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Champagne ups emphasis on the specialist

Champagne houses appear to be putting more emphasis on specialist releases and top end cuvées to shine a positive light on the rest of their ranges.

Jacquart launched Alpha six months ago with the 2005 vintage. The 2006 will follow later this year

“Champagne is going parcellaire and boutiquey – the big is trying to be small to prove their winemaking competence is on a par with any grower,” explained Champagne Pannier’s Terence Kenny during a discussion with the drinks business last month.

Continuing he said, “People are launching a new clos or cuvée that is specialist and high quality so people think, if they can do this then their brut must be good.”

Jacquart’s managing director Laurent Reinteau confirmed such a trend with his own approach at the emergent brand.

“We launched ‘Alpha’ six months ago with the 2005 vintage, which was a big step forward, and a way to offer the consumer of Jacquart the best we can do,” he told db.

“It’s a way for us to reinforce the premium image of the brand… it is not a key business driver but an image driver, a way to show how far we can go, a way to show our expertise,” he added.

Reinteau also revealed that Jacquart would be releasing later this year the 2006 vintage of Alpha – a label introduced to replace Jacqart’s former prestige cuvée, the non-vintage Nominée.

Elsewhere, as previously reported by db, Bollinger’s CEO Jérôme Philippon said that the house would be placing a special emphasis on the sales and positioning of its late-release and recently disgorged prestige cuvée vintage Champagne called R.D.

“For Bollinger, 2014 is the year of R.D,” he stated.

As a result on Tuesday 25 March Bollinger is launching in London its R.D. from the 2002 vintage, which is the 50th in R.D’s history – the launch vintage was 1952, which was released in 1961.

Meanwhile, Roederer’s joint MD and head winemaker Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon said that the house was planning to release a new expression of Cristal which sees the Champagne undergo extended ageing both before and after disgorgement.

As previously reported by db, Lecaillon said he would make a “small release” of the prestige cuvee’s 1995 vintage in 2015, or possibly 2016.

Noting that that 5% of Cristal’s production in any single vintage is placed in Roederer’s vinotèque for extended ageing, he said that a planned launch of the 1995 Cristal would mark the first time an older wine has been released commercially.

While Cristal is currently selling the 2006 vintage, which sees just under seven years ageing on its less, the upcoming 1995 will have spent 10 years on its lees, and 10 years ageing post disgorgement.

Elsewhere, Pommery is set to launch its second ever release of its single vineyard Les Clos Pompadour later this year using fruit from the 2003 harvest.

Lanson staff harvest the grapes each year from the Clos de Lanson.
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The inaugural Clos Pompadour was released in 2011 using grapes from the 2002 vintage – the project to isolate wine from the clos and produce a special label began in 2002 following the purchase of Pommery from LVMH in April that year by Paul-François Vranken.

Like the first release of Les Clos Pompadour, just 2,000 magnums have been made of the 2003 vintage, and it will be sold for around £250 in the UK off-trade.

Finally, Lanson told db it would be launching its first vintage release for Clos de Lanson later this year using fruit from the 2006 harvest from a one-hectare walled vineyard in central Reims.

When launched, it will be the first single vineyard Champagne from the house, and an addition to the range instigated by Philippe Baijot, current CEO and director of Lanson-BCC, after the acquisition of Lanson International by Boizel Chanoine Champagne Group in 2006.

Jérôme Durand, marketing director for the brand told db that it was important for Lanson to release the Clos de Lanson this year because the house’s head winemaker Jean-Paul Gandon is to retire at the end of 2104, or possibly early 2015, having been with Lanson for 42 years.

“We would like to launch Clos Lanson before the departure of Jean-Paul,” he said, who has made a Champagne from the clos each year since 2006, using fruit from the single vineyard harvested by Lanson office employees.

Durand added that just 8,000 bottles have been produced annually from the vineyard, which contains Chardonnay vines between 35 and 50 years old.


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