Champagne Drappier bucks market trends

Champagne Drappier has always been a bit different from the competition, but its unique approach is paying dividends, even in declining markets for the French fizz.

Drappier’s Brut Nature is doing well in restaurants in the US

Drappier, a family-run, Aube-based grower and négociant Champagne producer, has a very particular character that makes it something of an outlier among its rivals, but also a highly successful business.

Neither a grande marque nor strictly a grower, Drappier has 60 hectares of vineyards in southern area of Champagne around its winery in the village of Urville, but also buys in two thirds of its supply from vineyard owners in the appellation to craft around 1.8 million bottles annually.

And, according to Charline Drappier, the 29 year-old daughter of Michel Drappier (who heads up the house), last year was “very good” in terms of sales, with demand up both in the domestic market and exports.

In particular, the two most notable declining Champagne-consuming nations of the UK and France are growth markets for Drappier, with the former even seeing a sales fillip of 10% for the producer in 2018 alone.

Explaining the reasons for the growth of Drappier, even in areas of falling Champagne demand, Charlene told db at the start of this year that the brand may be benefitting from a rising call for “more crafted products”.

“We are independent and family-owned and not of lot of négoce can say that,” she said.

Continuing, she remarked, “People are interested in our story, and they like what do.”

While the UK and French markets are in growth for Drappier, the greatest rate of increase is in fact coming from the US, where Drappier Champagnes saw a leap of 25% in volume sales in the past year.

Helping raise the profile and business of Drappier in North America specifically, says Charlene, is the producer’s Brut Nature, which sommeliers are increasingly taking on by the glass.

“Because it is made with 100% Pinot Noir, which is picked fully ripe, no-one is saying it is too dry, and, if it is blind-tasted, then they think it’s a Brut,” she recalled, explaining its appeal among those who may want low-sugar cuvées, but find them too tart.

Another area benefitting the positioning of Drappier is its focus on sustainability, as Champagne’s first carbon-neutral producer, with an increasing number of its vineyards certified organic (15ha today).

It also eschews all herbicides on its property and now has its own horse, which can plough as much as 6ha of the estate, while it is moving to electric tractors for the rest.

As for its winery, that uses 100% renewable energy, sourced from the sun.

Other elements make Drappier unusual, and in fact, ahead of its time, with a longstanding focus on low sulphur use, including a no-added sulphur cuvée, and an embrace of historic Champagne grapes, such as Arbanne and Petit Meslier, and in the future, Fromenteau too – the local name for Pinot Gris, which Drappier plans to use to make the only varietal Champagne from this grape.

In particular, Charlene is keen that Champagne becomes more eco-minded in its approach to vineyard management.

Commenting on the region generally, she told db, “Champagne means countryside, and we have to remember that the countryside is an ecosystem with more than one crop.”

Concluding, she said, “It is important to re-introduce an ecosystem in Champagne for more balance and biodiversity, but it is hard, because livelihoods may be at stake.”

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