No one was especially surprised earlier this year when Maison Perrier-Jouët announced that 43-year-old Séverine Frerson would take the gauntlet from revered Cellar Master Hervé Deschamp. She had worked alongside him for two years. And yet everyone celebrated the achievement; only a handful of women, after all, have held such a position in Champagne. Drawing inspiration from Rose-Adélaïde Jouët, who founded the Maison with her husband, Pierre-Nicolas Perrier in 1811, Frerson celebrates the label’s terroir and assiduously focuses on quality. She’s just the 8th Cellar Master since Perrier-Jouët’s founding in 1811.
We caught up with Frerson (masks on) to talk about wine.
Herve Deschamp retires this fall after 37 years. What does it feel like to take his place?
To not only follow in the footsteps, but to learn from Herve Deschamps—who is the current Cellar Master and has been with the Maison for over 3 decades—is truly an honor. I am humbled he has entrusted me with the keys to one of the most iconic Champagne houses in the world.
Will you do things differently as a woman?
I don’t think the approach to wines and assemblage is gendered in any way. The art of assemblage is an art of balance. A Cellar Master is someone who manages to convey emotions through the wine, whether it is a man or a woman.
The history of Perrier-Jouët is actually profoundly marked by the influence of Rose-Adélaïde Jouët, who founded the Maison with her husband, Pierre Nicolas Perrier, in 1811. She was a woman of great character and determination.
What are the Cellar Master’s duties?
I am a guardian of the renowned Perrier-Jouët style—Chardonnay -forward wines, floral and intricate in character. From harvest, production, blending and fermentation, it is important to me to preserve the elegance and quality of the Maison’s champagnes, and I will work with the respective teams in the vineyards and winery to produce the highest quality wines each year.
I like to sum up my role to three words: passion (the inevitable passion for wine), memory (the memory of the vintages, of the cuvées, that I rely on), and intuition (as a form of creativity while assembling the wines, as a drive to know the right plots for each cuvées).
How will you evolve the champagne?
Our wines are timeless. The Maison is rooted in centuries of history and, as maintained by the seven Cellar Masters before me, I plan to preserve the style and techniques of the House, revealing the true essence of Chardonnay in creating Maison Perrier-Jouët’s classic and vintage collections.
Tell us about your various vintages? What sets your champagne apart?
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque champagne is an icon of the House—the original cuvée to be adorned with our renowned Japanese white anemones, first hand-painted on the bottles by Emile Gallé in 1902. While the Maison is best known for Chardonnay vineyards, we also have exceptional plots of Pinot Noir—as seen most elegantly in our Belle Epoque, which combines the two grape varieties in almost equal proportions.
The most unexpected interpretation of the Maison’s traditional style, Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé is a rare and precious vintage rosé champagne, blending Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes from varying regions, in varying proportions, the result characterized by alluring notes of white flowers and small red fruit.
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs champagne is not only the rarest cuvée, but also the most emblematic—the culmination of the House’s 200-year expertise in revealing the intricate floral facets of its signature Chardonnay grape. Sourced from just two legendary parcels of vines, Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs is the expression of a single grape variety, a single terroir, and a single year.
What can you tell us about the House’s sustainability efforts?
Respect for nature is at the root of the Maison’s history and our core values. Few know that Pierre-Nicolas Perrier, founder of Perrier-Jouët with his wife Rose-Adelaïde Jouët, was a botanist. This initial link with nature has been transmitted in the soul of the House. Today, our symbiotic relationship with nature finds a new meaning in the challenges of sustainability. It is of the utmost importance that we preserve biodiversity and our soils, and not only adopt new sustainable wine practices, but maintain those that we already have in place as we go into the future.
Tell us a bit about the holiday gift boxes.
We’ve just released a new, eco-friendly gift set collection across our non-vintage range—Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé, and Perrier-Jouët Blanc de Blancs.
Uniting an elegant, minimalist aesthetic with sustainability, the gift box designs are inspired by the chalky subsoil of our vineyard and wine cellars, created with respect for nature through sustainable solutions and environmentally friendly practices.
The boxes are produced from 100% natural fiber, sourced from certified forests in Northern Europe and nearly 30% lighter than previous gift box offerings. The sets are crafted using a special embossing technique which minimizes the consumption of ink and helps to deliver a 100% recyclable design that shares the house spirit of Maison Perrier-Jouët.
Which is your favorite wine? What do you love to drink it with?
I think it would have to be the Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs. It is a cuvée for connoisseurs, the absolute quintessence of Chardonnay. It has been a creation of Hervé Deschamps, my predecessor—and for me, it’s perfect with scallops, just slightly cooked, touches of citrus and honey.
How shall we drink this during the holidays?
For the holidays, my recommendation would be a magnum of Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2012 with traditional holidays food: turkey, poultry, autumn flavors like chestnuts, butternuts, almonds. The perfect wine to enjoy at that moment of the year!