Jiles's Blog

Who Am I?

17 years spent living and working in Champagne has allowed Jiles to build up a vast amount of knowledge about all things bubbly as well as a very extensive network of contacts, especially amongst the smaller and less well-known champagne makers whose champagnes will probably amaze you with their quality and diversity.

A job as area manager for Asia and Australia with Moët et Chandon was what first drew Jiles to Champagne after completing an MBA in Luxury Brand Management at ESSEC, a prestigious business school just outside Paris.

After nearly 9 years at Moët Jiles moved back to the UK where he started one of the first online businesses promoting and selling grower champagnes,

However the draw of ‘The King of Wines and the Wine of Kings’ once again proved irresistible and another 8 year stay in Champagne was the result. During this second stay in Champagne Jiles worked with the Syndicat Général des Vignerons de Champagne as an accedited consultant for small, independent champagne makers before setting up his own consultancy.

Jiles now spends his time between England and Champagne.and puts his knowledge and contacts to work helping wine lovers everywhere learn more about champagne and helping businesses and individuals to create their own private champagne brand.

He is the author of two books on champagne, several concise guides to champagne  and is the creator of an online champagne study course called My Champagne Expert

 


 

Champagne Bulletin for March 2020

So, what’s been going on in Champagne these past few weeks?


Well you might think that the answer is ‘Not a lot’ but that’s not strictly true


Be careful what you do in the vineyards
Planting on your ownWork in the vineyards is still going on particularly the planting of new vines which is a critical job at this time of year, although a whole raft of regulations has been issued about ‘social distancing. Fortunately, that’s easier in the open air where there is plenty of space, than in the winery or offices.


Still on the subject of the vineyards, the buds have burst already – at least two weeks earlier than normal. This could be problematic if we get a spell of cold weather and early morning frost which, past experience suggests, is highly likely in the next few weeks.


Be careful what you say on social media
DeutzYou may also have heard of the debacle that occurred at Champagne Deutz: the son of the president of the company went on social media and accused the Chinese of starting the whole corona virus crisis and demanding that Chinese goods be boycotted and other similar suggestions. The backlash in China was immediate and just as vehement as you might imagine and it was a boycott of Champagne Deutz that they were demanding.


Such was the furore that the president of Deutz had to issue a formal apology to calm the situation. It remains to be seen how effective this will be.


Some good news amongst all the gloom
The UK has not been a great market for champagne over the past few years and the market lost the No.1 in value export market status it had held for many years, however things may not be as bad as they seem, even in the current crisis. The president of the Champagne Agents’ Association reports that although shipment volumes increased by only 0.8% in 2019, the value increased by 6.2% to a total value of €431,000.


It’s high-end champagnes that are driving this growth and what’s more, the same trend continued in the first two months of 2020. As for the next few months, all bets are off for the time being.


Recognition for Ratafia
Finally, some news about something that you may not know much about.


Ratafia has finally been recognised as a product of the Champagne region.


What is ratafia? It’s made from the excess juice taken from the press at harvest time to which is added eau-de-vie champenois; this prevents the grape juice from fermenting and adds alcohol to produce a fortified drink of about 18 % abv


It’s quite sweet, very easy to drink and has quite a kick to it. Almost all champagne makers produce a ratafia and you’ll have no difficulty finding it when next you visit Champagne.


Concerted efforts are now afoot to promote ratafia more widely. Here's a short video about the ratafia made by Champagne Moussé Fils


Let’s hope for more good news in April, but that remans a hope rather than an expectation.

 

Until then, stay healthy

Short and long term impact of corona virus on Champagne

Some of the consequences are obvious and common to all sorts of industries:


- employees unable to come to work,
- customers cancelling orders,
- cash running out and
- activity grinding to a halt.


Social distancing in the vineyardsMore specifically, in Champagne a special derogation has been given to vineyard workers so that they can tend the vines. Without this essential work now and in the coming weeks, come September the harvest itself would be put at risk. Fortunately, it’s easy to maintain social distancing in the vineyards and most people work on their own anyway.


Another worry that already upon some champagne makers and which is looming ever closer for others, is what to do about bottling.
Many vignerons, especially the smaller ones, call upon a contractor to bring in and set up the bottling equipment. Since it is only needed for two or three days a couple of times per year, it’s not worth the vigneron investing in the equipment his or herself. At the moment however the contractors aren’t working or can’t work. But the champagne still needs bottling.

Chaine de Tirage 640
It won’t spoil if it’s left a few more weeks or months on lees, but everyone is hoping that in a few months’ time things will be getting back to something like normal and that they will be able to start selling again. To do that however they have to have the bottles ready and you can’t just turn on a tap and produce that stock because, after bottling, the champagne needs to rest for several weeks or months before being released for sale. So, the window for getting the bottling done is getting ever smaller if the producers are to be ready for the recovery when it comes.


So much for the immediate worries, although there are many others I haven’t mentioned, but what about the longer-term impact of corona virus?
As some wise person once said, ‘It’s difficult to predict, especially about the future’, so any ideas can only be speculation, but a couple of things are likely to be affected


This year’s harvest.


GrapesWith sales taking a big hit at the moment, it’s likely that a large harvest will not be needed this year. The big buyers (the négoces) will have adequate stock in their cellars to meet demand when the markets get going again and won’t want to buy as many grapes as they would do in a normal year.
That’s potentially very bad news for many grape growers and champagne houses who rely on selling a significant proportion of their harvest to the big houses. The livelihood of these, usually smaller, growers depends on there being a healthy balance between the volume they sell and the price per kilo they get paid. If either one is out of whack, they could face serious problems.


So, what about the other side of the equation: the price of grapes?


If the demand for grapes goes down this year the price per kilo will probably go down as well, or at least not increase. On the one hand that might be seen as a good thing because the price of grapes in Champagne is notoriously high - between 6-7 euros per kilo and sometimes even more, but falling prices are a problem for those who sell grapes.


It’s also not beyond the bounds of possibility that to bring in some much-needed revenue that the growers might accept even lower prices from buyers in a position of strength.


Whilst none of this is certain, what does seem inevitable is that those in a weak financial position now will be under even more pressure come the end of the year.
Will this mean some growers and perhaps some houses going out of business? Perhaps.


Will some small operators be obliged to sell their vineyards, and will it be the big brands with resilient finances that snap them up? More than likely.


What will that do to the balance of power between small operations who traditionally own the majority of the land and the large operations who already control the lion’s share of sales and who are always looking to buy more vines?


For the time being there are only questions and no sure answers, but the effects of corona virus on Champagne are likely to be felt for months if not years to come.

 

February 2020 Champagne Bulletin

Here's a quick round up of what's been going on in and around Champagne in February

It’s cold out in the vineyards
February is usually a quiet month in Champagne. Some vignerons are busy with pruning but many others prefer to rely on the old adage ‘ Taille tôt, taille tard, rien ne vaut la taille de mars’ which put simply means ‘Nothing beats pruning in March’. In truth, perhaps they just hope that the weather will be a little milder in March.


But warmer inside
Vins clairs 1 800Instead of working outside, for many champagne makers February is a time to taste and evaluate the wines from last year’s harvest and to address the complex task of blending. In larger establishments blending may involve dozens or hundreds of bottles and a whole team of oenologists all taking notes and making a contribution to the final decisions.
The other end of the scale sees many small family groups often spanning several generations, sat around a table, tasting a dozen or so bottles, with calculators and note books at the ready, and using the same tried and tested procedure that they have used for years and years.
Both scenes are an integral part of life in Champagne


Travel plans
February is also a good time for planning the year ahead if it hasn’t already been done. Many champagne makers take the opportunity to make business trips to see existing customers and to prospect for new customers, although this year has proven difficult in this regard because of the uncertainties posed by the Corona virus.


Sales are looking rosé
On the sales front, Valentine’s Day is the big event and although there are no data for 2020 available as yet, it is hoped that this year will have seen another increase in the popularity of rosé champagne which is traditionally associated with romance and St. Valentine’s days especially in the USA where in 2019 the value of rosé champagne sales increased by over 50% in the week of St. Valentine’s Day compared with the previous week according to the research agency Nielsen


Awards
Most Admired Brands 2020Louis Roederer, Charles Heidsieck and Pol Roger were named and the No. 1, 2 and 3 most admired champagne brands by Drinks International
The evaluation included the quality of the champagne and other criteria such as the marketing and packaging as well as the overall customer appeal.
Not many major surprises at the top of the list, but one or two interesting entries a little further down including a few cooperatives (Castelnau, Pannier, Le Mesnil, for example).
Personally, I am not sure of the value of this classification for the majority of champagne drinkers. As with so many similar competitions I am always left wondering who else entered the competition and did not make the list or were there only the 30 entries that appear on the list.
Still, as they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity, so I guess the brand featured on the list will be pleased.

That's it's for this month. See you in March

It was a very good year… (and No this isn’t about the 2019 vintage in Champagne)

You may remember this haunting melody sung by Frank Sinatra back in the 1960s – he won a Grammy for it in 1966. Or perhaps you’ve heard it more recently on the TV series The Sopranos?  

But what about 2019? Was it a good year for Champagne? The shipment figures are a bit disappointing but, as they say, It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good and the silver lining for 2019 may well be the number of women who are rising to prominence in the Champagne trade

Most Champagne lovers will already know that there have been many powerful and determined women who have shaped the history and fortunes of Champagne over the centuries, and whose names are still famous today.

 Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin (La Veuve Clicquot), Elisabeth (Lily) Bollinger, and Louise Pommery are probably the names that spring most readily to mind, but which women would you mention in more recent times?

Carol Duval LeroyCarol Duval Leroy, head of the eponymous Champagne house, is certainly one.

She recalls a story of her early days as the head of the house

I remember one of my first visits to the press house after I became President of the company. It was at Cramant in La Côte des Blancs. When I got to the press house one of the workers stopped me and told me that he didn’t need any more women harvesters. I introduced myself and he was not a little embarrassed.

A lot has changed since then for Madame Duval. Apart from managing what is now a very significant player in Champagne she is also, according to one report, the 4th richest person in the world of Champagne and in the top 250 richest people in France.

But who else would you cite?

Although I know a lot of talented and hard-working women in Champagne, I can’t say that they are as well-known as perhaps they should be, so what follows is a list ( far from exhaustive) of the many women who have achieved or sustained positions of success in 2019 in a variety of capacities in Champagne.

The list is by brand name because you’ll probably recognise those more easily

 It’s up to you whether you find this list surprisingly diverse , inspiring long, or disappointing short.

Management

Krug - Margareth Henriquez – President  Margareth Henriquez(picture)      

Nicolas Feuillatte – Veronique Blin – President

Duval Leroy – Carol Duval  – President

Taittinger – Vitalie Taittinger - President

Boizel – Evelyne Roques-Boizel – President until 2019

Laurent Perrier – Alexandra and Stéphanie de Nonancourt – Directors

Bruno Paillard – Alice Paillard- Brabant – Managing Director

AR Lenoble – Alice Malassagne – Joint President

Thiénot – Garance Thiénot – joint Managing Director

Chefs de Caves

Krug - Julie Cavil,

Henriot - Alice Tétienne (picture)Alice Tetienne

Castelnau -  Elisabeth Sarcelet

Ayala - Caroline Latrive

Joseph Perrier - Nathalie Laplaige

Duval Leroy - Sandrine Logette-Jardin

 

 

Family businesses

The women in this list are likely to be involved in everything from working in the vineyards to being the ambassador of their brands at wine shows in France and overseas and almost everything else in between

J. Lassalle - Chantal Decelle et Angeline Templier

Virginie T – Virginie Taittinger

Marie-Copinet – Marie Lure Kowal – also President of the association Les Mains du Terroir

Philipe Gonet – Chantal Brégeon-Gonet (picture) 

Chantal Bregeon GonetClaude Cazals – Delphine Cazals

Natalie Falmet - Natalie Falmet

Marie- Noëlle Ledru - Marie- Noëlle Ledru

Françoise Bedal – Françoise Bedel

Lionel Carreau - Oriane Carreau

Marlène Delong - Marlène Delong

Chapuy - Elodie Higonet

 

Last but not least, I have to include the 7 vigneronnes who have joined forces to market their champagnes under the banner

Les Fabuleuses

Les FabuleusesLaureen Baillette ,

Hélène Beaugrand ,

Claire Blin,

Mathilde Bonnevie,

Charlotte de Sousa,

Delphine Brulez ,

Sophie Milesi-Moussié

There are so many more women that could be added to the list and even then one could claim, probably with justification, that women are under-represented. However that’s a topic outside the scope of this article which is just to give credit where credit is due and to introduce you to some of the current and future movers and shakers, in Champagne of whom you may not yet have heard – you probably will before too long.

Leave a comment if you know of any other talented women who absolutely should be in this list and equally, if you love Champagne and want to discover even more about it, you can do exactly that by clicking on the link below

2019 - A Year of Mixed Fortunes in Champagne

Pouring MoetBehind all the tasting notes, the wine competitions, the food pairing and all the wonderful occasions that punctuate the year in Champagne, it’s important to remember that, when all is said and done, champagne is a business.


This was brought to the forefront of our attention this week when several companies announced their annual results for 2019, and very contrasting results they were too. LVMH (including the wines and spirits branch, Moët Hennessy) continued its inexorable growth, whilst other brands had a difficult year.


What are these results and what’s going on to explain them?