by Paige Donner
A few interesting facts set the champagne brand of Nicolas Feuillatte apart from the others.
For one, it’s a champagne house that is cooperatively owned. Just outside of the champagne capital of Épernay in France, in the little village of Chouilly, the modern and sleek facilities whose cellars are both above and beneath the ground, ferment, disgorge and age 300,000 hectoliters of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Petit Meunier destined to become top-selling champagne every year. That translates into 21.9 million bottles of champagne in 2011.
The house doesn’t actually own any vineyards, however. Those are all owned by the growers. They get privileges for being part of the vast co-operative, the growers do. Privileges such as use of state-of-the-art bottling and riddling machines for example, when they have enough leftover from their growing season and harvests to offer a limited supply under their own champagne label – if they so choose.
It’s one of the most, if not the most, successful “cave co-operatives” in the wine industry in France. The numbers are impressive:
5,000 growers (that comprise the Producers Union)
82 smaller cooperatives (who form the larger NF brand)
350 wine presses
21.9 million bottles produced in 2011
And what’s more, Nicolas Feuillatte is a real person. Still alive and kicking today.
It was in the early 70′s when he inherited 10ha of champagne vineyards. After a few years’ harvests and a successful brand launching, notably in the U.S. among the jet-set and the glitterati, he accepted the offer of the union of growers to lend his brand to their champagnes. It was, quite evidently, a match made in heaven.
Recommend: If you get the chance, try the 1996 vintage Brut. Elegant, generous, laced with a refined minerality.
All photos c. 2012 Paige Donner