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The Champagne Master's Secret After decades creating one of france's most exquisite champagnes, the retiring cellar master of Perrier-Jouët must pass on HIS secrets to his successor. Their transmission takes them from champagne to the geisha bars in Osaka. Story and Photos by Justin Jin

Deschamps poses for a photo with a mama-san at the Ritz-Carlton in Osaka.
Frerson rises to accept her role as Perrier-Jouët's eighth cellar master.
Deschamps and Frerson on the bullet train shooting passed Mount Fuji.

Back in Champagne

Back in Epérnay, the cultural heart of Champagne, Deschamps is passing on the baton to his successor, the first female cellar master to run Perrier-Jouët.
Deschamps presents Frerson the key to the PJ cellar on her first day.

The World's Oldest Bottles

Unlocking the door to a secret cellar.
Deschamps shows Frerson the world's oldest bottle of Champagne, the Perrier-Jouët 1825.

Harvest

Champagne is made of mostly black grapes; here are PJ's Pinot Noir.
The night before harvest in champagne, workers get ready "for battle".
The grapes are picked by hand to avoid breaking the skin and colouring the pale juice.
Workers carry some 80kg of grapes uphill.
The grapes are pressed whole-bunched and extremely gently to let the light-coloured juice travel along the stems to the bottom.
Deschamps discusses with Frerson the quality of the juice.
PJ's enameled bottle is designed by iconic Art Nouveau artist Emile Gallé in 1902.
Workers labour throughout the year on the vines.
Pruning helps improve champagne vine's productivity and quality.
A lunar eclipse hangs over PJ's shared vineyard with Champagne Mumm.

The Art of Creation

Blending is a key part of the cellar master's creative work. Here, Deschamps and Frerson watch their deputy mix red Pinot Noir wine with clear base wines to create a rosé.
Deschamps teaches Frerson PJ's taste profile that she will soon have to create from base wines of 70 villages.
PJ's 10 kilometre cellar holds some 11 million bottles of ageing champagne.
Second fermentation by adding yeast and sugar creates the bubbles.

The final secret in Japan

Frerson chats with a high-society Japanese woman in Tokyo.
Frerson sitting with her escort while Deschamps chats with his.

From the monastic dark tunnels leading from Eden, the cellar master must remember where the wine will travel. He and she must think of the glitz of Osaka, Paris and New York where the bubbly will flow deep into the night.

A mama-san chases them to the street, offering a deep bow. Deschamps returns the gesture fully.

Copyright 2020 by Justin Jin. Full story text available on request.

Justin Jin photographs and writes long form stories for the world’s leading publications.

International prizes attest to his dedication. He was awarded the Magnum Photography Prize, a place at the World Press Photo Masterclass, Canon Prize, among others.

He is also a knowledgeable wine-taster, having been in his younger years the prize-winning captain of the Cambridge University blind tasting team.

Justin and his team winning the 1994 Cambridge vs Oxford wine tasting championship.

He splits his time among Brussels, China and wherever the story takes him.