My interview with Séverine Frerson comes at an important moment in Maison Perrier-Jouët’s 200-year history. Last month, we witnessed the transition of cellar masters over a memorable lunch as Hervé Deschamps retired from his role spanning over two decades.
Speaking to Frerson and seeing her on-screen were enough to paint a picture of the woman in real life. She stresses her passion for wine, and I can feel her excitement for her new role as cellar master along with a willingness to preserve her predecessor’s legacy. The most striking of all is her desire to be guided by her intuition, applying her hard-earned knowledge in the world of wine and relating each bottle she has tasted to her most treasured memories – painting a beautiful story for buyers, critics and champagne lovers abroad.
This is a major appointment for Perrier-Jouët, and as Frerson embarks on her journey, we believe she is the woman for the job. As she continues to preserve the floral, delicate champagne style produced from the Chardonnay grape in Épernay, Frerson remains a fresh feminine face, providing unparalelled, dynamic sophistication and elevating Perrier-Jouët around the world.
Séverine Frerson and Hervé Deschamps
How did you become involved in the world of wine? Was wine always a part of your family and how did you cultivate your knowledge over time?
I grew up in a small village outside of Reims, and both my parents were doctors. There was no connection to wine in our family history, and I developed my passion for wine after spending six years working for a family friend’s vineyard and in the cellars. I pursued oenology in Reims, and after graduating, I began working for different champagne houses. Twenty years of my career have been with Piper and Charles Heidsieck, then I moved to joining Maison Perrier-Jouët in October 2018.
It’s so exciting to be developing your own cuvée. What types of notes, ingredients or even bottle shape would you like yours to be?
Since Chardonnay is our signature grape variety, it will be the cornerstone of all my blends moving forward and to preserve the delicate, intricate floral style under the Maison. I have many ideas for my personal touches later, but it’s too early to tell how the cuvée will form. I’ve discussed this with Hervé Deschamps, my predecessor. Champagne takes time, so we’ll need patience and probably another decade before I dive into my creation.
What legacy would you like to leave at Perrier-Jouët and how will you engage the next generation when connecting them to a 200-year history that stands the test of time?
Maison Perrier-Jouët is a special house with a distinctive story and style. The fruit is essentially a legacy being transmitted by eight cellar masters since 1811, so maintaining the style and ensuring that all champagnes are the highest quality and [being] prepared for the future is my role. Being cellar master is not about creating wines, but remaining as the ambassador of the House’s savoir-faire is important for all generations to understand. I can’t wait to meet others who enjoy champagne globally as part of my job.
Sustainability is one of the hottest topics in the F&B world. Are there any challenges Perrier-Jouët faces in producing its champagne? Do you foresee any other challenges beyond sustainability?
Sustainability is a high priority for Perrier-Jouët. The House was founded by a renowned botanist, so from the beginning there has been a deep, symbiotic relationship with nature, which has been an inspiration for everything produced. Different cellar masters cultivate a different relationship with this idea, but now it’s my turn to enhance this concept.
We have a history of giving back to the community and to the environment we work in. When it comes to protecting biodiversity and fighting against climate change, we make sure our vineyards are doubly certified with the highest standards. We have a zero-herbicide policy and test agro-ecology projects on some of our plots. In addition, we have recently launched a 100% eco-friendly design for our collection, which is coming soon. These are just some of the things we’ve done and what we plan on continuing doing, and we will go further!
What is some advice you would give to those wanting to pursue a career in wine?
The key word is passion, and you cannot do the job without this. The wine world is not pretentious and is incredibly open, in the sense it is for everybody. The industry is filled with passionate people, so it is important to get out, meet, talk, taste and understand what each wine contains.
What is the most memorable Perrier-Jouët cuvée you have tried and which dish would you pair it with?
There are two cuvées I would like mention. The first one is Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 1979 in magnum. I tasted it with Hervé Deschamps, my predecessor, during our transition period. When he opened this bottle and we tried it together, I immediately fell in love with it. The cuvée being over 40 years old, and I love the fresh floral balance of Chardonnay with other grape varieties. There are notes of dried flowers, white tobacco, candied citrus and beeswax, creating intense flavours and saline notes. I would pair this cuvée with poultry like quail with a light mushroom sauce and roasted chestnuts.
The other cuvée that strikes me is Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2012. I love its finesse, complexity and purity. It is a pure Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque cuvée with signature floral notes. This wine is perfect with Bresse chicken.
You are the first female cellar master under the Maison. A huge milestone and accomplishment – congratulations! Do you foresee any challenges for yourself in this position?
This is one of the biggest life achievements in my career. I understand the responsibility and I love it. I enjoy a good challenge, so I’m excited to pursue what comes to me, and I have the chance of being under one of the most prestigious vineyards of Champagne, a 200-year-old Maison with an extensive history.
For more interviews like this, like Foodie on Facebook