Champagne and the Tour de France

As the epic race heads for Épernay and Reims, Champagne Castelnau's Pascal Prudhomme explains how cycling and sustainable practices are part of the plan to attract the next generation of buyers...

 

The Tour de France pedals into Champagne this month. Photo: Getty Images

Champagne and the Tour de France
  • Chris Boiling
  • 2019-06-25
Champagne Castelnau, which underwent a major rebrand two years ago, is putting cycling and sustainability at the heart of its business.
Owned by the Coopérative Régionale des Vins de Champagne (CRVC), Champagne Castelnau sold 865,000 bottles in 2018 out of the CRVC’s 3 million, but is on target for annual sales of one million bottles by 2020 and two million by 2025.

Pascal Prudhomme resize
General manager Pascal Prudhomme told Canopy that supporting cycling and sustainable practices is “one way for us to approach millennials”, having said that attracting “the next generation of Champagne buyers” was part of the reasoning behind 2017’s repositioning of the brand.
Champagne Castelnau’s major marketing tool is being an official partner of the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which organises the Tour de France. Castelnau has been ASO’s Champagne partner since 2012 and there are at least two more years to run on the deal. The Champagne house uses the tie-in to “promote the way of life coming from cycling,” according to cycling fan Pascal.
Cycling will take centre stage in the Champagne region over the coming weeks as the Tour de France, which starts in Brussels on July 6, sweeps into Épernay on July 8 and departs from Reims the following day (heading for Alsace). It’s the first time in five years that the epic race has visited the region.
With the race broadcast in more than 90 countries, it provides a huge opportunity for the wine region to highlight its heritage and landscapes. Philippe Verger, the director of tourism in Reims, revealed: “We have been working on the beautification of the course and enhancing the tourist route of Champagne.”

Siecle Jaune label
This year’s event celebrates the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the famous yellow jersey worn by the leading rider, a tradition started in 1919 to brighten up the race after the grimness of the First World War. Reims-based Castelnau has created a limited edition of its Brut Reserve NV to mark the occasion. The Cuvée Siècle Jaune – a blend of 50% Pinot Meunier, 40% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, including 40% reserve wines, with six years’ ageing on lees – comes in a black bottle with yellow writing.
To make the most of its connection with the race and “to share the Champagne moment”, Castelnau will entertain more than 500 grapegrowers in two different areas along the route. “We will taste the Champagne and spend time with our growers. There will also be a big dinner with the Tour de France organisers,” Pascal said.
Pascal added that the tie-in with the Tour de France is a good fit for the revitalised Champagne brand. “Step by step, year after year, we are thinking about the best way to express some topics such as respect for the environment and nature, the fact we are a team, and want to achieve goals, and this is a good way to communicate our values,” he said.

Vineyard resize

Sustainability

Castelnau and the CRVC, which had sales of €68m in 2018, are encouraging their 780 growers to use sustainable viticulture practices – including sheep for mowers, mechanical weeding and hybrid vehicles – and to become certified. Castelnau wants all its vineyards to be certified by 2025 – well ahead of the Champagne Committee’s goal of 100% certification by 2030.
The CRVC pays growers who are certified a premium of 20 cents per kilo for their grapes.
Castelnau uses bike rides with growers as opportunities to share their thinking. “It’s a good opportunity to share together some ideas because winegrowers are sometimes very far from our winery. So it’s a very interesting way to share that,” Pascal said.

€5m villa investment

Castelnau is spending about €5m on buying, restoring and refurbishing Villa Tassigny – one of the few buildings in Reims to survive the First World War – and transforming it into Villa Castelnau. The beautiful old bourgeois building will become “the jewel of the brand” and be used for shows, concerts, exhibitions, and conferences when it opens after spring 2021. There will also be a Champagne bar in the summer months. They are currently discussing ways to incorporate the “cycling way of life” into the 4,000sq m park behind the house.

CRVC in numbers

22 Champagne cooperatives
780 members
850ha of vineyards across 155 crus
€68m in sales (35% in France, 65% overseas)

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