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Wednesday 27 August 2014

Champagne de Castelnau aims high

21st March, 2014 by Patrick Schmitt

Champagne de Castelnau has told db of an ambitious growth plan to almost double its size within the next two years.

Champagne de-castelnau

In 2016, Champagne de Castelnau will celebrate 100 years since its foundation

Speaking to the publication earlier this year, marketing manager Louis-Charles Pluot said the Champagne brand, which is made by the Coopérative Régionale des Vins de Champagne (CRVC), was “expecting” to reach 500,000 bottles by 2016 – a year that marks de Castelnau’s 100th anniversary.

At the end of last year, the brand had sold 355,000 bottles, up 25% in volume on the previous year according to Pluot, who reminded db that de Castelnau has no constraints on grape supply – as part of the CRVC it has access to 900 hectares of vineyards, almost 3% of the entire Champagne appellation.

Indeed, de Castelnau general manager Pascal Prudhomme told db he would like to see the brand reach 1 million bottles within the next six years, pointing out that the cooperative currently makes between 7 and 9m bottles each year at its winery in Reims.

Champagne de Castelnau was founded in 1916, but its current owner, the CRVC, is relatively recent: the group acquired the brand – which was named in honour of General Eduard de Curières de Castelnau – in 2003.

“We are at the beginning but we are ambitious and we have the will,” he said, adding that he wanted to build the brand “step by step” and “not rush after volumes”.

Supporting such a sentiment was Hervé Augustin, former managing director at Champagne Ayala, who joined de Castelnau in late 2013 as export director.

“The cooperative is profitable by itself so we are not under any pressure to sell whatever the conditions… we have plenty of stock and little debt – and this is not that common in Champagne.”

Currently, 60% of de Castelnau’s sales are in France, while the UK is the brand’s largest export market, making up a further 20% of the Champagne’s business.

While it’s common to hear Champagne houses bemoaning the difficulty of trading profitably in the UK, de Castelnau has increased its investment in the market, acquiring its importer Patriarche Wine Agencies in March last year, and renaming it Castelnau Wine Agencies four months later.

“We are investing in the UK, we know the risks, but we consider that the UK has potential for de Castelnau,” commented Prudhomme, pointing out that the UK operation has already taken on two new sales people to expand the brand’s distribution in the London on-trade.

As for the UK off-trade, Champagne de Castelnau can be found in Spirited Wines, Adnams, as well as online through the newly launched UK arm of France’s Vente Privée website.

In terms of further developing its export sales elsewhere, de Castelnau is targeting two key Champagne growth markets: the US and Japan.

As for the French market, the brand is continuing to raise awareness through its tie-up with the Tour de France.

As previously reported by db, de Castelnau replaced Jacquart in 2012 as the exclusive Champagne poured on the Tour de France – a deal that lasts three years.

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