6. Lower dosage levels & blanc de blancs/noirs will gain greater prominence
Diversification is a key word in the broader Champagne category. With rosé’s slight hiccup in recent years, there has apparently been a return to “white” Champagne, according to Philipponnat.
This opens up the possibility of marketing lower dosage Champagnes, blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs. As Garance Thiénot, director of marketing and communications at Champagne Thiénot, explains: “It is important for a Champagne house to have a range of Champagnes to offer its customers.
“Non-vintage will always be the leading product but it is vital to have other styles, if only in small quantities, to give established markets more of a choice.”
The chief argument for the potential growth of low dosage and blanc de blancs/noirs wines as stylistic trends, lies in their respective appeal to current tastes and ease of explanation.
Philipponnat for one sees the NV category splitting into two different dosage levels to cater for those that prefer their brut Champagnes bone dry.
He says: “Brut zero is increasingly popular but it’s not a category, more of a trend towards drinking drier. It may split NV into two different dosage levels. Brut zero will conquer a larger chunk of the market little by little.”
It should be noted that back in March 2011, Moët & Chandon announced that it was dropping the dosage levels in its Brut Impérial from 12 grams per litre to 9 g/l. This news followed an announcement that Dom Pérignon had also lowered its dosage to between 6-7 g/l. Cellar master Richard Geoffroy said at the time that over the last 10 years, “there has been a strategy of lowering the dosage.”
James Simpson MW, sales director at Pol Roger Portfolio, says that the on-trade in particular is a good market for low dosage (although Waitrose and The Wine Society are also good clients) and, “hence volumes are up year on year but off a fairly small base.” He states its usefulness in the “fashionable” accounts of Harvey Nichols and J. Sheekey, the latter in particular as “a) it is great with oysters and b) it has a reputation as a ‘diet Champagne’.”
As for blanc de blancs, Philipponnat says it is an easy style to understand, more so than vintage, which continues to struggle. Simpson reports that Pol Roger has been doubling volumes of its blanc de blancs year on year. And if blanc des blancs is successful then its stands to reason that its opposite, blanc des noirs, will find admirers too. Krug of course decided to complement its pure Chardonnay Clos du Mesnil with a pure Pinot counterpart, Clos d’Ambonnay.
As Françoise Perretti, director of the Champagne Bureau, comments: “People understand when you say ‘one of’ something.”