An iconic French family name, the name Perrier is associated with water and champagne. None are known to be relatives. I have included this part more for my interest than anything else.
The spring in Southern France from which Perrier is drawn was called Les Bouillens. It has been used as a spa since Roman times. Local doctor Louis Perrier bought the spring in 1898 and operated a commercial spa there; he also bottled the water for sale. He later sold the spring to St. John Harmsworth, a wealthy British visitor. Harmsworth was the younger brother of the newspaper magnates Lord Northcliffe and Lord Rothermere. He had come to France to learn the language. Dr. Perrier showed him the spring, and he decided to buy it. He sold his share of the family newspapers to raise the money. Harmsworth closed the spa, as spas were becoming unfashionable. He renamed the spring Source Perrier and started bottling the water in distinctive green bottles. The shape was that of Indian clubs, which Harmsworth used for exercise.
Harmsworth marketed the product in Britain at a time when Frenchness was seen as chic and aspirational to the middle classes. It was advertised as the Champagne of mineral water. (There is a genuine champagne by the name of Laurent-Perrier but there is no connection.) Advertising in newspapers like the Daily Mail established the brand. For a time, 95% of sales were in Britain and the U.S.
Perrier’s reputation for purity suffered a blow in 1990 when a laboratory in North Carolina in the United States found Benzene, a carcinogen, in several bottles. Perrier stated that it was an isolated incident of a worker having made a mistake in the filtering procedure and that the spring itself was unpolluted. The incident ultimately led to the worldwide withdrawal of the product, some 160 million bottles of Perrier.
From 1981 to 2005, the company sponsored an annual comedy award in the United Kingdom, the Perrier Comedy Award, also known as “The Perriers”. In 2006 it was announced that Perrier would no longer sponsor the award, which was renamed the “if.comedy awards”, after its new sponsor, Intelligent Finance.
In 1992, Perrier was bought by rival Nestlé, one of the world’s leading food and drink companies.
In 2004, a crisis erupted when the Nestlé group, owner of Perrier, announced a restructuring plan for Perrier. In 2005, Perrier was ordered to halt restructuring, because of a failure to consult adequately with staff.
In 2013, Perrier celebrated its 150th anniversary by launching a limited edition series of bottles inspired by Andy Warhol.
As of January 2013, Perrier is available in 140 countries.
The spring is naturally carbonated. Both the water and natural carbon dioxide gas are captured independently. Then in the bottling process, the carbon dioxide gas is added so that the level of carbonation in bottled Perrier is the same as the water of the Vergèze spring.
Composition in mg per litre: pH 5.46, Calcium 147.3, Chloride 21.5. Bicarbonate (HCO3) 390, Fluoride 0,12, Magnesium 3.4, Nitrate 18, Potassium 0.6, Sodium 9, Sulfates 33, Total dissolved salts 475.
Perrier is available in Europe in one liter, 750 ml, and 500 ml bottles, and in 33 cl cans. Most Perrier bottles are green and all have a distinctive ‘teardrop’ shape. In August 2001, the company introduced a new bottling format using polyethylene terephthalate to offer Perrier in plastic, a change that took 11 years to decide which material would best help retain both the water’s flavor and its purported “50 million bubbles.”
Perrier comes in five flavours. Unflavoured, lemon, and lime are the oldest flavors. In 2007, Citron Lemon-Lime and Pamplemousse Rose (Pink Grapefruit) flavours debuted.
Since 2002, new varieties of Perrier have been introduced in France, Eau de Perrier is less carbonated than the original, and comes in a blue bottle. Perrier Fluo comes in “trendy” flavours such as ginger-cherry, peppermint, orange-lychee, raspberry, and ginger-lemon.
Perrier and competitor San Pellegrino are owned by the Nestlé Corporation.
A former cooper and bottler in Chigny-les-Roses, André-Michel Pierlot settled in Tours-sur-Marne in 1812 as a négociant in the wines of Champagne. It was in this village, on plots named Les Plaisances and La Tour Glorieux that he founded what was later to become Laurent-Perrier. His son, Alphonse Pierlot, succeeded him and, not having any heirs, he subsequently bequeathed the House to his cellar master, Eugène Laurent.
Following his accidental death in 1887, Eugène’s widow, Mathilde Emilie Perrier, took the helm of the business and combined her own patronymic with that of her husband, naming the business “Veuve Laurent-Perrier”. With her strong character and reputation for integrity, she developed the business, restored its finances, and masterfully kept the House going throughout the Great War. In 1920, she paved the way for the international expansion of the brand by entering into a partnership with Sir Alexander Fletcher Keith McKenzie to invest in the British market.
Eugénie-Hortense Laurent succeeded her mother in 1925. Hard-hit by the economic crisis between the Wars and heavily in debt, she sold the estate to Marie-Louise de Nonancourt in 1939.
Bernard de Nonancourt and his elder brother Maurice joined the French Resistance. Only Bernard survived and joined the Maquis underground, where he met the founder of the Emmaus movement, Abbé Pierre. Later on, he was assigned to General Leclerc’s 2nd Armoured Division (2ème DB).
Bernard de Nonancourt dedicated his life to a single passion. When he returned, his mother insisted he undergo an apprenticeship to fully understand the business, being a vines labourer, cellar and office worker, and a sales representative. In October 1948, aged 28, he was appointed Chairman and Chief Executive of Laurent-Perrier. He was one of the rare owners of a Champagne House to have done all the jobs of his future employees. At that point, the House was employing around 20 people and shipping 80,000 bottles a year.
Fired by a passion for champagne, a respect for traditional values and, most importantly, for people, Bernard de Nonancourt inspired Laurent-Perrier with his independent spirit and creative audacity. He established privileged working relationships with the grape growers and cleverly combined innovation and tradition. He created the signature Laurent-Perrier style of freshness, lightness and elegance and developed a unique range of champagnes that are today exported to 147 countries worldwide.
Up until his death on 29 October 2010, he made his vibrant stamp on the House of Laurent-Perrier, which will remain forever.
JOSEPH PERRIER CHAMPAGNE
Joseph Perrier created the house in 1825. Five generations have owned and controlled this family house: Joseph Perrier (1825), Paul Pithois (1888), Pierre and Roger Pithois Perrier (1925), Georges Pithois (1950) and Jean-Claude Fourmon, the present president of Joseph Perrier and the fifth generation of the family. Today Joseph Perrier is the only house still making champagne in Chalons en Champagne.
The 21 hectares of family vineyards are situated above the Marne River facing south over Epernay. They are planted with the three classic grapes Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. The grapes are picked by hand into small baskets to ensure they reach the press in perfect condition. The chief winemaker and cellar-master at Joseph Perrier follows in his father’s and his grandfather’s footsteps and controls the production of Joseph Perrier, with about 20% of the grapes today coming from their own vineyards.
The cellars were originally Gallo-Roman galleries and have been extended for approximately three kilometers into a hill. Shafts were created soon after the founding of the winery in 1825, long before electric light, to bring sunlight into the cellars producing gentle natural light and ventilation. The bottles lie horizontally in racks in perfect conditions of constant temperature and light. These start immediately behind the winery and the labeling hall. An arboretum has been planted on the hill over the cellars to help naturally regulate the environment below.
The Cuvées Royales celebrate the relationship with Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, a distinction they proudly feature on the labels today.
They feel their champagne remains a hand-made, artisanal product. The 2002 harvest took place under ideal conditions with warm days and cool nights; perfect for excellent health and maturity in the grapes. The blend is half Chardonnay, the balance being mostly Pinot Noir with just a cloud of Pinot Meunier. The nose is elegant with floral notes and hints of spice with ripe fruit characters. On the palate the style is rich and appealing, disturbingly easy to enjoy, yet with the backbone and structure to match with rich fish dishes or with white meats served with a well-reduced intense sauce. It has the concentration and balance to be most enjoyable for at least the next three years. More discreet perhaps, with a citrus character and touch of nuts and butter is the Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2004. Elegant and long it is the perfect aperitif or accompaniment to delicate seafood dishes.