Releasing vintage Champagnes earlier ‘gives consumers more choice’

Chief winemaker at Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, Guillaume Roffiaen, believes that releasing his vintage blanc de blancs Champagnes with less maturation gives customers “more choice” with regards to food pairing options.

At a tasting of the Champagne co-operative’s UK on-trade range, which officially launched back in September 2018, Roffiaen said that he now releases his blanc de blancs expressions when they were “younger and fresher”.

Referring to the Nicolas Feuillatte Collection Vintage 2012 Blanc de Blancs and Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2012, he said: “We used to sell our blanc de blancs with more maturation, now they’re younger and fresher.

“When you release them when they’re older, you reduce the pairing opportunities. Releasing them when they’re younger gives the customer the choice of whether to drink them now or age them for longer.”

He noted how it was important for the on-trade range to be particularly suited to being paired with food and have the ability to work as an apéritif right the way through to dessert.

He noted how the Collection Vintage blanc de blancs was “good on its own too” while the Grand Cru, with its grapes sourced predominantly further south in the Côte des Blancs, was more adaptable, working especially well with seafood.

Speaking more generally, he praised the producer’s diversity, boasting around 2,100 hectares of vineyards (6-7% of the total Champagne production zone), which he said was “key”.

This he said, allowed him to have great flexibility in the use of reserve wines, which form 40% of the NV réserve brut. This 40% is formed of wines from as many as five or six different years, with the proportions of grapes used kept exactly the same as the blend used in the wine overall.

Roffiaen joined Nicolas Feuillatte from Champagne Drappier in 2014. He revealed that he still works with the previous winemaker, Jean-Pierre Vincent, who visits the producer two to three times a year to ensure that consistency is maintained.

In 1986, former New York coffee merchant Nicolas Feuillatte told his wine brand to form a co-operative. It now boasts 4,500 growers producing between 10 and 11 million bottles a year and counts France, the US and the UK as its top three markets.

In September 2018, Nicolas Feuillatte signed a new distribution deal in the UK, appointing Castelnau Wine Agencies to represent it and develop its on-trade presence. This was the first time that two major Champagne co-operatives had decided to work together in this way.

Castelnau Wine Agencies was formed when Patriarche Wine Agencies was acquired by Cooperative Régionale des Vins de Champagne – the makers of Castelnau – in 2013.

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