Leroux: Champagne needs to reinvent itself
Stephen Leroux, the managing director of Charles Heidsieck, believes in order for the Champagne industry to weather the Covid-19 storm, it needs to reinvent itself.
Speaking during the launch of Charles Heidsieck 2012 last week, Leroux said that the 2020 vintage was “a very sensitive subject” in Champagne.
“There are a lot of discussions going on at the moment between the UMC and producers. We were just sent an 85-page document of revised specifications of how to harvest this year. The 2020 harvest will be lower, but exactly how much by and when it comes in is a different story.
“There’s a lot of fruit on the vines as we had magnificent flowering this year, so far everything is green for go,” he said.
During the tasting Leroux said that the coronavirus crisis had brought about reflective thinking in Champagne about the best way forward for the region.
“The big challenge for the Champagne industry is to keep producing wine. We’re not football players, so we can’t just change clubs.
“We need to reinvent ourselves without losing our history. It’s a challenging time, but we’re excited about the challenge of making Charles Heidsieck over the next few years and adding complexity through barrel fermentation,” Leroux said.
“We are going to lose sales due to Covid, but we will be bottling over double the amount of our estimated sales of brut reserve this year to show our commitment during the coronavirus crisis and our belief in the future of the brand. We know we have to act now,” he added.
In terms of Charles Heidsieck’s most important markets, the domestic market remains number one, with the UK in second place and Scandinavia and the US of growing importance.
Looking to the future, Cyril Brun, Charles Heidsieck’s chef de cave, said finding ways to preserve freshness in Champagne will be one of the biggest challenges.
“Climate change and how to preserve freshness is a big issue for the Champagne industry. We’re still feeling the benefits of global warming at the moment, but we need to find a solution to the decline of freshness.
“We’ve been doing no malo on a portion of our wines to try to preserve the freshness, which is one part of the solution. We will also need to consider harvesting our grapes earlier,” he said.