Big change planned for Champagne Lanson’s best-selling label
It started with Jacquesson, then Krug, and most recently Roederer, and now – db can exclusively reveal – Lanson is planning a big change for its Brut NV, Le Black Label, that aims to draw attention to the differences of each release of the multi-vintage blend.
The reason for referencing this selection of Champagne producers relates to their decision to assign a different number to each new non-vintage cuvée they make, both to highlight the changes in the base wines, and to help the consumer ascertain the age of the bottle.
Jacquesson started the trend with its brut NV ‘700-series’ in 2000, beginning with a release numbered 728. It was then followed by Krug, which introduced a numbering system to highlight the unique nature of each annual blend of its multi-vintage Grande Cuvée in 2015 – starting with its 160th edition, which hit the shelves in 2016.
Most recent was Louis Roederer, which in 2021 announced the end of its Brut Premier NV, and, in its place, the launch of Collection 242, because the inaugural cuvée was based around the 2017 vintage, which was the 242nd harvest since the foundation of Roederer in 1776.
At the unveiling of this new concept, Louis Roederer cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon said that the new multi-vintage cuvée marked “the end of an era for Brut sans année in Champagne”.
Moving forward to this year, it’s the turn of Lanson, which is especially significant, because of all the houses mentioned above, Lanson is by far the biggest to make the move, with its Le Black Label selling almost three million bottles worldwide.
So what’s the change? Well, in April, Le Black Label Brut becomes ‘Le Black Creation’, followed by a number, which, for this year will be 257, because it will be the 257th blend since Lanson was founded in 1760, president of the house, François Van Aal, told db in Champagne last month.
Commenting that 2024 would then see Lanson launch Le Black Creation 258, he said that each new blend would be assigned a number, explaining that the aim is to “talk much more precisely to all the critics and sommeliers about what is in the blend each year.”
While assuring db that Lanson cellar master, Hervé Dantan, is tasked with maintaining Le Black Label’s style year-on-year, the blend itself varies “because nature is something you can’t control.”
He added, “The cepages [grape varieties] change, and the amount of reserve wine varies from 35-45%, and the vintages going into the reserve wine are different.”
Such changes are of course in addition to a new base wine for each ‘creation’, which is the youngest vintage of the blend, and makes up the majority of the cuvée.
Van Aal said that the new concept gives the house a reason “to explain much more precisely what happens during the harvest and due to the climate,” pointing out that each bottle of Le Black Creation will come with a QR code that can be scanned to reveal the exact details of the brut non-vintage blend.
“We are explaining to the consumer how multi-vintage Champagne is made, and what Lanson is proposing specifically,” he said.
He insisted that Le Black Label was not changing in taste, commenting that “it is the same wine”, and that Lanson’s aim remains “to keep the style” – which, he added, “is about freshness, fruitiness and the elegance of the non-malolactic process,” referring to the fact that around 80% of the wines for Le Black Label do not undergo the conversion of relatively tart malic acid to softer lactic acid.
He also said that by “explaining the culture of the wine behind [the Champagne], we believe we will help the consumer better understand the quality.
“It will help us build the image we deserve,” he said, adding, “The more we talk about our wine, the more people will understand about the quality and the prestige.”
Notably, Van Aal is not concerned that such a message will confuse a consumer used to the simplicity of a single consistent offer from Lanson in the form of the current Black Label.
“I don’t think it [Le Black Creation 257] is more complex; it is more transparent,” he said.
Noting that Roederer has successfully made the switch from its Brut Premier to Collection 242, he said that he was “confident” Lanson would not lose any customers from the changes.
“Many consumers of Black Label might not even see the difference – they will drink it and not even notice – but others, those who want to understand, will dig in,” he said.