In July this year the Rapeneau family who are the producers of Champagne Comte De Noiron won the Best Sparkling Winemaker of The Year at the International Wine Challenge (IWC).
The International Wine Challenge, is often dubbed as the ‘Oscars of the wine trade’ and is considered one of the world’s finest and most meticulously judged wine competitions.
Comte De Noiron’s producers excelled in their category, beating a stellar line up of entrants.
In Australia, Comte De Noiron is distributed by Kollaras & Co and has been part of the IBA Key Retail program since late 2015, in a bid to increase retailer margin, customer loyalty, and provide a point of difference.
Hailing from the Marne region in France, the Rapeneau family has been producing Champagne since the 19th century. Today, the group is still managed by the family who own seven Champagne Houses, and produce more than 10 million bottles of Champagne every year.
The Rapeneau family philosophy is to honour vineyard stewardship and its winemaking traditions, which has led them to so much success, they are now the fifth largest Champagne group worldwide.
At the time, Chief Winemaker, Christophe Rapeneau commented: “This award is an honour for the Rapeneau family.”
TheShout: Christophe, tell us about your path to becoming a winemaker:
Christophe: Just after graduating with a degree in oenology from the University of Reims in 1993, I was ready to jump into the family business, but I wanted to modernise the third generation winemaking process – to impose my style as a new generation.
TheShout: What makes Comte De Noiron Champagne so special?
Christophe: Heritage of course is a gift, I have learnt from the previous generations where without them I could not be where I am today. Confidence is another strength, I have been making this Champagne for more than 30 years, where most of the winemakers stay in some Champagne House only for a decade or less. Consistency and quality has made Champagne Comte De Noiron very special over the years.
TheShout: Which wines have been huge standouts for you so far this year?
Christophe: Champagne Rosé has become my favourite. Champagne is all about celebrating with style, and rosé is very fruity and elegant, which helps you to celebrate more!
TheShout: Have you been experimenting with any new styles at Comte De Noiron?
Christophe: We have to adapt from what the consumer wants. It is always a balance between imposing my style and what the drinkers want. Brut nature is becoming very demanded by sommeliers but I’m not sure if the everyday consumers are ready for it. I drink it more since it is the essence of the wine, and as well because it is sugar free.
TheShout: What is the real hidden gem of your wines at present?
Christophe: Sourcing from the best vineyards from the family is one them, but also we keep the wine a little longer on the lees than others producers, at least for two years, which gives to the taste a great balance between the acidity and complexity.
TheShout: And is there a Comte De Noiron Champagne that is a rising star?
Christophe: The non-vintage! While all of the Champagnes are good, the NV is the one most people can access in terms of price, so it’s a window into the quality of our house, and so it has to be really good – all of the time!
TheShout: In such a crowded market why should someone range a Comte De Noiron Champagne over another brand?
Christophe: Well most of time the consumers go for brands in Champagne…but Champagne is one of the most marketed wine in the world. Do not forget we are all from the same region so why pay twice as much for a branded Champagne? Will it taste twice as good? Probably not. Go for value and quality.
TheShout: How did the Rapeneau family start making wines and tell us the path of the company up to now.
Christophe: Again, the family is born in Champagne in Hautvillers (same as Dom Perignon). We have been growing and expanding our know how in Champagne for four generations now to become the largest producer as an independent family where most of the Champagne Houses are now driven by banks or multi corporations etc.
TheShout: How has Comte De Noiron been performing in Australia over the last 12 months?
Christophe: It was a slower start than what we’d hoped, given the overall high quality to value relationship, but it is certainly moving in the right direction, in a very competitive market. It takes time to build a brand, but from what we have seen in recent times, we’re really excited for the great success we are starting to see in the Australian market.
TheShout: Do you have any advice for retailers when it comes to merchandising, cross-selling or up-selling Comte De Noiron in-store?
Christophe: The essence of being a retailer is to provide to clients the best selection and make them happy and confident on what they buy. Comte de Noiron is all about the mix of it: quality, value and good supply. Customers will like it, they will save money and they will come back for it.
This article first appeared in the October issue of National Liquor News.