Reims – the largest city in Champagne, part 3: major Champagne houses (M-Z)

The Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Tim Hodson, 2011).

The profile is divided into four parts
Part 1: Basic facts
Part 2: Major Champagne houses, members of the Union des Maisons de Champagne (A-L)
Part 3: Major Champagne houses, members of the Union des Maisons de Champagne (M-Z)
Part 4: Other Champagne producers – cooperatives and small producers – and former producers

Reims is home to the largest concentration of major Champagne houses. Of the ten largest Champagne houses, sex are located in Reims, based on sales under their own brand in 2015:

  • 2nd place: Veuve Clicquot, 19 million bottles
  • 4th place: G.H. Mumm, 7.6 million bottles
  • 6th place: Taittinger, 5.5 million bottles
  • 7th place: Pommery, 4.4 million bottles
  • 8th place: Piper-Heidsieck, 4.3 million bottles
  • 9th place: Lanson, 4.2 million bottles

The 45 million bottles sold by these six houses correspond to 14% of the total volume of Champagne sold in 2015 (313 million bottles) and 20% of the volume sold by Champagne houses (224 million bottles) as opposed to other categories of producers.

Major Champagne houses, members of the Union des Maisons de Champagne

Unions des Maisons de Champagne (UMC) is the organisation of the Champagne houses, primarily the major ones. An older term for the major Champagne houses was Grandes Marques, so UMC often present themselves as the Grandes Marques & Maisons de Champagne. Of the 76 members listed on the UMC website, 22 are in Reims, but they take up six of the spots on the top 10, by size.

  • G.H. Martel & Co (Facebook page), a Champagne house owned by Rapeneau in Épernay. They have 58 ha of their own vineyards and three press houses. The Champagnes are divided into two ranges, those that say G.H. Martel & on the label, and those that are called Victoire. Most non-vintage Martel Champagnes have a rather high proportion of Pinot Noir. The Martel vintage Champagne is composed of 50% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Meunier. Victoire Millésime is composed of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir (refers to the 2005 vintage) and the oak barrel vinified Victoire Fut de Chêne is 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir (refers to the 2007 vintage). G.H. Martel also owns the brands Comte de Noiron, Balahu, Charles du Roy, and Maxim’s. Should not be confused with the Cognac house Martell, which is spelled with two l.
    The foundation of the house was laid in 1869 by the Tabourin family from Avenay-Val-d’Or. Henry Léopold Tabourin later worked for Auguste Devaux. Following the death of Devaux in 1894, H.L. Tabourin formed the house Veuve A. Devaux together with the widow Devauxs. In 1910, H.L. Tabourin left this Champagne house and worked together with his son. In the early 1920s, Tabourin bought the brand G.H. Martel & C°. Following the death of André Tabourin in 1979, the Épernay house Ernest Rapeneau (founded 1901 in Hautvillers) bought a majority stake in  G.H. Martel. In 2003, the brand Charles de Cazenove was bought, see part 2 (A-L).

The traditional cellar of Mumm in Reims, with its characteristic gate and a mural painting illustrating the steps of Champagne production as performed in former times. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo G.Garitan, 2015).

  • G.H. Mumm & Cie (Facebook page), one of the largest Champagne houses, which in 2015 was in 4th place with sales of about 7.6 million bottles, and which is owned by Pernod Ricard. Their own vineyards (as of 2018) are 218 hectares, of which 160 ha are grand cru (in eight of the villages), and are 78% Pinot Noir. Their own grape supply covers about 25% of their need, and 75% are bought in. The standard cuvée of Mumm is called Cordon Rouge and is composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, and 25% Pinot Meunier. The proportion of reserve wines is 25-30%. The red band diagonally across the label – the red cordon – is found on most Mumm Champagnes and just on Cordon Rouge. Today, the vintage Champagne is called Le Millésimé and in the 2006 vintage it is composed of 64% Pinot Noir from Verzy, Mailly-Champagne, Verzenay, Aÿ, Bouzy, and Ambonnay, and 36% Chardonnay from Cramant, Avize, and Oger. In the 2009 vintage, the proportions are 68% PN/32% Ch. The vintage Champagne also used to be called Cordon Rouge, and small amounts of older vintages (primarily in magnum) are released under that name with the additional designation Collection du Chef de Caves. The prestige cuvée is called Cuvée R. Lalou, and takes it name from René Lalou who headed G.H. Mumm from 1920 (he died in 1973). The first vintage was 1966, then under the name René Lalou, and this cuvée was produced until 1985 when it was discontinued. In the 1998 vintage, the production was resumed, and this re-inaugural vintage was launched in 2007 under the current name. The 2002 vintage is composed of 53% Pinot Noir from Ambonnay, Verzy, and Verzenay, and 47% Chardonnay from Avize and Cramant. Mumm de Cramant is a non-vintage blanc de blancs from Cramant, with lower pressure (4.5 atm), which is a style which used to be called Crémant de Cramant. This wine has a history back to 1882. The range was extended in 2012 with a Mumm de Verzenay, which is Pinot Noir from Verzenay. Since 1972, Mumm owns Le Moulin de Verzenay, a windmill clearly visible above the vineyards in Verzenay. They use it for hospitality purposes.
    The house was founded in 1827 by the brothers Jacobus, Gottlieb, and Philipp Mumm. Already in 1761, the Mumm had founded a wine merchant business in Cologne. The initials G.H. are from Georges Hermann Mumm, in the generation after the founders, who took over in 1852. The Cordon Rouge brand was introduced in 1876, then in the form of a red silk band which decorated the neck of the bottles. In 1902, the annual production was over three million bottles, which was about one-tenth of all Champagne production! In the 1920s, the house was sold by the Mumm family to a group of investors that included René Lalou (1877-1973), who later became the manager of the house. In 1955, the spirits group Seagrams bought a stake in Mumm, and later the majority if Perrier-Jouët was bought by Mumm, followed in 1972 by the majority in Heidsieck & Co Monopole. Seagram’s share of Mumm, which then had become the Mumm group, increased to 91% in 1985. However, the later period of Seagram ownership wasn’t very successful for Mumm (and the production of the prestige Champagne was discontinued). In the 1980s and in particular in the 1990s, they got a bad reputation regarding quality, probably with the Champagne writer Tom Stevenson as the largest contemporary critic. The production volume also shrank in this period, with 2001 as a low point with about 6 million bottles. The turn upwards in quality was initiated in early/mid 1990s, but it took a while to be noted among consumers. Their return to good quality was probably more widely recognised only when the prestige cuvée R. Lalou was relaunched in 2007 (then in the 1998 vintage). However, former critical voices such as Tom Stevenson were positive already in the early 2000s, among other things based on Mumm’s 1995 and 1996 vintage Champagnes. The Champagne holdings of Seagrams were divested in late 1990s, and in 1999 Mumm (together with Perrier-Jouët) were bought by the Dallas-based US investment company Hicks, Muse, Tate & First, together with the Frey family of Champagne. In 1998, the Freys had tried to buy all of Mumm together with another partner, but had to suffice with a smaller part of it. At this time, Mumm’s vineyard holdings were 248 ha (plus 63 ha for Perrier-Jouët). In 2000, both houses were sold on to Allied Domecq. They aimed at rebuilding the quality reputation of Mumm. In 2005, Allied Domecq was bought by Pernod Ricard and Fortune Brands, and was divided up between these two. This meant that Mumm (and Perrier-Jouët) ended up owned by Pernod Ricard.
    Vintages released by Cuvée R. Lalou (until 1985 René Lalou): 1966, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1998 (50% PN/50% Ch, released in 2007), 1999 (50% PN/50% Ch, released in 2011), 2002 (53% PN/47% Ch).
    Composition of some older Cordon Rouge: 1985: 75% PN/25% Ch, 1990: 81% PN/19% Ch, 1996: 63% PN/37% Ch, 2002: 68% PN/32% Ch.
  • Bruno Paillard (Facebook page), a Champagne house which was founded (in 1981) and is still run by Bruno Paillard. Their own vineyards consist of 32 ha in 15 villages, of which 12 ha in grand cru villages, including Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, and Verzenay (as of 2018). The Champagnes are of high quality and the house is one of those that pleasantly enough indicate disgorgement month on all their bottles, which they have done since 1983. In tastings held by Bruno Paillard himself, he often include bottles of different age of the house’s non-vintage Champagne. The reserve wines are stored in a solera. The range inlcudes three vintage Champagnes: Brut Millésimé which is a blend of roughly equal proportions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (52% PN in the 2004 vintage) and in some vintages also some Pinot Meunier (2008 is 42% Ch/42% PN/16% PM). There is also a blanc de blancs and a prestige Champagne called N.P.U. “Nec Plus Ultra”, which is an oak barrel-vinified cuvée from equal proportions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The first vintage was 1990 and the most recently released (2017) is the 2002. N.P.U. is released late and then has a few years’ extra cellaring on the cork (three years for the 2002). Bruno Paillard (the man) is also a major shareholder in Lanson-BCC, but his own Champagne house is not part of that company/group.
    The house was founded in 1981 by Bruno Paillard (born 1953), who started as a courtier (“grape broker”) in Champagne. In 1994, he purchased his first vineyard, 3 ha in the grand cru village Oger.
    Vintages of N.P.U.: 1990, 1995, 1996, 1999 (grapes from Chouilly, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, and Verzenay), 2002 (released in 2017), 2003 (released in 2016, before the 2002, grapes from Chouilly, Oger, Mailly, and Verzenay). Upcoming vintages: 2004.
  • Piper-Heidsieck, described together with the other Heidsieck houses in part 2 (A-L).

The castle-like facilties of Pommery in Reims. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (my own photo, 2007).

  • Pommery (Facebook page) is one of the largest Champagne houses, which in 2015 was in 7th place with sales of about 4.4 million bottles. It is the largest house house of the Vranken-Pommery-Monopole group. Their facilities are located in the eastern part of Reims and includes a castle-like building from the late 19th century with a characteristic look featuring a mix of architectural styles. Since the also have sizeable and highly decorated cellars, Pommery is one of the best addresses to visit for those who wish to see one of the major Champagne houses in Reims. Their non-vintage Champagne is called Brut Royal and is composed of 1/3 each of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir. In the 2000s, the range has been expanded with several other non-vintage Champagnes intended for various market segments. The Seasons series was composed of four seasonal Champagnes with labels of different colours: Springtime – rosé, Summertime – blanc de blancs, Falltime – extra dry (slightly sweeter than brut and therefore with somewhat more body), and Wintertime – blanc de noirs. POP, which means Product of Pommery and was launched already in 1999, is a Champagne in a brightly coloured 20 cl bottle intended to be consumed using a straw and is bottled at a slightly lower pressure and as extra dry (which, again, is slightly sweeter than brut). Several additional POP versions have been added later, including Gold POP which is a vintage Champagne in a 20 cl-flaska (exists e.g. in the 2008 vintage), which at least to me is a somewhat unexpected combination. POP Earth which was launched in 2009 is different from the rest of the POP range by being sold in a 75 cl bottle. It is an organic Champagne in a slightly lighter bottle (i.e., lower carbon footprint) composed of 70% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, and 10% Pinot Meunier. I assume the reason why the same brand was applied to this somewhat more “serious” Champagne is that it may have been targeted at a younger audience. The vintage Champagne is called Millésime Grand Cru and is composed of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir from grand cru villages. The most recent vintage (as of 2018) is 2006. In former times, there also used to be vintage Champagne named Veuve Pommery Flacon d’Excellence. The prestige Champagne is called Cuvée Louise and was first produced in the 1979 vintage, which was launched in 1986. Louise is composed of Chardonnay from Avize and Cramant, and Pinot Noir from Aÿ. The composition is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir (at least in the 2002 and 2004 vintages). The 2004 vintage is extra brut with a 5 g/l dosage. In the 2004 vintage, Cuvée Louise Nature was launched, which is a version without dosage but otherwise the same wine. It can be recognized by its black label. The ambition seems to be to produce the Nature version in those vintages they consider Louise to work without dosage. There is also a Cuvée Louise Rosé. Les Clos Pompadour is a vineyard-designated Champagne from vineyards in Reims, close to the Pommery facilities. It was first produced in the 2002 which, which was launched as a non-vintage in 2011, is only sold in magnum in a limited edition of 4000 per vintage. From the 2003 vintage, it has been sold vintage-designated. The composition is 75% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, and 5% Pinot Meunier, similar to the vineyard.

    Louise Pommery (1819-1890) the way she was depicted in Pommery’s US marketing in former times. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons.

    The house was founded in 1856 as Pommery & Greno by Louis-Alexandre Pommery (textile merchant) and Narcisse Greno. Louis-Alexandre died in 1858 and his widow Jeanne Pommery (born in 1819 as Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Mélin) then took over. In 1874, Pommery launched the first Brut Champagnen, which was a drier style than what was common at that time. This meant that the base wine needed to be of higher quality since it was given less “make-up”. The Pommery children Louis and Louise took over in the next generation. In 1879, Louise married Guy de Polignac, count and later marquis. The de Polignac family continued to be the owners until 1979, when Pommery was sold to the Gardinier family, then owners of Lanson. In 1984, both houses ended up with Danon. In 1991, Pommery was bought by Moët-Hennessy/LVMH, and was sold on to Vranken in 2002, but almost without vineyards. (LVMH kept 470 ha of vineyards from this purchase.) After they bought Pommery, the group changed name to the Vranken-Pommery-Monopole group, and Pommery is run as their flagship operation. In 2014, Pommery started activities in England, in collaboration with Hattingley Valley in Hampshire, and bought 40 ha of land called Pinglestone which they started to plant to vines. The first sparkling wine was launched in 2018 under the name Louis Pommery England Brut, then produced using purchased grapes.
    Vintages of Cuvée Louise include: 1979, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1990 (released in 1998, bottled withot dåsade without this being indicated on the label), 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 (released in 2016, production 180 000 bottles including Nature).
    Vintages of Cuvée Louise Nature: 2004.
    Vintages of Cuvée Louise Rosé include: 1990, 1992, 1999, 2000, 2004.
    Vintages of Les Clos Pompadour: 2002 (released in 2011 as a non-vintage, can be recognized by the phrase “mis en cave 2003” on the back label), 2003 (released in 2014).

Roederer’s facilities in Reims. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo G.Garitan, 2013).

  • Louis Roederer (Facebook page) is one of the very best Champagne houses, and one which is family-owned. Their sales volume is about 3.5 million bottles according to information from 2017. Roederer is a major vineyard owner with 240 ha, which supplies them with 70% of their need. Roederer is one of few larger houses that are able to rely mainly on grapes from their own vineyards. In recent years, they have converted an increasing proportion of their vineyards to organic and biodynamic cultivation. In 2018, half of their vineyards (115 ha) were certified organic. This is not visible on any labels. For a long time, Roederer has been one of the best Champagne houses, but they have fine-tuned and further polished their style in recent years, by introducing a discrete proportion of oak and lowering the dosage, in all cuvées from the non-vintage to Cristal. Their vintage Champagnes are now also cellared longer on their lees before being sold. The excellent non-vintage Champagne is called Brut Premier and is composed of about 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, and 20% Pinot Meunier. Large oak barrels are used in the vinification, the bottles spend three years on the lees, and the dosage is 9 g/l. The demi-sec version with a dosage of 38 g/l is called Carte Blanche. The vintage Roederers now gets about five years on the lees before being disgorged. Vintage is composed of about 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay with some oak barrels. Rosé Vintage is composed of about 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay. Blanc de Blancs is produced in limited amounts and using grapes from Avize and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. It is usually quite high in quality. A vintage Champagne without dosage, Brut Nature, was added in the 2006 vintage, which was launched in 2014 featuring an artist label by Philippe Starck. It is produced in vintages Roederer considers to be balanced without dosage, which primarily seems to be vintages with a high ripeness. In 1876, the prestige cuvéen Cristal was introduced, using clear bottles. It was intended for the Russian market and was produced in the style that was popular there in those days, which meant quite sweet. Cristal was revived in 1945 as the house’s prestige cuvée, but now as a dry Champagne. Cristal is typically produced in rather many vintages. Cristal is composed of just over half Pinot Noir (60% in the 2008 vintage) and the rest Chardonnay, but it is common to perceive it as more Chardonnay-styled since it includes a significant proportion of “cool” Pinot Noir and has a high level of acidity. Cristal has sometimes suffered from a “bling-bling” reputation, probably due to the eye-catching and its history. Despite this, it is a very serious prestige Champagne which is produced in a style that doesn’t always make it the most easily approachable in its youth. In my opinion, it typically needs further time in the cellar after being released, although perhaps less extra time than before. In the 2000s, Cristal has started to be sold at slightly higher age, due to extended aging on the lees. The 1996 was only given four years on the lees, which låg bara fyra år på jästen, vilket in the case of the 2006, -07 and -09 had become about seven years, and the 2008 (which was released after the 2009) was given nine years. The fine-tuning of the style has included a small proportion of oak barrel vinification (20% in 2008) and the dosage has been lowered (2008 is below 8 g/l after the previous vintages were at 9-10 g/l, and the vintages of the 1980s were at 12 g/l). Cristal Rosé was introduced in the 1974 vintage. It is a pale pink rosé de saignée, produced in a small volume. Its composition is about 55% Pinot Noir from Aÿ and 45% Chardonnay. Despite being based on Aÿ Pinot, it is rather similar to the regular Cristal in its style, except for the rosé character. It is typically released at the same time as the white version of the same vintage. In 2017, Vinothèque versions of Cristal and Cristal Rosé were launched in small volumes, then the 1995 vintage. These are older vintages disgorged late and give a lower dosage (7 g/l). These have previously been used by Roederer for tastings, but weren’t sold.
    Roederer also owns Deutz, a Champagne house in Aÿ, but the houses are run separately.
    The house was founded in 1776 as Dubois Père & Fils, and was given its present name in 1833 when Louis Roederer inherited the company. The owner family today is called Rouzaud, following the marriage of an Olry-Roederer daughter to a Rouzaud. They have long focussed on having their own vineyards, back to when the company bought 15 ha in Verzenay in 1845. In 2000, Roederer started to use organic and biodynamic cultivation. In 2010-2011, this was expanded with 14 ha in Cumières and Hautvillers that used to belong to Leclerc-Briant. This means that Roederer from 2012 has been the largest owner of biodynamically farmed vineyards in Champagne.
    In 2006, the sales volume of Roederer was given as 2.8-3.0 million bottles per year, with a future goal of 3.5 million bottles. In 2011, it was 3.7 million bottles, which was the largest so far. In 2017, the volume was given as rather constant at around 3.5 million. According to information from 2006, an average of 20% of the production volume is used for Cristal.
    Vintages of Brut Nature: 2006, 2009.
    Vintages of Cristal since 1990: 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 (released in 2015), 2008 (released in mid-2018, after the 2009), 2009 (released 2016). Upcoming vintages are 2012 (since both 2010 and 2011 were skipped; this will be the first Cristal from 100% biodynamic grapes), 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 (but no 2017).
    Vintages of Cristal Vinothèque: 1995 (released in 2017).
    Vintages of Vinothèque: 1995 (released in 2017).

Dom Thierry Ruinart as a statue outside the Ruinart Champagne house. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Petitpeton, 2008).

  • Ruinart (Facebook page), a house owned by LVMH/Moët-Hennessy and also the oldest existing Champagne house, founded in 1729 by Nicolas Ruinart. Of the LVMH houses, Ruinart uses the highest proportion of Chardonnay, and the Ruinart tradition is to use rather much Chardonnay from Montagne de Reims, rather than just from the Côte de Blancs. Ruinart has long enjoyed a good reputation and are known for Champagnes in a toasted style. The produce Blanc de Blancs at the non-vintage level and the prestige level. The vintage Champagne “R” de Ruinart Millésime is composed of about equal proportions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (2009: 49% Ch/51% PN, 2010: 55% Ch/45% PN). The prestige cuvée is called Dom Ruinart (named for the uncle of Nicolas Ruinart, Dom Thierry Ruinart, 1657-1709), and the first vintage was 1959 which was launched in 1966. Dom Ruinart is a blanc de blancs, and is composed of about two-thirds Chardonnay from Côte des Blancs (villages vary between vintages) and about one-third Chardonnay from the northern side of the Montagne de Reims, primarily Sillery and Puisieulx. Dom Ruinart Rosé is composed of about 80% Chardonnay with the same composition as the white version and about 20% red Pinot Noir wine from Sillery and sometimes Verzenay (e.g. 2002). The first vintage was 1966 which was launched in 1973. Dom Ruinart La Réserve is a late-disgorged version cellared cork-enclosed before disgorgement, and therefore similar to Dom Pérignon P2 (ex-Oenothéque). The first vintage was 1998 which was launched in 2017.
    Ruinart is considered the oldest existing Champagne house by being founded by Nicolas Ruinart in 1729. (Gosset was founded already in 1584, but wasn’t active in Champagne or wine production until later.) Transport of wine in bottles had become authorised in France in 1728 by decree of Louis XV, explaining why 1729 was a good time to found a Champagne house. The earliest documented rosé Champagne was by Ruinart in 1764, a style then called œil de perdrix (partridge eye) due to its colour. Ruinart was also first to use the old chalk cellars in Reims as storage space, following their purchase in 1768 by cellars in the Saint-Nicaise hill on the south side of Reims. François Irénée Ruinart was ennobled in 1817, under Louis XVIII, and the family name became Ruinart de Brimont. Ruinart was sold to Moët & Chandon in 1963, and is since 1988 a part of Moët-Hennessy/LVMH. Since 2003, most Ruinart bottles are produced at Moët & Chandon, while the prestige part of the range continues to be produced in the historical facility in Reims.
    Vintages of Dom Ruinart since 1990: 1990, 1993, 1996, 1998 (34% MdR), 2002 (28% MdR), 2004 (released in 2014, 31% MdR), 2006 (released in 2017, 37% MdR), 2007 (released in 2018, 25% MdR). % MdR = proportion of Chardonnay from the Montagne de Reims; the rest is from the Côte des Blancs.
    Vintage of Dom Ruinart Rosé since 1988: 1988, 1990, 1996 (released in 2008), 1998 (released in 2012, 15% R), 2002 (released in 2013, 20% R), 2004 (released in 2017, 19% R). % R =proportion of red wine.

    Vintages of Dom Ruinart La Réserve: 1998 (released in 2017).
  • Taittinger (Facebook page), one of the largest houses in Champagne that in 2015 was in 6th place with a sales volume of about 5.5 million bottles. Their vineyard holdings are 288 ha in 34 villages, planted to 48% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Meunier, and supplies about 50% of their grape needs. Their facilities in Reims are on the site where the Saint-Nicaise abbey was located in former times. They also own a mansion known as Château de la Marqetterie in Pierry just south of Épernay, used for hospitality purposes. Brut Reserve is their regular non-vintage Champagne composed of 40% Chardonnay and a total of 60% Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This is a slightly higher proportion of Chardonnay than usual for standard Champagnes from the major Champagne houses. Prélude is a non-vintage Champagne from grand cru villages with 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. To me, this cuvée is at about the same level of quality as their vintage Champagne. Folies de la Marquetterie is another good non-vintage Champagne composed of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay from their own vineyards above the Château de la Marqetterie. Folies has some oak barrel character and usually good body and a foody style. Nocturne (also produced in a rosé version) is a sec Champagne (i.e., slightly off-dry) which looks a bit like a coloured disco ball, and is targeted at the night club audience. The vintage Champagne is composed of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, mostly from grand cru villages. The prestige cuvée is called Comtes de Champagne and is produced from 100% Chardonnay with some oak barrel influence from 5% of the base wine spending four months on oak barrels, of which one third renewed each year. The grapes are from the Côte des Blancs, usually Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, Oger, and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. 1952 was the first vintage (launched in 1957). The name is taken from the counts of Champagne who ruled the province of Champagne in Medieval times. Comtes de Champagne tends to be produced in many vintages, and is a “vinous” Champagne (it is easy to believe that the oak barrel influence is larger than it actually is) that is usually accessible early while it is also long-lived. As of mid-2018, the most recently released vintage is the 2007. Comtes de Champagne Rosé is composed of 70% Pinot Noir, including 12-15% red wine from Bouzy, and 30% Chardonnay. Taittinger Collection is a vintage Champagne in an artist-designed bottle, often with bright colours and a style which could be called “modern art”. It was launched in 1983 on the initiative of the art afficionado Claude Taittinger, then in the 1978 and with Vasarely as the artist. The composition is 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir since the 1990 vintage. For older vintages (1978-1988), 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay is indicated.
    Taittinger also owns the brand Irroy (see part 2).
    The house was founded in 1734 as Champagne Forest-Fourneaux, but changed name after being purchased by Pierre Taittinger (1887-1965) in 1931. Pierre was a business man and former cavalry officer. In 1932, he also bought the mansion Château de la Marquetterie (built in 1734 in Louis XV style) in Pierry, where he had been stationed in World War I. In 1940, they had about 50 ha of their own vineyards. Pierre’s sons François (1921-1960), Jean (1923-2012) and Claude (1927-) entered the company in 1940, 1946, and 1949. (There were additional siblings who didn’t enter the Champagne business.) The house was first led by François until his death in an accident in 1960, and then by Claude until 2005
    . Jean Taittinger was both active in business (in the Société du Louvre) and politics, first as mayor of Gueux in 1953 and then as mayor of 1959-1977 and as budget minister and justice minister 1971-1974, when Georges Pompidou was the president of France. Using the profits from the Champagne activities, Groupe Taittinger and Société du Louvre developed into a conglomerate that included Bouvet-Ladubay (a wine producer in Loire bought by Taittinger in 1974), Domaine Carneros (in California, own together with Kobrand), the glass company Baccarat, and several hotels (the holding company of these was called Société du Louvre). The Taittinger group was traded on the stock market, but the family owned 35% of the shares in 2005, but these were held by some 30 persons with differing views. At this time, Belgian Albert Frère had increased his ownership to 25%. American company Starwood Capital bogght a majority of Groupe Taittinger and Sociéte du Louvre in September 2005, and most of the Taittinger family sold. Starwood paid 2.6 billion euro, with the hotel business being their focus, which meant that they weren’t interested in keeping the Champagne and wine part of the group, and therefore sold it. In June 2006, Claude and Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger (born 1953, son of Jean), in a consortium with Crédit Agricole du Nord-Est, presented the winning bid at 660 milliuon euro. The purchase covered the Taittinger Champagne house, Domaine Carneros, and Bouvet-Ladubay, which quickly was sold on to Vijay Mallya to reduce debt. A number of private share holders have entered since then. Pierre-Emmanuel is the head of Taittinger, and his children Clovis and Vitalie are also active in the company, and quite visible in their marketing. In 2011, Taittinger bought a production facility in the Croix-Blandin industrial area in Reims, built by Montaudon in 2008, but which the new owner of Montaudon, Alliance Champagne (a group of cooperatives behind Jacquart) didn’t need. They took it into possession on 1 August 2012.
    Vintages of Comtes de Champagne since 1990: 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 (released in 2018). Upcoming vintage is 2008.
    Vintages of Comtes de Champagne Rosé since 1990: 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 (15% R), 2005 (12% R), 2006 (12% R). % R = proportion of red wine.
    Vintages of Taittinger Collection with associated artist: 1978 (Vasarely, released in 1983), 1981 (Arman, released in 1985), 1982 (André Masson, released in 1987), 1983 (Vieira de la Silva, released in 1988), 1985 (Roy Lichtenstein, released in 1990), 1986 (Hans Hartung, released in 1992), 1988 (Imaï, released in 1994), 1990 (Corneille, released in 1996), 1992 (Matta, released in 1998), 1998 (Zao Wou-Ki, released in 2003), 2000 (Rauschenberg, released in 2007), 2002 (Amadou Sow, released in 2011), 2008 (Salgado, released in 2016).
  • Thiénot (Facebook page), has an address in Reims but also a large facility in Taissy, a Reims suburb to the southeast. The house is part of Groupe Thiénot, which is also the owner of the houses Joseph Perrier (in Châlons-en-Champagne), Canard-Duchêne (in Ludes) and Marie Stuart (in Taissy). The regular Thiénot Brut and Thiénot Rosé are both produced using 45% reserve wines, which is a high proportion. The vintage Champagne is composed of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. The range includes a number of cuvées named for family members: Cuvée Alain Thienot is a vintage Champagne composed of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (which is also released in a late-disgorged version; the 1996 is composed of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay), Cuvée Stanislas is a vintage blanc de blancs, and Cuvée Garance is a vintage Champagne from 100% Pinot Noir. The top Champagne, La Vigne aux Gamins, is sourced from a vineyard in Avize and is a vintage 100% Chardonnay.
    Champagne Thiénot was founded in 1985 by Alain Thiénot and was called Champagne Alain Thiénot until 2002. Marie Stuart was bought in 1994, Joseph Perrier in 1998, and Canard-Duchêne in 2003.
  • Tsarine, see Chanoine Frères in part 2 (A-L).

Veuve Clicquot’s facilities in Reims. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo G.Garitan, 2013).

  • Veuve Clicquot (Facebook page), a house owned by LVMH/Moët-Hennessy and the second largest of all Champagne houses with a sales volume of 19 million bottles in 2015. Only the Épernay-based LVMH colleague Moët & Chandon is larger, which means that Veuve Cliquot is the largest house in Reims. LVMH’s website mentions (in 2015) 515 ha own vineyards for Veuve Clicquot, which should supply about one quarter of the grapes needed for their production. The house was named after Barbe Nicole Cliquot Ponsardin, who was far from the only Champagne widow, but was the best known. The house was long called Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, but the Ponsardin part has been absent from the name in recent years. The logotype of the house is still says “VCP”, though. The Champages of Veuve Clicquot generally has a high proportion of Pinot Noir, but are stylistically more “classic” Champagnes than heavyweight Pinots. If we compare the stable mates Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot includes more Pinot Noir in their blends, and when released then tend to show more classical bready/bisquity notes than Moët. Similar to most other large houses, Veuve Clicquot has used steel tanks only for their vinification, but in recent years they have started to introduce a small proportion of oak barrel-vinified base wines in their vintage Champagnes.
    The non-vintage Champagnes and the regular vintage Champagnes from Veuve Cliquot have, as far as I have noticed, long enjoyed a better reputation among wine lovers than the corresponding cuvées from Moët & Chandon. On the other hand, the prestige cuvée La Grande Dame are usually overshadowed by Dom Pérignon. The “regular” vintage Champagnes have a reputation for being long lived, and are usually sought after when aged.
    Yellow Label Brut is their regular non-vintage Champagne, and is composed of 50-55% Pinot Noir, 28-33% Chardonnay, and 15-20% Pinot Meunier. 30-45% is reserve wines, which is a rather high proportion. An example of a composition of a release which was the current one in early 2017: the base vintage was 2013 (52%) and reserve wines (48% – a bit more than usual) from 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, and 1999, with a dosage of 10 g/l. Among the non-vintage there is also a rosé (with 12% red wine) and a demi-sec (dosage 45 g/l). Recent additions are Rich and Rich Rosé, which have a higher proportion of Pinot Meunier (30-35%), dosage at Doux level (60 g/l), and a higher price than the Yellow Label. They are thus fruitier and considerably sweeter than other non-vintage cuvées, and are marketed as a drink ingredient. Extra Brut Extra Old is a non-vintage Champagne composed of older base wines introduced in 2017. It was then composed of vintages from 1988-2010 (probably not too much of the oldest ones) that were first stored in tanks and then three years in bottle before disgorgment. It was the first release from Veuve Clicquot which was officially lower in dosage than brut, at 3 g/l. Regular vintage Champagnes exist in three versions, a white Brut, white Sec (“off-dry”), and a rosé. Vintage is typically composed of a majority of Pinot Noir, a minority of Chardonnay, and a small proportion of Pinot Meunier. Vintage Rosé also has an addition of red wine from Bouzy. Vintage Rich has a higher dosage than the regular Vintage Brut and is classfied as a Sec. In the 2008 vintage Rich has 32 g/l (2004: 28 g/l), while the Brut has 8 g/l. It is usually marketed as a more full-bodied Champagne rather than as a sweeter one. Late-disgorged bottles of Vintage and Vintage Rosé are called Cave Privée and has disgorgement date indicated. Earlier, older vintages were sold under the name Rare Vintage, then without disgorgment date. These were popular among Champagne geeks, since they were only slightly more expensive than the regular vintage Champagne, and the last releases I’ve seen under this name was the white 1988 and the 1985 rosé. The prestige Champagnen La Grand Dame was first produced in small amounts in the 1962 vintage (6000 bottles), in larger amounts from the 1966 vintage, and was launched in 1972, when the company celebrated its bicentennial existence. It is composed of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from grand cru vineyards (today Aÿ, Bouzy, Ambonnay, Verzy, and Verzenay for Pinot Noir, Avize, Oger, and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger for Chardonnay), with Pinot Noir being in majority. The style seems to have changed somewhat over the decades. Some vintages showed mature notes rather early (e.g. 1995 and 1996) while other have come across as young considerably longer (e.g. 1989 and 1990). La Grand Dame Rosé also includes red wine from Bouzy, in more recent vintages from the vineyard site Clos Colin.

    Portrait of Barbe Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin (1777-1866), from 1805 better known as the widow (veuve) Clicquot. Painted by Leon Cogniet (1794-1880) Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Petitpeton, 2008).

    The house was founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot. The son of the founder, François, then worked in the company. When he died, his widow Barbe Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin had to take over the company in 1805. The 1810 was the first vintage Champagne from the house. In the 1810s they enjoyed success, since they were the first back on the Russian market following the blockade that had been in force during the Napoleonic wars, and also because the “comet vintage” 1811 gave excellent wines. Both these things are reflected in the logotype of the house, which includes an anchor (shipping to export markets) and is surrounded by a star. Édouard Werlé (1801-1884), a German who had joined this Champagne house in 1821, became its head in 1841, after he in 1831 was naturalised as French citizen and showed a talent for management. He was also the mayor of Reims 1852-1868. Following the death of widow Clicquot, the company name became Werlé & Cie, successeurs de Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin. Édouard Werlé was succeeded by his son (1837-1907). It was in 1877, under Werlé management, that the house started to use yellow label, which they have become known for. In several countries, their Champagnes are nicknamed “the yellow widow” or something similar. The house continued in the same family until it became a part of LVMH. In 1897, Bertrand de Mun (1870-1963) married the daugther of Alfred Werlé (the granddaughter of Édouard), and became the head of the company in 1907, a post on which he continued until 1951. His son in law Bertrand de Vogüé (1901-1987, married Simone de Mun in 1826) entered the company in 1932. In 1963 the company was converted to a limited company (SA) with Bertrand de Vogüé as chairman. His son Alain de Vogüé (1927-) took over as chairman in 1973. The prestige Champagne La Grande Dame was introduced in 1972. In 1981, Veuve Clicquot bought the perfume company Givenchy. In 1986, the champagne house was bought by the bag and leather products company Louis Vuitton, which in 1987 entered into a fusion with Moët-Hennessy. The led to the creation of the luxury conglomerate LVMH. Veuve Cliquot then became a part of Moët-Hennessy, which is the wine and spirits company of the LVMH group.
    Vintages of “Vintage” include: 1982 (66% PN/34% Ch), 1988, 1989 (66% PN/34% Ch), 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2004 (62% PN/8% PM/30% Ch), (none of the vintages 2005-2007 werer produced), 2008 (61% PN/5% PM/34% Ch, 5% oak barrels were introduced in this vintage).
    Vintages of Vintage Rosé include: 1979 (49% PN/5% PM/27% Ch + 19% R), 1985, 1989 (47% PN/9% PM/27% Ch PM + 17% R), 2002, 2004 (15% R), 2008 (15% R). % R = proportion of red wine.
    Vintages of Cave Privé: 1979 (rosé), 1982 (white), 1989 (rosé), 1990 (white).
    Vintages of La Grande Dame include e.g.: 1962, 1966, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998, (no 2002 produced), 2004 (61% PN/39% Ch), 2006 (53% PN/43% Ch; released in 2015), 2008 (92% PN/8% Ch; released in 2019).
    Vintages of La Grande Dame Rosé include e.g.: 2004 (52% white PN + 15% R/33% Ch), 2006 (60% PN/40% Ch, 15% R; released in 2015), 2008 (92% PN/8% Ch; released in 2019). % R = proportion of red wine, Pinot Noir from Bouzy.


The Villa Demoiselle of Vranken in Reims. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Petitpeton, 2008).

  • Vranken, a Champagne house founded (in 1976) by Belgian Paul-François Vranken, and the original Champagne house in the Vranken-Pommery-Monopole group. The group has a total of about 250 ha of vineyards in Champagne, two production facilities, and sold a total of 20.3 million bottles in 2011 (Pommery being the largest house/brand within the group). Since 1985, Demoiselle is used as a name for several of the Vranken cuvées, and a special bottle has been created for these. The vintage version of Demoiselle is called La Parisienne and also exists as a rosé. The cuvée Diamant was taken over from Heidsieck & Co Monopole, where it was called Diamant Bleu. Diamant is also produced in a rosé version. Diamant Bleu is still used as the name for the vintage version, and there is also a vintage blanc de blancs. Millésimes d’Or are old vintages originating from Champagne houses purchased by the group, that from 2011 are sold under the Vranken name featuring hand-made metal labels.
    Paul-François Vranken founded his own Champagne house in 1976. It has become the foundation of the progressive expanding Vranken-Pommery-Monopole group, as Vranken bought a number of other larger and smaller Champagne houses. In 1978 he bought Veuve Monnier in Vertus from Gaston Burtin and installed his Champagne house there. In 1983, the Cognac producer Charles Lafitte & Cie was bought, and Charles Lafitte was then launched as a Champagne brand. This house today is found in Tours-sur-Marne. In 1985, Demoiselle and Charles Collin were bought. Demoiselle has since then been used as a cuvée name for various Vranken Champagnes. This name originated with Château des Castaignes which is located on the Demoiselle property in Montmort-Lucy somewhat south of Épernay. In 1987, Sacotte in Épernay was bought, which then became the home of Demoiselle. In 1992, Lallemand (in Rouzy) was bought. In 1996, Heidsieck & Co Monopole (previously owned by Seagrams) was bought, which was the source of the Monopole part of the group’s name. In 1998, Vranken-Monopole was introduced on the stock market, but Paul-François Vranken continued to be the majority owner. In 1999, Henri Germain (previously owned by Groupe Frey) was bought, in 1999 the Port wine house Rozès, and in 2002 Pommery & Greno (then owned by LVMH). After this purchase, Pommery was added to the group’s name. In 2002, the group sold about 16 million bottles, had 200 ha vineyards of their own, and purchased grapes from another 1200 ha. This made the Vranken-Pommery-Monopole group to the second largest in Champagne, but in 2006 they went down to third place when BCC bought Lanson. In 2003, parts of the bankrupt Martin Bricout Delbeck was bought, including the brands Bricout and Delbeck, a facility in Tours-sur-Marne, 6 ha of vineyards, grape contracts of 150 ha and a stock of 5 million bottles. In 2003, George Goulet was also bought and fused with Charles Lafitte. In 2004, Villa Cochet was bought. This is a house on the property next to Pommery in Reims, built 1904-1908 in a combination of Art nouveau and Art déco. It was renamed Villa Demoiselle and reopened in 2008 after extensive renovations. In 2011, the Millésimes d’Or collection was inaugurated, featuring 300 000 bottles of old vintages for sale, collected over a period of about 20 years. The origin of these bottles include the houses Charbaud, Barencourt, Heidsieck, and Pommery. Outside Champagne, in 2009 Domaine Listel was bought, including 2 000 ha of vineyards in various parts of southern France. In 2012, the purchases in Champagne continued with Bissinger & C° and more importantly Domaine du Montchenois with 22 ha of vineyards, most of them in Massif de Saint-Thierry, grape contracts of 228 ha, and the company SC du Pequigny with 2.6 ha of vineyards in the Aube.


© Tomas Eriksson 2018-2019, last update 2019-03-01

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