of the prestige champagne, do too much prestige and minimize or exclude their vintage champagne for commercial reasons. Otherwise, fortunately, it is almost always the case that the prestige champagne is really the company’s best wine.
Prestige champagnes are also often the companies’ most expensive wines and should be an essence of the very best that producers can achieve. A typical prestige champagne is made exclusively from Grand Cru grapes from the oldest vines. The shelf life is maximized and there are several examples of really late disgorged wines. Some use oak barrels and the presentation is the most luxurious imaginable: wooden boxes or ornate cartons with specially designed bottles. 1921 Dom Pérignon must be considered the first prestige champagne when it was launched in 1936. Although Roederers ‘Cristal‘ was sold even earlier to the Russian tsar, it did not enter the market until the fifties with its first vintage in 1945. The first vintage of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne was 1952 .
On Duke Ellington’s 70th birthday, Perrier-Jouët launched the Belle Epoque in 1964 with its beautiful white anemones, designed by Émile Gallé.