(This post “Jourdan on #WineWednesday / Are Champagne houses right to invest in sparkling wines in England?” was written by Guillaume Jourdan. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Linkedin.)
In December 2015, Champagne Taittinger announced it was investing in making a sparkling wine in England. Only 8 months after the historic event that took place in Champagne when renowned Sparkling wines gathered together to present to an international audience their vision of Excellence (watch the trailer). And now Paul François Vranken (Vranken Pommery) announces he is also moving into the market. Are they crazy? Or is this a strategy that will pay off in the long run?
No, they haven’t lost their minds – far from it! They are simply investing in another region just as a major estate in Alsace, renowned for its great Riesling wines, might invest in Germany to produce more great Rieslings there too. There is no incompatibility – on the contrary. These days England is producing quality sparkling wines and Champagne houses are banking on complementarity with wines of great potential. I would recommend, in passing, you read this new article “Germany and Alsace’s Battle of the Rieslings“: it will help you understand – after having transposed the premise – that the battle between Champagne and English sparkling has no need to exist, as I have written in the past.
However, the tale of English fizz is only just beginning and it might seem that the Champagne houses, steeped as they are in history and tradition, are getting in on the act rather hastily. That may be so, but if their strategy pays off, they will be the pioneers. And it is not by chance that all this is happening now, even though the wines won’t go on sale before 2019. The fact is, things are speeding up on the English side and the market has to prepare itself for the arrival of large quantities of new bottles in the very near future (see article from Jancis Robinson). So now is the time to find strong partners with whom to build a lasting business.
It is also time to find new international markets – other than the UK – an approach the Champagne houses began decades ago. So beyond a simply investment in new vineyards in England, we could see the emergence of new distribution partnerships which would enable English sparkling wines to expand their network far more rapidly than if they went it alone. A distribution network is not built in a day – or even a few months; it takes years to create one. And English fizz is now having to up its pace.
So what about 20 years from now? Well, maybe it will be the turn of a Hollywood star to buy an estate and cause a boom in English sparkling Stateside – just as rosé sales have jumped in the US in the last few years thanks to the Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie & Famille Perrin effect (see “Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s foray into rosé “winemaking” partnering with Rhone producer Famille Perrin has had a huge impact on the the US rosé market“). The road ahead may still be long and the final destination uncertain, but a few signposts have now been put up…
Champagne & Sparkling…Discover this world in the Film « The Path of Humility » with Champagne Henri Giraud, Gusbourne, Raventos i Blanc, Ca’del Bosco & Domaine de la Taille aux Loups.
(*Since 2003, Guillaume Jourdan has been advising more than 200 prestigious wine estates for their international marketing & communication strategy incl. Chapoutier, Hugel, Dr Loosen, Famille Perrin, Cos d’Estournel, Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie’s Miraval…Write to email@example.com)