Champagne co-op buys its UK distributor1st March, 2013 by Patrick Schmitt
CVRC Champagne de Castelnau has bought its UK distributor Patriarche Wine Agencies in a deal signed on Tuesday.
The London-based agency business was a subsidiary of Patriarche Père et Fils, one of Burgundy’s largest merchants, which in turn is owned by wine giant Castel.
Speaking to the drinks business this morning, Patriarche Wine Agencies’ general manager Keith Isaac MW said the move was “positive”.
“Champagne de Castelnau is keen to invest in the UK, and wants to grow Champagne sales primarily in London,” he said.
As a result Isaac said the agency business would be looking to recruit two new sales people to help build the brand in the UK, which he has spent many years promoting single-handedly.
“Castelnau is aware we need more feet on the pavement,” he said, adding, “I’m trying to do too much.”
Isaac also told db that he believed the decision by Castel to sell the Patriarche subsidiary was part of a wider trend of brand owners and producers switching their resources to markets other than the UK.
“Castel as a group view the future as the Far East, South America, and Russia, and see the UK market as mature, and hard to make money in.”
Continuing, he commented, “There are lots of wine companies who think that it’s hard to make money in the UK because there are too few buyers [controlling the market] and high taxes. They can probably make more money anywhere else, from Denmark to Japan.”
Nevertheless, for Champagne de Castelnau, Isaac stressed that the UK still offered opportunities for profitable growth.
“For Champagne, the UK is still by some way the biggest export market, so there is a logic to invest here.”
Isaac stressed that the move would not lead to any redundancies, and that the company would continue to distribute Patriarche wines in the UK.
“We will be keeping the agencies we have – we are just changing from being a Burgundy-owned company that sells Champagne to a Champagne-owned company that sells Burgundy.”
Isaac also said that the UK business will retain its current name until at least the early summer.
Recording that the lease on their current office expires at the end of June, Isaac said that ideally he would like to change the agency’s name at the same time as moving office.
“Our landlord wants the office back by the end of June, so if we can move and change our name at the same time, we will only have to change our letter heads and other stuff once,” he said, before commenting, “but that might be wishful thinking on my part.”
Meanwhile, he pointed out that Champagne de Castelnau is investing in its exports division, and in November last year recruited former Bollinger employee Hervé Augustin, who is now export manager at de Castelnau.
Furthermore, in an attempt to build awareness for the brand in France, last year Champagne de Castelnau replaced Jacquart as the exclusive Champagne poured on the Tour de France.
De Castelnau is owned by one of Champagne’s largest cooperatives, the Coopérative Regionale des Vins de Champagne (CRVC).