Belle Bottles From Perrier-Jouet

The beautiful, floral-embossed Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque bottle is one of the most recognizable packages in the entire world of wine. But how many of us know of the origin of this design or its difficult birth?

It was created in 1902 by French artist and master glass craftsman Émile Gallé, and based on a Japanese white anemone. Gallé was a pioneer of the art nouveau movement, which drew its inspiration from nature. The design was first used on the first vintage of Belle Époque, 1964, and has adorned the bottle of this prestige Champagne ever since.

But why there was a 62-year gap in the design’s history is unclear. After it was initially presented to the Champagne house in 1902 (during La Belle Époque itself, the ‘beautiful era’ between 1870 and 1910 in France) it was apparently quickly forgotten and consigned to an archive in the cellar.

Perhaps part of the reason was the difficulty of mass-producing bottles decorated with the design. It would have to be baked onto the glass before the bottles were filled with wine, and the design kept in good condition during the many years of cellar maturation (a minimum six years today), and final riddling process.

What is known is that the design was rediscovered in 1964 and immediately put to use on a new wine of that vintage, which was a great vintage. It became Belle Époque (tastings). The wine was launched in Maxim’s restaurant, Paris, in 1969, at the celebration of jazz great Duke Ellington’s 70th birthday. That Ellington was born during La Belle Époque would not have been lost on those attending.

The partnership between Perrier-Jouët and art nouveau continues: over the years, a succession of artists have been invited to collaborate with the house, and the current vintage features a tribute design by Makoto Azuma, which is based on, but expands upon, the white anemone theme.

The 2006 Belle Époque is 50% chardonnay, 45% pinot noir, 5% pinot meunier, and costs $299. It’s a beautiful wine, but even better in my view is the 2004

Belle Époque Rosé (tastings) ($349), which is 50% pinot noir and 25% each of chardonnay and pinot meunier. An exquisite wine, but alas, not a wine my pocket would extend to. Whose would? 

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