Nicolas Feuillatte, founder of the largest cooperative in Champagne and the number one selling Champagne brand in France, has died aged 88.
Born in Paris on 29 January 1926, Feuillatte turned down the chance to inherit his family business and instead moved to the US where he went on to become the largest importer of African coffee into the country.
A prominent figure among the New York jet set, Feuillatte partied with the likes of Jackie Kennedy-Onassis, Princess Diana and actress Lauren Bacall.
Returning to France aged 40, Feuillatte bought the 12-hectarte Domaine de Bouleuse in the Ardre Valley near Reims and embarked on a career in the Champagne business.
Nicolas Feuillate and Princess Diana
Described as “daring and visionary in his approach” with “boundless energy and a profoundly independent spirit”, a non-conformist, Feuillatte initially produced Champagne to sell to his celebrity friends.
In 1986 he linked up with Henri Macquart of the Centre Vinicole de Champagne (CVC).
The name of their company became the Centre Vinicole – Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, which now comprises 80 cooperatives spanning 5,000 growers and 2,225 hectares of vineyard land with a storage capacity of 100 million bottles.
Last year, the company exported 10.4 million bottles of Champagne, making it the third best selling Champagne brand in the world behind Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot.
Nicolas Feuillatte remains the number one selling Champagne brand in France. This May, it reported record net operating profits of €17.8 million for 2013.
A month earlier, the brand employed Champagne Drappier’s Guillaume Roffiaen as director of winemaking and quality.
Nicolas Feuillatte produces a broad range of Champagnes, from an entry-level collection to a Grand Cru range designed to be enjoyed with food.
Its prestige cuvée, Plames d’Or, is a vintage Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blend from top sites such as Le Mesnil, Chouilly and Ambonnay aged for a minimum of nine years housed in a dimpled black bottle. It also produces Palmes d’Or Rosé.
Sold in 76 countries, Nicolas Feuillatte has a particular interest in sponsoring art and cultural events around the world. Each year the company selects an “artist of the year” who completes an original work for the brand.
Feuillatte died on Sunday.