English fizz to be poured in France’s top restaurants

English sparkling is to be poured in France’s top restaurants later this year after Vranken-Pommery agreed a listing for its Louis Pommery England in all Ducasse outlets across the country.

Paul-François Vranken wants to make Louis Pommery England a global brand, not just a fizz for UK consumers

The Louis Pommery label is the first English fizz to be launched by a Champagne house, and hails from the Vranken-Pommery group, owners of Pommery, Heidsieck Monopole, Charles Lafitte and Vranken Champagnes.

Speaking to the drinks business at the start of this year, Paul-François Vranken, chairman of the group, joked that it might be easier to sell his English sparkling wine abroad than the UK, noting that he is exporting half its production.

Telling db in January that he has already sold 6,000 bottles in Australia, and the same number in the UK, he then said that Louis Pommery England will be poured in the Ducasse Group – taking the fizz into France’s top restaurants.

“Alain Ducasse wants to sell Louis Pommery England in all his French outlets as well as at his restaurant in The Dorchester [hotel in London], and it will be the first English sparkling in Alain Ducasse restaurants when he takes it on later this year,” Mr Vranken said.

Currently, Mr Vranken said that the development of his English sparkling wine was limited by supply, telling db that he will be able to produce a maximum of 15,000 bottles annually until 2022, using grapes sourced from growers in England.

However, from 2022 onwards, he will have his own supply, having bought 40 hectares of bare land in Hampshire at a site called Pinglestone, which was planted with vines late last year.

“Because we have small volumes, we are limited, but once we have production from our own vineyard we will be able to develop more in the big capitals of Europe,” he said, outlining his intention to make Louis Pommery England a global brand.

When Vranken-Pommery’s vineyard in Hampshire becomes fully productive by 2022, it is hoped that it will yield the equivalent of 120,000 bottles, around 10 times current sales of Louis Pommery worldwide.

Nevertheless, this is small compared to the millions of bottles the group sells each year of Champagne, and it is also smaller than Vranken-Pommery’s new sparkling wine production in California too.

Having launched Louis Pommery California last year, Mr Vranken said that the strategy in the US was different to that in the UK.

“In the US, our plan is to sell 35,000 cases by 2021, and, in year one, we sold 5,500 cases, and we hope to do 12,000 cases this year,” he told db.

“In the US we have a volume ambition, but in the UK, we are winegrowers,” he summed up.

In the UK specifically, Mr Vranken did express a concern regarding yields, specifically in Hampshire where he has invested in land.

He noted that the frosts in the area had reduced yields from an expected 8,000kg/ha to around 2,500kg/ha in both the 2016 and 17 harvests. “It is very bad,” he said.

Louis Pommery England is made at Hampshire producer Hattingley Valley, and the current release is made using the 2014 base vintage.

As db was the first to report, the Louis Pommery brand was launched last year for sparkling wine brands from outside Champagne, beginning with California, and then England.

In the future, Mr Vranken admitted to db that he was considering adding a sparkling wine from Japan to the Louis Pommery brand, but stressed that presently this was “just an idea”.

“The US, UK, and France are the areas of development, and they take a lot of time and energy, and if we start making sparkling wine in too many countries we would lose our soul, so we want to reinforce what we have now,” he commented.

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