Champagne Pommery’s chardonnay-driven and easy drinking style makes Australia a key destination for the House’s famed cuvées, according to Madame Nathalie Vranken, who co-owns the Vranken-Pommery Monopole group with husband, Paul-François. The group also owns champagne brands: Champagne Monopole Heidsieck & Co., Champagne Vranken and Champagne Charles Lafitte, amongst other wine labels.

“Australia is important to Pommery. Our very first shipment to Australia was at the beginning of the 20th Century, after the great recession in the United States,” she says. “We found a beautiful old article demonstrating the true link between Pommery and Australia that goes back to the launch of Cuvée Louise in 1979. The article was full of beautiful photos of gentlemen and ladies in Australia drinking our champagne on a boat.”

In 2018, Australians are still in love with Cuvée Louise, the prestige offering from the House. Madame Vranken says that it is the most important cuvée for them in Australia, behind their entry level Brut Royal.

The latest incarnation of Cuvée Louise is the 2004 vintage, released two years ago. The launch was accompanied by the very first commercial release of a zero dosage offering from the House, called Cuvée Louise Brut Nature. Madame Vranken says the idea was to show customers there was something changing on the earth and how pure the wine could be.

“My husband is very involved in the way we farm our grapes and cultivate our vineyards,” she says. “We have achieved the HVE (Haute Valeur Environnementale) for sustainability and, with changes in climate, it makes a perfect combination to express wine just for itself. Sustainability gives you less production in terms of grapes because vineyards are not supported by artificial chemicals. Grapes are allowed to grow at their own pace.”

The House is well-known for Madame Louise Pommery’s pioneering efforts to promote a brut (dry) style in the 19th Century. And whilst it has always made some brut nature, Madame Vranken says that none has been commercially available until now. However, when asked about future releases of this style, Madame Vranken remains coy.

Next year, Australia will see a new release from the House in the form of Pommery Blanc de Blancs Non-Vintage. Madame Vranken says the new champagne will take over from their current blanc de blancs non-vintage known as Summertime.

Next year, Australia will see a new release from the House in the form of Pommery Blanc de Blancs Non-Vintage. Madame Vranken says the new champagne will take over from their current blanc de blancs non-vintage known as Summertime.

“There is always a big portion of chardonnay in our range, it is our taste,” she says of Pommery’s defining style. “Previously, we had the Summertime Blanc de Blancs Non-Vintage, which had a fancy connotation. I don’t think that ‘Summertime’ as a name supports the wine. Our new blanc de blancs is interesting in terms of taste, it also has a big impulse of modernity.”

New products from Pommery may resonate well with Australians but it is the House’s entry level, Brut Royal, that takes precedence. Madame Vranken says that Brut Royal is well balanced and pleasant to drink. Australians, she says, are happy and pleasant people and like “having something in the glass that looks like them.”

Pommery’s relationship with Australia appears stronger than ever, having recovered from years of poor representation under previous management. Its invigorated market position has also come at a time of considerable change at the House, the likes of which seems engineered in the spirit of renewal and revitalisation.

Almost 18 months ago, Vranken-Pommery announced that Thierry Gasco, its chef de cave of some 25 years, was retiring. As ninth cellar master, Gasco presided over much of Pommery’s current day success, not the least of which was launching a string of new cuvées such as Pop, Royal Blue Sky and Cuvée Louise Brut Nature. Madame Vranken says that Thierry was the most extraordinary intellectual person of champagne wine.

“Thierry has the capacity to create imagery around his wine. When he asked for retirement we were very surprised but it’s his privilege.”

His successor was immediately announced as 37 year old Clément Pierlot, making him Pommery’s tenth cellar master. Young, he is, but he’s also highly experienced, acutely technical and committed to the environment. Pierlot’s Vranken-Pommery journey started more than a decade ago, in 2004, when he was appointed Vineyard Director. At the mere age of 24, Pierlot oversaw some 250 hectares of vineyards and 45 workers. Then, in 2010, he joined the champagne tasting panel before taking control of the company’s oenological development in 2014. With qualifications in agricultural engineering and oenology, he has led research and development projects and was an Oenology Project Manager at the Comité Champagne as well as Biodiversity and Sustainable Development Advisory. Madame Vranken says that Clément represents the future of the House.

“Clément was chosen by my husband. He’s an incredible guy with different talents to Thierry,” she says. “The future must be built by people who will live in it, so Clément was a good choice.”

It is clear that a new energy now drives one of Champagne’s oldest Grandes Marques whose sense of tradition and modernity makes them poised for the future, but also particularly well-suited to Australia.

WORDS | Sara Underdown

PHOTOGRAPHY | Vranken-Pommery

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