Philipponnat gets ‘grand marque’ look21st February, 2014 by Patrick Schmitt
Philipponnat has redesigned the label of its Royal Réserve Brut to reflect the Champagne’s improved quality and provide a link to a past look.
Speaking to the drinks business in late January ahead of the repackage, Charles Philipponnat, head of the house, described the new design as “completely different”, noting in particular the decision to ditch the green and gold colours of the previous label (see below), and change the Philipponnat lettering from lower to upper case.
“The idea is to go back to something more classical, and we want people to feel that Philipponnat has always looked like that, we want them to forget about the green and the gold,” he said.
Continuing, he said that the house was “going back to the old label of the 70s” (pictured, bottom), pointing out that the green label was a look generated for Asia in the 80s, but extended to the Royal Réserve Brut by Marie Brizard when it acquired Philipponnat in 1989, before selling it Boizel Chanoine Champagne in 1997.
Describing the new look as “much more simple”, Philipponnat noted that the label now had more in common with the appearance of other established houses such as Laurent-Perrier, Bollinger and Pol Roger, making it “more in line with what the consumer should expect from a grand marque”.
He also stressed that Philipponnat was now written in capital letters, or “majuscule”, which he said was to make a statement that the house was “not miniscule”.
“It is a label that makes a statement about our quality status,” he said.
He also noted that Philipponnat has been working on improving its wines as well as its distribution network, and as a result “needed a label that was in tune” with such developments.
“This [the repackage] is the last leg of our trip to being a legitimate grand marque,” he said, adding, “and it think the order is right: first we worked on the wine and then the packaging, so the look is in line with what’s in the bottle”.
Among the quality changes made to the Royal Réserve Brut since Marie Brizard sold the brand over 15 years ago was the decision to only use the first pressings, or cuvée, for the Champagne, according to Philipponnat.
“We don’t use the taille, not even a premium taille, anymore,” he assured.
The other major change was to concentrate on sourcing grapes from almost entirely premier and grand cru vineyards, as well as increase the proportion of Pinot Noir in the blend.
“The blend today has two thirds Pinot Noir and almost no Pinot Meunier… because we are here in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, we want the style to be a Pinot Noir style,” he said.
The Royal Réserve Brut also now spends a longer time ageing on its lees, with four years on average spent in Philipponnat’s cellars before release.
“Because there’s almost no Meunier in the blend it needs a longer time to open up,” explained Philipponnat.
Other smaller changes include the inclusion of a small proportion of wines aged in wooden casks, and a greater quantity of reserve wines.
“15 years ago there was proabably around 20% reserve wine and no wood influence at all,” said Philipponnat about the Royal Réserve Brut under Brizard’s ownership.
According to Philipponnat, the oak from 5-6 year old casks bring “greater complexity” to the Champagne, while he also said, “contrary to what we expected, we have also discovered that the wood has made the wines fresher, not heavier.”
Philipponnat suggested that this could be because the oak tannins, which have anti-oxidant properties, help the wine to resist “the heaviness that comes from oxidation.”
Finally, he pointed out that the dosage for the Royal Réserve Brut had dropped from around 11g/l 15 years ago to 8g/l today.
“The improvements we’ve made had meant it’s possible to drop the dosage because we have nothing to hide anymore,” he summed up.