Is there anything more French than Champagne? The delicate fizz of this refreshing wine is irresistible. Its little bubbles burst on the palate as they incessantly move upwards in the fluted crystal glasses in long, long ribbons with all the gusto of exotic dancers, making me dream.
Champagne, produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of wine to effect carbonation, is also protected under "appellation": An appellation is a geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown. In the case of champagne, the wine enjoyed an appellation control by virtue of legal protection as part of the Treaty of Madrid (1891). It was stated there that only sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region and adhering to the standards defined for an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée could be called "champagne." This right was even reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles after WWI.
And here is where Yves Saint Laurent and his fragrance steps in...
Yvresse, the feminine fruity chypre by Yves Saint Laurent, was composed by Sophia Grojsman (previously responsible for the mega-hit Paris) and originally launched in 1993 as Champagne. Even the bottle recalled the cork-stoppered bottles of the French elixir with its twisted gold metal detailing. But upon its issue, the French winegrowers protested, even resorting to smashing bottles of champagne in front of the journalists who had arrived in Paris for the launch party. Pierre Bergé, president of the brand, had had to scuffle with the vinoculturists and the battle for the name was afoot. After a lawsuit resulting in a legal battle which Parfums Yves Saint Laurent lost, they rechristened the fragrance Yvresse : a clever and elegant word play on “ivresse” -which means "intoxication/drunkenness" in French- with Saint Laurent’s initial “Y”).
It was at that crucial no man's land point in time that advertisements circulated on which it was noted: Sous ce nom je serai bientôt un objet rare. (I will soon be a rare object under this name). The red-sequins dressed woman was holding her hands in the air in a shape of Y, recalling the advertisements of Saint Laurent's other chypre, the magnificent and dry Y.
It was at that point that I had secured my bottle. I know it has become a collectible.
Later on, the emphasis of the slogan shifted and two elements mingled: the pettillant (sparkling) aspect of champagne: "un hommage aux femmes qui petillent"(a hommage to women who sparkle); and the forbidden touch that was traced back to Opium: "Les femmes adorent les interdits" (women love the forbidden), with perhaps a wink to L'interdit by Givenchy.
Yvresse is an excess of an effervescing fruity chypre, nostalgic for an era of full-bodied both wines and women with complex personalities and secrets behind the festive facade. It's full of overripe notes, like a bruised apricot, that recall to mind more an eau de vie with sweet violets on top or a "bellini" of mashed peach purée and sparkly Prosecco than actual champagne, although it does retain the sparkling quality of the delicate bubbles. The latter makes for an impressive swoosh upon first spraying without the tingling of the nostrils that makes the experience of sipping champagne so naughtily indulgent. Wait for it to develop fully though and it has a tipsy effect that is comparable. Yvresse has a buttery quality about it, with an oak tone like the used barrels of fermented spirits. In a way its petulant character traces its antecedents in the hideously beautiful Que Sais-Je? by Jean Patou (composed by Henri Alméras in 1925), a more robust example of a honeyed fruity chypre.
The violet, mint and spicy aniseed notes of Yvresse, piquant along with the earthier chypre accord, combine to give a character of both brightness and sophistication, celebrating in a decadent way. Yvresse is meant to be worn by bubbling, spirited women (or daring men) who can hold their own and laugh their way during a dull soirée, not needing others to make it a celebratory occasion.
Top: nectarine, mint, aniseed, cumin, violet
Heart: "blue rose", rose, lychee, carnation, cinnamon, jasmine
Base: vetiver, oakmoss, patchouli
There is also an Yvresse Eau de Toilette Légère (light version) which replaces nectarine fruit with nectarine flower, aniseed with blackcurrant leaves, rose with mimosa and lychee with white lilac. It's less sweet and less "ripe".
For those who find Yvresse likable but perhaps too much and more mature than they would like, Deci Delà by Nina Ricci, a now discontinued but easily found online perfume, is quite close in spirit and smell. It adds a taste of hazelnut and vanilla and eases on the boozy, but with a more playful air that would satisfy a younger audience.
Pic of drunk (?) lady by owenbooth on Flickr.
Ad pic courtesy of parfumdepub.