This 13th Century château underwent substantial renovation following its acquisition by Michel Le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois, French Secretary of State for War and close friend of the young Louis XIV, future Sun King.
François Le Tellier, Michel’s son and future French statesman under Louis XIV, then inherited the chateau when he married. This was at a time when Champagne wines were making a glittering entry at the Court of France and at royal courts throughout Europe.
The young Marquis de Louvois entirely rebuilt the property, replacing the medieval chateau with a grand and gracious residence boasting some of the finest gardens to be seen anywhere in 17th Century France. Their design and layout was the work of Michel Le Bouteux, André Le Nôtre’s right-hand man, some of whose drawings have survived to this day.
Behind the chateau, a succession of parterre gardens extended all the way to a U-shaped retaining wall against the hillside. A ramp on either side of the gardens led to a terrace featuring a 60-foot wide pool with decorative water spouts. From there a grand degré (monumental staircase) led to a long, wide, central avenue that ran through woodlands, and to a large, upper pool that served as a reservoir for the lower terrace pool, the pools in each of the four flanking bosquets and also the water tower. The reservoir itself was supplied with water that had to be channelled three kilometres from the springs of Vertuelles and the Fontaine Fraîche.
The property was sold in 1776 to Louis XV’s daughters, Adélaïde and Sophie then destroyed (except for the foundations) at the time of the French Revolution. It was rebuilt in the 19th Century, complete with wrought iron entrance gates widely considered to be among the finest examples of traditional locksmithing.
In more recent times (2012-2013), luxury Champagne House Laurent Perrier commissioned students of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture in Versailles to examine correspondence by the Marquis de Louvois together with plans stored in the archives of the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm. Their findings show that André Le Nôtre was the creative genius behind the terraced vertugadin (turfed greensward), with its playful visual effects on the views from and towards the chateau.
Historic properties like these serve as a powerful reminder of the Grand Siècle: the ’grand century’ that spawned the art of entertaining in the French style. For Bernard de Nonancourt, founding president of Laurent-Perrier, it was precisely this spirit that had to ring out in the House’s prestige bottling, the aptly named "Cuvee Grand Siècle".