Champagne to rein in vintage releases

The recent trend for multiple vintage Champagne releases in a row is soon to end, according to the managing director of one key house in the region.

 

Speaking to the drinks business during a visit to London this week, Hadrien Mouflard, managing director of Ayala said: “Before the global financial crisis business was booming and houses were making prestige cuvées vintage after vintage, even in 2001, which was awful.

“The crisis has been a good thing in this regard as it forced producers to take stock and reflect on what they were doing. The recent trend for multiple vintage releases is a hangover from pre-recession days.

“Over the next decade we’ll see this scaled back. People will go back to basics and I predict that most houses won’t release wines from the 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages because they weren’t very good.

The Ayala range

The Ayala range

“You need to send out a clear message – vintage Champagne and prestige cuvées should be special, not released every year. It devalues the concept to release every year. People will come back to three to four releases a decade.”

Mouflard, who joined Ayala in 2012 from Bollinger, is keen to return the brand to its “golden age” when it was one of the best-known houses in the region.

“The beginning of the 20th century was the golden age for Ayala. We got the royal warrant in 1908 and the brand became popular with the English aristocracy.

“At the time Ayala was one of the best-known houses in Champagne and we were selling one million bottles around the world – I’m keen to bring the brand back to the glory of its golden age,” he said.

Ayala was bought by Bollinger in 2005 and has benefitted considerably from the union, particularly with regards to establishing new contracts with grape growers.

Over the last three years, Mouflard has helped build up Ayala to a 700,000-bottle brand.

“When Bollinger bought the house it was really in decline, selling less than 400,000 bottles a year – you can barely call that a Champagne house,” Mouflard said.

“In the last 10 years sales of the brand have almost doubled – we’re now selling 100,000 bottles in the UK. My ultimate goal is to bring it back to the one million bottles of its heyday.

“Last year we worked with seven hectares of grand and premier cru vineyards, which would have been much harder to achieve without the Bollinger connection.

“We don’t want to be seen as Bollinger’s second wine though – we’re very much our own thing and are not buying their juice, but it can be easy to feel in its shadow,” he admitted.

Mouflard’s first task in 2012 was to strip the brand back from 11 lines to just five in order to strengthen its message and brand positioning in a competitive market.

“We’re a Chardonnay dominant brand with a focus on freshness, elegance, purity and minerality. Our cellar master, Caroline Latrive, is keen to highlight those elements in the wines,” he told db.

Mouflard described the 2015 harvest as “exceptional” and the best in Champagne since 2008. “There was no disease, the grapes achieved full maturity, the acidity could be a bit higher but it’s there,” he revealed.

With regards to English sparkling wine, Mouflard admitted to being “surprisingly impressed” by the quality. “They have a good model of small production and high prices. The terroir message is being told and both producers and retailers are getting more serious about it,” he said.

“We’re certainly taking it seriously in Champagne. It’s a different expression, but the wines have balance and power. They could do really well in Asia and Australia,” he added.

Ayala is the house Champagne at all of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants including the three Michelin star Restaurant Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea.

One Response to “Champagne to rein in vintage releases”

  1. 2009 wasn’t very good?

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