Champagne popping out of Covid-19 – Liz Palmer’s Presentation – Sparkling WINE Week July 1 2020

Sparkling WINE Week – July 1st 2020
Champagne Post COVID –
Session 3 – 15.30 – 16.00 Seminar: Champagne popping out of COVID-19  – Sparkling WINE Week Liz Palmer, Key Note Speaker

 Champagne Popping Out Of Covid-19

 Remember …only sparkling wine, from the Champagne region of France, can be called “Champagne”.

Brief Overview Of The Region

Location: the Champagne Region is located in the Northeastern part of France, about 1h30 from Paris by car and 45 minutes by TGV (high-speed train).

 Districts: The viticultural boundaries of Champagne are legally defined and split into 5 wine-producing districts: Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. The towns of Reims and Épernay are the commercial centers of the area. Reims is famous for its cathedral, Notre-Dame de Reims – this was previously used for the coronation of the French Kings and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Grapes: Three grapes are mainly used – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier.

Other approved varietals include: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Arbane, and Petit Meslier

  • These together are less than 0.3% of plantings.

31% of vineyards in Champagne are planted with Chardonnay which performs best on the Côtes des Blancs and on the chalk-slopes south of Epernay. Chardonnay produces lighter, fresher wines and gives finesse, fruit and elegance to the final blend. It is the sole grape used in Blancs de Blancs.  Note:  No other authorized white grapes, i.e., Pinot Blanc, Arbane, Petit-Meslier and Pinot Gris can be used in making a Blancs de Blancs.

Pinot Noir accounts for nearly 38% of the plantings in Champagne and lies at the heart of most blends – it gives Champagne its body, structure, strength and grip. It is planted across Champagne and in the Aube district.

The final varietal is Meunier which accounts for nearly 31% of the plantings. This varietal is durable and resistant to spring frosts – found in Marne Valley. It produces a soft, fruity style of wine that is ideal for blending with the more assertive flavours of Pinot Noir. Producers allege that Pinot Meunier lacks aging potential, but this does not deter Krug from including 15% of it in their final blends.

Champagne is a collective of over 16,000 growers and 340 houses. The region as a whole has put a proactive focus on climate change and sustainability since 2003 it was the first in the world to produce a carbon footprint assessment and identify the main sources of emissions in their systems. Based on learnings from the assessment, the region rolled out a plan to cut emissions by 75% by 2050. A nearer-term goal ensures that 100% of the area holds an environmental certification by 2030. (As of 2019, about a fifth of the region held a certification.)

Champagne Shipments

The latest shipment figures are attached [as at April 20, 2020] « too early to tell the effects » since 50% of the shipments occur between September – December 2019, the next figures are expected to be announced around the 10th/15th of July – so watch for this – usually published in French.

Going back to 2019 – Champagne reached its highest ever turnover, breaking the €5 billion mark for the first time in its history, while the start of this year was also very strong in terms of sales of the sparkling wine. The beginning of 2020 was good in terms of consumption – and now it’s a different story.

2020 Pandemic 

With gatherings over the past three months across large parts of Europe, and around the world, canceled or postponed, and bars and restaurants closed, it should come as little surprise that Champagne sales would be seriously affected, especially as the nation’s worst-hit by the pandemic are some of Champagne’s biggest markets: France, Italy, Spain, and the USA.

As a whole, the Champagne region immediately reacted when the W.H.O. declared a global health emergency with the coronavirus pandemic [January 30, 2020].  France announced the first coronavirus death in Europe [February 14, 2020].

What Initial Steps Were Taken? 

  • Adapted general safety measures in the vineyards and cellars, and made the continuation of the work possible.
  • established guidelines for « mating confusion » which usually is done by hand in large groups (the whole village at once).

What is mating confusion:  This technique is based on a natural insect (scent or aroma) pheromone which confuses a male butterfly into not mating with the female. If the insects don’t breed, they aren’t a threat to the vines – this is called sexual confusion.

Mating confusion was postponed a few times and eventually suspended and did not take place in many villages. Typically, the growers would rather take the risk to lose a percentage of their grapes to the insects, than giving up on a « biocontrol  – which is a component of an integrated pest management strategy. It is defined as the reduction of pest populations by natural enemies.

[Note: Champagne is the leading European country, in terms of surface, when it comes to mating confusion and half of their surfaces are under mating confusion].

  • During this time, the Comite Champagne reminded the growers and houses, of the strategic orientations of the region: growth in value rather than in volume.
  • During the crisis, the Champagne Region interacted with the French government, to ensure that economic measures were in place to support the domaines and wineries.
  • The Presidents and executive board members of the houses have clearly communicated that Champagne expects a fall of shipments by 100 million bottles (i.e. minus 30% to minus 35%) over the year, resulting in a loss of turnover of 1,7 Bn€.
  • During the months of April and May, Champagne has managed to establish an “adaptation” of the collective system which is aimed at ensuring the survival of the houses and companies, such as:The 2020 harvest will be bottled in two parts:

the first part, as usual, January 1st 2021;

with the second part to be bottled as of January 1st 2022

(ensuring that there is a reasonable level of production in 2020 (in order to sustain domaines and all players, who depend on selling grapes). This avoids providing the markets with too much wine.).

[Note: Currently there are almost 4 years of shipments in stock (or 1,43 Bn bottles)]

  • The French government was solicited to reinforce the “Loi EGalim” or “**EGalim Law”] in the French off-trade, because it has had, in the past, positive effects on the Champagne market overall by limiting extreme discounts.

**[in long form this represents – law for the balance of trade relations in the agricultural and food sector and healthy, sustainable, and accessible food for all].

  • The EGalim Law set recent promotions as follows: 1 bottle offered for 3 purchased, as opposed to « buy one get one free ».

[Note: This call to the government is a positive sign on Champagne being firm on its value growth strategy.] 

Increased Digital Activities

  • The growers, houses and the Comite Champagne have all changed the way they communicate including increasing their social media activities.
  • recently launched Champagne education platform [Mook] champagne-mooc.com.

Classic Version

Course in English with subtitled videos

Access to 4 educational modules

The Champagne making process

The Champagne terroir

History and Economy of Champagne

Diversity and Tasting

Free

A N D 

Premium Version

Course in English with subtitled videos

Access to the 4 educational modules of the classic version

Additionnal contents:

Extra videos

Test your knowledge

Get the official Statement of completion

49€ (taxes included)

Strategy – Post-COVID

  • The main driver to rebuild a « desire for Champagne » is to collectively build the visibility of Champagne as a region that has invested in an eco-friendly production management [this is a number one concern for consumers 25-35 years in many key markets] and Champagne as the drink for celebrations, and special moments, but also the drink to make moments special — Champagne as a treat during hard times, a break within the rush, a comforting drink, for some.
  • And as Louis Roederer’s cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon states “We make something which is not essential but, at the same time, it is essential for pleasure and bringing people together. We make a wine for celebration, so we decided that, in difficult times, it is important to do what we do and try and make an even better wine for the future.”
  • Some brands, including the Union of Growers have organized charities to support medical teams in the region.
  • The environmental effort of the region (previously mentioned), for the last 20 years and with objectives set for 2025, 2030, 2050, these strategic fundamentals are long-term.

Harvest 2020 

  • There was initially a challenge to get seasonal workers for the upcoming harvest above at least 50% of the 120,000 required. With most coming from Eastern Europe, it’s both a challenge to determine how and when they can travel to France, and then to implement social distancing which anticipated for the end of August. This is no longer an issue as the UE will be reopening and students will be available.  The challenge remains to implement social distancing.
  • This is a manual and collective task that can cause incredible logistic challenges (transportation and meals).

Champagne Tourism

  • When it comes to tourism the region has adapted the government guidelines to reopen and the sites have just started to open.

France is Europe’s most-visited country, making tourism a key pillar of the economy.

  • Experts say it’s too early to evaluate the full effect of the COVID-19 crisis, but the European Commission is already calling for a new “Marshall Plan,” using EU funds, to save the tourism industry.
  • Once the lockdowns are fully over, and plans for a vaccine are in place, we will all want to celebrate – with Champagne of course!

Sources:

Comite Champagne
Thibaut Le Mailloux
Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon

 

 

Liz Palmer

liz@liz-palmer

www.liz-palmer.com

Comité Champagne launches (free) online course for trade professionals

The platform www.champagne-mooc.com offers insights designed for trade professionals who want to improve their knowledge of presenting, tasting, and selling Champagne. There are two versions available: the Classic Version and the Premium Version.  The courses are aimed at sommeliers, wine merchants, buyers, and sales representatives.

The Classic version, which is free, provides access to four educational modules: the Champagne making process; the Champagne terroir; the history and economy of Champagne; and diversity and tasting.

The Premium version costs E49 and has the same four education modules offered on the Classic course,  with additional content including extra videos, a test to assess the delegate’s knowledge, and the option to receive an official statement of completion.

The total course runs for less than five hours and the platform is available 7/24, with the option to start and pause at any time. The platform is available in both French and English with the possibility of subtitles in German, English, Chines, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Russian.

Celebrating 40 Years of Bollinger and James Bond

Champagne Bollinger is celebrating its 40th-year partnership with James Bond with a Limited Edition Millésimé 2011.

To mark the release of the upcoming movie No Time To Die, the 25th installment of the James Bond series, Bollinger has created a limited-edition dedicated to 007, with a 2011 vintage. The jet-black 75cl bottle is adorned with the number “25”, formed from the titles of the previous films, which are similarly etched on the glass of the wooden box. The 2011 vintage, created entirely from Pinot Noir from the Grand Cru village of Aÿ, where the House was first established in 1829. This is the first time that both the vintage and village have been used exclusively by Bollinger to make a dedicated wine. The 2011 harvest in Aÿ, produced complex, powerful and harmonious Pinot Noirs, fully expressed in this characterful wine.

Released by pre-sale on 5 October to mark James Bond Day, with an RRP of £150.

Tasting notes:

The decision to use Pinot Noir for this 2011 vintage, exclusively from the home village of Aÿ with its mighty fruit is nothing short of brilliant. Perhaps wait about ten years until the wine has reached its peak and completely integrated its enormous fruit with the barrel notes, but the wine is already magnificent with its deep ripe aroma of apples, backed by fresh wooden notes. House typical and powerful.

The first bottle of Bollinger appeared alongside 007 in 1979 with the release of Moonraker. Since then, the association has gone on to inspire numerous limited-edition bottles, with the Bollinger cooperage also home to a collection of vintage Bond posters.

Commenting on this milestone, Etienne Bizot, CEO of Société Jacques Bollinger, states: “It brings me an immense amount of pride to be celebrating 40 years of partnership between Bollinger and James Bond, it is a testament to the friendship started in 1979, between my father Christian Bizot and James Bond producer Cubby Broccoli. A friendship based on our shared values such as excellence and elegance.”

www.champagne-bollinger.com

 

Champagne Castelnau is the official sponsor of the Tour de France 2019

Champagne Castelnau has announced its partnership with Amaury Sport Organisation, organizer of the Tour de France and other cycling events.

The annual epic cycling race will begin in Brussels today (6 July), making its way to Épernay and Reims in the Champagne region. The peloton will arrive in Epernay on Monday 8th July, departing Reims on Tuesday 9th July.

In its capacity as official Champagne of Amaury Sport Organisation, organizers of the Tour de France, Castelnau has released a limited edition of its Brut Reserve NV to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the famous Yellow Jersey. The Cuvée Siècle Jaune is a blend of 50% Pinot Meunier, 40% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, with 40% reserve wines and it comes in a black bottle with yellow writing.

Champagne Castelnau will also be served at the end of each stage of the Tour de France and hosting a series of events in celebration. The race traverses several wine regions in eastern France, including Alsace, before making its way through Provence and the Languedoc.

The race’s inaugural edition was 1903 – it has been held annually since that year, except for the period during the Two World Wars.

The Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa Opens

“Follow the road of the golden bubbles”
MAITRE DE MAISON – NICOLAS BÉLIARD –

 Champagne’s first contemporary luxury hotel, The Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa officially opened this week.

Embracing the lush bounty of the champagne houses and the surrounding UNESCO World Heritage sites, guests will have exclusive access to private Champagne houses, harvesting sessions with local wine producers and tastings personally curated by the in-house concierge team.

The Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa boasts an enviable location right in the middle of the vineyards that stripe the hills of Epernay, the capital of Champagne, and the historic villages of Champillon and Hautvillers of Dom Perignon fame. Reimagining a wine-country retreat for all seasons, local Reims-based architect Giovanni Pace has designed the property in the style of a contemporary amphitheatre, incorporating the original 19th Century Post House where it is said that King Charles X of France stopped over before heading to Reims for his coronation.

‘Champagne’ rooms start at £489.92 per night feature a king-size bed and private terrace.

The top tier ‘Josephine’ suite meanwhile, will set you back £1,068.71 a night and boasts a sitting room and balcony overlooking vineyards.

Each of the 49 rooms in the 16,000 square foot space features Hermès bath products.

The original property has been closed since 2014 after it was acquired by Boston-based Champagne Hospitality collection, a group of boutique luxury hotels and spas that includes the award-winning Le Barthelemy Hotel & Spa in St. Barths. The hotel is led by Nicolas Béliard, formerly General Manager of the Peninsula Paris.

Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa is home to the region’s first world-class destination spa spanning 16,000 ft. In partnership with acclaimed French brand Biologique Recherche, the wellness centre comprises nine treatment rooms; state of the art fitness facilities; a wood-lined yoga studio; eucalyptus-infused sauna; manicure and pedicure stations, and a mosaic-tiled Hammam. Completing the experience are two temperature-controlled, chaise longue-lined swimming pools – one indoor, one outdoor – along with dedicated staff who deliver invigorating juice blends and guide guests to multiple relaxation lounges. Biologique Recherche offers a highly personalised approach, with signature treatments including the ‘Soin seconde peau / Second skin treatment’, a regenerating and lifting facial treatment. All products are formulated using pure natural or biotechnological compounds and are fragrance free. Spa packages and retreats will also be available throughout the year.

Two-star Michelin chef Jean-Denis Rieubland is the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa’s Executive Chef, where he leads the two gastronomic dining experiences – a gourmet dining room, Le Royal, and a more casual, all-day restaurant, Bellevue. Formerly Executive Chef of Le Chantecler at the Negresco Hotel in Nice, Chef Rieubland brings the highest level of gastronomy to Royal Champagne, where he will preserve French ‘know-how’ while injecting a contemporary touch. Rieubland’s cuisine is influenced by the local surroundings, working closely with farm producers of the region. He will also be developing a Chef’s garden on a large terrace overlooking the hills of Épernay.

www.royalchampagne.com