Yesterday morning, the peace and tranquillity of the quiet, pretty village of Hautvillers was broken as a cavalcade of 17 black Mercedes people-carriers from Paris swept into town. The occasion was a momentous one for this, the Champagne cru most closely associated with Dom Pérignon; a change of winemaker and the launch of a great vintage.
Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger doesn’t come to the UK market very often but when he does it usually makes for interesting copy. The last time I saw him for any length of time was at the Vintners’ Hall fascinating vertical tasting of Comtes de Champagne held nearly two years ago in December 2011. He was on good form again last month and gave a very amusing speech to guests at the Café Royal reception.
Earlier in the day when we talked about the market one of the most interesting things he said was that for the first time in many years Taittinger was able to buy all the grapes it wanted from the 2013 harvest. Perhaps this is the first sign that grape prices might stop rising each year, a regular increase that has effectively forced the major players to raise their prices to retailers annually for more than a decade. Pierre-Emmanuel is not alone in wanting to keep champagne affordable.
Harpers: 3 May 2013 (TBC): Veuve Clicquot President & CEO Jean Marc Lacave
Veuve Clicquot’s President and CEO Jean Marc Lacave says: “We need a relevant new message and the link between wine and gastronomy is an obvious one.” He was speaking at a special lunch in Reims to mark the launch of a new collaboration between the brand and renowned French chef Joël Robuchon. “We like the idea of matching the creativity of a great chef like Joël with that of our chef de cave, Dominique Demarville.”
An outside opinion: Michel Letter was critical of the Champenois when he arrived in the region back in 2006 saying they didn’t always seem to apply logic to the decision making process. Seven years on and he has been accepted by the Champenois as one of their own but his different background has enabled him to bring a new approach to the region and how the houses of GH Mumm and Perrier-Jouët are run.
Richard Geoffroy, chef de cave at Dom Pérignon is not a believer in pink champagne that can’t be distinguished from its white counterpart with your eyes closed. “If it doesn’t taste different, what’s the point in making a rosé?” he said at the launch of 2000 pink DP a couple of years back. At that event, the first ever oenothéque DP Rosé from the stunning 1990 vintage was also released, somewhat overshadowing its decade younger sibling.
This time round in 2013 with the simultaneous release of the 1993 oenothéque DP rosé alongside the new ‘02, one could say roles are reversed. While 2002 is the most widely produced top class vintage since 1995, ’93 wasn’t much of a year for vintage champagne. But again it is the wine with that extra decade in bottle which stands out now and it is tempting to say: ‘What’s the point of drinking Dom Pérignon Rosé without at least two decades ageing?’ Let’s hope Geoffroy can persuade the accountants at LVMH to keep more DP stock back, so we can. We understand he would like to.
Two former top Bollinger managers, well known to the UK champagne trade, have started new export orientated jobs. Hervé Augustin, previously Bollinger MD, whose ‘resignation’ as President of Ayala last September surprised many industry observers, has joined Champagne De Castelnau at the Reims-based CRVC co-operative as their export director. And earlier this month, Stephen Leroux, former sales and marketing director at Bollinger, who briefly worked last year on the export side at Louis Roederer, joined the EPI management team under MD Robert Remnant, specifically working on the Charles Heidsieck brand.
Augustin oversaw a complete restoration of Ayala’s fortunes and image moving over from managing Bollinger after the family bought the ailing house in January 2005. The CRVC MD Pascal Prudhomme says Augustin will help them achieve their objective of « reaching sales of 500,000 bottles for the De Castelnau barand by 2016, its 100th anniversary, with 50% sold outside France”. Aged 62, Augustin’s career in Champagne, which spans 37 years, began at Laurent-Perrier working with his uncle Bernard de Nonancourt.
The appointment of Leroux on the Charles Heidsieck brand shows EPI’s determination to build a talented management team capable of restoring this famous marque’s image, positioning it in the same territory as brands like Roederer and Bollinger.
Devoted sisters: Alexandra Pereyre de Nonancourt talks about how she and her sister Stephanie were handed the reins of the Laurent-Perrier business when her father Bernard died in 2010.
She explains that although their commitment to the business was questioned and there were rumours the company was up for sale, that was never really an option for the two sisters. They were only too aware of their father’s strong desire for them to take over at the helm working together to guide the business.