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Perrine Fresne | Champagne

Perrine Fresne | Champagne

Every wine startup is uniquely exciting, and expectations are raised when the incumbent is a next-generation talent. Will there be an overhaul, a revival, or a seamless continuity?

In the case of Perrine Fresne, it is all of these. And none of them.

As the daughter of a prominent grower family in Sermiers, a premier cru village dominated by cooperatives in southern Petite Montagne de Reims, Perrine is well versed with the demands of a wine grower’s life. She took nothing for granted, however, and immersed herself to a multidisciplinary training regime to prepare for an independent career — wine marketing and winery management degrees, WSET exams, all completed while working for another Champagne domaine.

Expressing herself fully in everything she does is imperative to this young vigneronne. She foresaw early on that by working in her family domaine she will not be given her full reign to realise her ideals. She then decided to take over 3 hectares from her family vines, mostly situated in Sermiers plus a small parcel in the neighbouring Villers-aux-Noeuds, to embark on her eponymous venture beginning with the harvest of 2020.

Meeting Perrine and her husband Kevin in their tiny cellar in the heart of the village months before her first release would be disgorged was as gratifying as it was surreal.

One gets a grower’s seriousness instantly when the tasting is prefixed with a detailed survey of vineyard maps. Despite her small vineyard surface, Perrine has documented every lieu-dit and sub-parcels on her blueprint, making careful notes of their unique properties.

We were whisked through barrels of different plots from the recent 2021 harvest which provided a glimpse of her plan to feature single-vineyard and Coteaux Champenois cuvées. Tasting Champagne vins clairs from the barrel is usually an arduous exercise as the wines are still relatively unformed. It was not nearly that difficult here. These baby-wines already showed an uncanny sense of completeness, even sophistication, vindicating Perrine’s dedication to sustainable viticulture and gentle handling in the cellar.

Always unassuming and self-deprecating at times, Perrine voluntarily acknowledged she still has plenty to learn. Frankly that is hard to tell, judging from the barrel tasting and the early disgorgement bottle we tasted. Every barrel and cuvée is distinctive even if they share a constant overarching aura — buoyancy, purity, articulacy and equanimity — the unspoken personal brand of Champagne Perrine Fresne.

The debut of cuvée Sarmate, a celebration of her hometown’s collective terroir, is an accomplished, compelling drink, an exuberant burst of zesty citrus fruits and creamy berries underpinned by a mouthwatering line of acidity. Her first rosé, the minuscule release of lieu-dit Les Noues, a full-on Pinot Meunier cuvée, exhibits a different dimension, all vinous, serious and deep, but also satiny and serene. Both are fabulous, oozing with what we seek out in all our wines — a singular, inimitable personality delivered with offhand élan.

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