Avenue de Champagne in Épernay – about 130km north-east of Paris – is no doubt one of the most treasured streets in the world. And despite housing over 200 million bottles of French sparkling wine in 110km of cellars, its grandeur doesn’t lie solely beneath the ground. The prestigious thoroughfare stretches for nearly one kilometre with elegant castles, wrought-iron-fenced private mansions and luxuriant gardens owned by a range of illustrious Champagne maisons.
Masterfully combining the French Renaissance and Louis XIII style, Château Perrier sits at the top of the Avenue exhibiting a magnificence that cannot be denied. Son of the founders and director of the Perrier-Jouët Champagne house, Charles Perrier began construction of the building in 1852 to house his cellars in bigger, more lavish premises right next to his parent’s palace, thus demonstrating the growing prestige of the family-owned business.
Château Perrier – whose opulent interiors have been crafted by the same artists who decorated the Opéra Garnier in Paris – has recently become the Museum of Champagne Wine and Regional Archaeology, and it is currently hosting an exhibition by Maison Perrier-Jouët entitled Taste the World, the Banquet of Wonders. Echoing the passion its founders Pierre-Nicolas Perrier and Rose-Adélaïde Jouët had for nature and art, the showcase is a celebration of the art of living, investigating the spiritual connection with objects in everyday life. A unique curation of furniture, fine-dining tableware, curiosities and works of art mostly dating back to the Art Nouveau movement (1890-1914), the exhibition examines the beauty of nature and openness to the world, mirroring Charles Perrier’s interests in natural science and collecting. ‘Behind each artwork, there is a story of sensitivity, creative freedom and reflection on our relationship to nature,’ explains curator Benjamin Loyauté. ‘The banquet is envisioned as a place of passage, which draws on heritage to evoke the future, on nature to evoke life, and on sharing to evoke joy.’
The association between the Champagne house and the world of art dates back to 1902 when Henri Gallice – the third generation at the helm of the brand – commissioned Émile Gallé to create the legendary magnum bottle decorated with a Japanese anemone. This was the starting point of what became the largest private collection of French Art Nouveau in Europe, preserved at Maison Belle Epoque – sitting right next to Chateau Perrier. ‘Art Nouveau is, for us, the kind of philosophy that matches ours, it’s about adding beauty to everyday life,’ says Axelle de Buffévent, style director of Maison Perrier-Jouët. ‘The Belle Epoque House was the original family house of Perrier-Jouëts, and today it represents the living legacy of the Champagne brand aiming to “keep our roots and keep our heritage alive,”’ adds de Buffévent.
Taste the World, the Banquet of Wonders runs from 16 September to 11 December 2023;
Musée du vin de Champagne et d’Archéologie régionale, 13 Avenue de Champagne 51200 Épernay.