Regular Champagne releases could lead to Bordeaux pricing

The growing number of Champagne houses releasing vintages almost every year could lead to fluctuating prices depending on the quality of the vintage according to Hubert de Billy of Pol Roger.

Speaking to the drinks business during a recent visit to the house, de Billy, the great-great grandson of the founder of Pol Roger said:

“I understand why houses like Dom Pérignon are releasing regular vintages but it’s not our idea of something that is exceptional and it is diluting the quality perception of vintage Champagne for the average consumer.

“With the effects of global warming, making vintage wine is much easier than it used to be – our last very bad vintage was back in 1984. But we didn’t make a vintage wine in 2003 as the acidity was too low, so the wines aged too fast.

Hubert de Billy of Pol Roger

“In other appellations you’re obliged to make a vintage wine each year, but if you release a vintage Champagne each year you have to accept that your prices might go up and down from one year to the next like Burgundy and Bordeaux.

“Just because it is a vintage wine doesn’t mean that it’s good. However if a Champagne is only made in exceptional years then the price won’t go down.”

The Champagne house is seeking to increase production of its vintage wines, but will only release a vintage expression in exceptional years.

“We’re looking to source more grapes from across the region so that we can grow without compromising quality. We’re willing to pay what we need to for high quality Grand and Premier Cru grapes but it’s hard to get hold of them.

“We don’t really want to buy grapes from the Aube – the quality is good but not tremendous and we wouldn’t be able to make vintage wine with it.

“Our main goal at the moment is to increase the production of our vintage wines, not our Brut Reserve,” he said.

As to what the Pol Roger house style is, de Billy said the goal was to make medium-bodied, floral wines that are slightly on the reductive side.

“Our wines show their body with age – we don’t use any oak as we’re not aiming for an oxidative style and we want to keep the wine young and lively for as long as possible,” he said.

“We sell the wines when we think they’re drinkable, but it depends on the market as to what they like – the British like to age their wines for longer, while the Italians like it young and the French splinter off into both camps,” he added.

Founded in 1849, Pol Roger is a Pinot Noir dominant house – two thirds of its 92 hectares of vineyards are Pinot and the remaining third is made up of Meunier and Chardonnay. It is one of the only houses to still hand riddle all of its bottles.

The house owns half of its grape supply and buys in the other half from growers. Its flagship Brut Reserve contains an average of 30% reserve wine.

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