The Champagne Houses now account for more than two-thirds of all champagne shipments, and make up 90% of the export market. These well-known brands focus on making a style of wine that represents their brand and remains consistent year in, year out. It is a very unique talent that the cellar masters have in order to achieve this, and comes about from buying in grapes from independent growers from selected vineyards to blend into their individual style. It is the talent and expertise of these large houses that has made champagne famous the world over.
Founded in 1818 by Nicolas François Billecart and his spouse Elizabeth Salmon in Mareuil-sur-Ay, this is one of the few houses that have remained in the same family. Seven generations on, the house is led by the very talented Francois Roland-Billecart.
Bollinger, often associated with James Bond, is one of the very last champagne houses to remain independent since it’s foundation in 1829. It was awarded a royal warrant in 1884 and has kept its impressive record ever since.
Canard Duchene is another champagne love story between Victor Canard, a barrel maker, and Leonie Duchene, daughter of wine makers. They formed their house in 1868 in Ludes in the Montagne de Reims and were granted the right by the Russian Imperial Family to use its coat of arms as the family emblem.
In 1760, Champagne Delamotte was one of only five Champagne houses in the region. Located in the heart of the Côte des Blancs in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger it is the sister house of Champagne Salon, with which it shares the same viticultural, winemaking and management team.
Gosset is the oldest champagne house in France. It was established in Ay in 1584. Great care has been taken over 4 centuries to preserve this family know how. Early on, they were known for their still red wines, then in the 18th century the wines began to bubble! The Gosset wines are still bottled in an antique style flask similar to that used since the 18th century. These champagnes do not go through malolactic fermentation so that they retain their natural fruitiness.
Created by François Delamotte in 1760, it was taken over by Jean-Baptiste LANSON in 1837. Lanson was awarded a Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria in 1900. Victor Lanson decided to focus on the sales of “Non-Vintage” Brut Champagnes, which he baptised “Black Label”.
Louis Roederer is one of the last great independent family run champagne houses. Inherited in 1833, the house has forged a unique style, character & taste from its Grand Cru vineyards. In the 1920s, Leon Olry-Roederer developed a highly balanced wine, which became the basis of the Brut Premier, and formed the basis of the renaissance of the house. On his death, his widow Camille continued to run the house.
Moet et Chandon
Moet et Chandon was founded 270 years ago by Claude Moet, who transformed their regional yet little known wine into a prestigious favourite of cosmopolitans and couturiers. His grandson Jean-Remy Moet turned the house into an international symbol of celebration, and achieved his life long goal of sharing the magic of champagne.
Mumm was founded by the Mumm family in 1827. Their approach to wine making is encapsulated by the motto penned by George Hermann Mumm, the son of one of the founders who took over the reigns in 1852: Only the Best. They now own vineyards covering 218 hectares, the majority (78% of which are Pinot Noir). 160 hectares are in Grand Cru villages. They were named as an official supplier to the British Royal Family in 1904, and to this day have a royal warrant bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1876, Georges Hermann Mumm decided to decorate the neck of every bottle with a red silk ribbon to pay tribute to his prestigious clientele. The ribbon was modelled on the red sashes bestowed on individuals who received the highest French Honours. Cordon Rouge remains the flagship champagne for G.H. Mumm.
A champagne love story when Florens-Louis Heidsieck, the son of a Protestant minister, who started out as a draper in Reims, fell in love with a girl from Champagne… and with the wine from Champagne. He was a self-educated man, overcome with the incredible ambition “to make a cuvée worthy of a queen”. In 1785 he founded the Cloth and Wine Trading Company Heidsieck & Co. He straight away made his name with a distinctive champagne, whose reputation quickly spread beyond the local region and won favour at court.
Five generations of the Pol Roger family have continued to run the house for over 160 years. It is known as the Gentleman’s Champagne, and was a great favourite of Winston Churchill. Located in Epernay, the champagne has a real soul – created by the union of the family’s spirit and the character of the vineyard.
Madame Pommery is another one of Champagne’s strong widows. After the death of her husband in 1858, aged 38 and with a one year old child, the determined young widow set out to conquer the national and international markets. She had no qualms about shaking up the rules of corporate management. She was one of the first people in business to lay out a system for promoting luxury products, including style, branding, communication, and public relations. She invented Pommery’s brand image.
This businesswoman used her fortune to good ends, setting up the first pension fund and a social security system for her employees. She also founded the orphanage in Reims and its maternity fund. Through these actions, she invented the corporate code of conduct.
Ruinart was first established in 1729 inspired by a monk – Dom Ruinart – and founded after his death by his nephew Nicolas Ruinart. Listed in his account ledger as ‘wine with bubbles’, Ruinart is considered the very first champagne house. They were also the first house to ship bottles in wooden cases. Louis XVIII granted nobility to Francois Ruinart in 1817, and since then, his heraldic crest has appeared on the labels of all their bottles.
Pierre Taittinger first discovered the Champagne region during the First World War. He had a passion for wine and gastronomy and returned to the region in 1932 to invest with his brother in law. Their identity is particularly influenced by the use of Chardonnay. The family business expanded to hotels (The Crillon amongst others), and was sold to a private US business in 2005. However in 2006 the house was reacquired by the family and today, Pierre-Emmanuelle, Vitale (his daughter) and Clovis (his son) all actively represent the house.
First established from vines in Ay, Thienot now has vineyards spanning 27 hectares, half of which are Grand Cru and Premier Cru. Their cellars are 2km long and 12m underground in the heart of Reims. First established in 1985 byAlain Thienot, the brand focuses on gastronomy. Alain has passed is passon on to his two children who continue to run the most recent privately owned family run Champagne House.
Founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot, his wife Barbe-Nicole took over the business upon his death in 1805 at the age of 22. She became one of the first women in business in modern times. In 1810, she is credited with creating the first recorded vintage champagne in the region. In 1814, she overcame the continental embargo that ravaged Europe and exported 10,550 bottles to Russia, to great acclaim. Madame Clicquot also invented the first riddling table – a process still used today to ensure clear wine.
The cooperatives are groups of growers who have formed together to make one larger house by combining al their skills and grapes. There are a few well known cooperatives world wide.
Jacquart is a co-operative of 30 visionary wine growers who came together in 1964 to create a world renowned champagne. Their passion and drive has ensured that the house is one of the leading champagne houses in the world almost 50 years later. With the talented Floriane Eznack as chef wine-maker, this is a wine that represents elegance and style.
Nicolas Feuillatte is a cooperative of 82 champagne growers who together own 2250 hectares of vineyards. In order to achieve the finest quality, growers show the highest respect to nature and terroir. Grapes are hand picked to allow selection of only the finest grapes, assuring excellent quality for the Chief Winemaker. The brand aims to be elegant, convivial, universal, authentic, creative, generous and unique. They have recently launched a compass logo – symbolising travel and expressing the taste for odyssey and grand epics.