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FinBuzz had the chance to speak with Fabrice Rosset, Chairman and CEO of Champagne Deutz, one of the first champagne maisons to enter the prestigious Syndicate des Grandes Marques. It was founded in 1838 in Aÿ, the Champagne region of France.
Recently the notorious Revue du vin de France ranked Deutz Brut Classic #2 among the selection of 50 best non-vintage champagnes.
Fabrice, would you please be so kind to tell us what characteristics you as a customer need to pay attention to when selecting a bottle of champagne (the producer name, harvest year, etc.)?
The answer is a combination of many things, I believe. Obviously, the producer name is important as well as the credibility. For example, the fact that our company has been around since the beginning of the XIX century and managed to build its identity speaks for itself. When it comes to vintage champagne, the year is of importance. The vintage champagne philosophy is different. Only 7% of all champagne produced is vintage dated. The main reason for that is the specific location of the Champagne region (North of France) with its ups and downs in terms of harvests. Therefore the key word in the champagne industry is the blend.
What’s the difference between a £15 bottle of champagne and £40? Does a lower price mean we can expect less quality?
There are 3 main types of champagne: prestige cuvée, vintage, and non-vintage. Prestige cuvée means it’s produced on a small scale. For example, we sell only 35,000 bottles of Amour de Deutz per year. The scarcity has an impact not only on the price but also on the value. Among the non-vintages the price can indeed vary, this has to do with the producer name and mostly with the cost factors. At Deutz, we grow our own grapes and we also buy some, the cost per kilo produced is twice the market price. Also at Deutz I use only first pressings (called vins de cuvée) and sell the second pressings, or the taille, from the English word “tail”, or the remaining part. Also there is a 15-20% cost difference between using the Grand Cru and non-Grand Cru Then comes the aging, which is by law 12 months. I keep my non-vintages for 3 years, which is a substantial financial burden in terms of the inventories. I have a total obsession for quality. And this matters when you want to convert someone to your brand.
Fabrice, prosecco and spumante – is their popularity growing due to the marketing efforts?
I love Italy and Italians! Actually my name could be Fabricio Rossetti (laughs). The champagne industry is about 310 million bottles per year. Prosecco, I understand, is selling more. However in terms of value, Prosecco’s industry is about €660 million per year, whereas champagne has €4.5 billion in sales. So it’s a different segment. To be honest, the more sparkling wine there is, the happier I am! I love competition. Deutz is a small company. We have to compete against everyone and everything to elbow our way. I take the growing success of prosecco and some other sparkling wines (cavas, sparkling wines from California) as an opportunity. Everything is a pyramid. The broader the basis of sparkling wine pyramid, the better for consumers.
And which market nowadays is the biggest in terms of champagne consumption?
The UK is #1 with 35 million bottles per year. I’m just coming from Asia (Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Shanghai). In the context of food pairing it is amazing how well champagne goes with Asian food. Yesterday night in St. Petersburg I had this experience with spicy food. The spicy food exacerbates the taste pallet. So that was a perfect combination!
What are your favorite wines?
I adore Burgundy wines (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) and the syrah grapes (I also produce wine at Rhône valley, South of France). These would be at the top of my list.
Photos: Konstantine Igoshin