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Rothschild Family’s Shared Champagne Brand Seeing Sharpened U.S. Focus

October 30, 2015

After coming together in 2005 to begin a shared Champagne project called Barons de Rothschild, France’s legendary Rothschild clan—including companies Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA, Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) and Compagnie Vinicole Edmond de Rothschild—is eyeing a more prominent presence in the Champagne category in the United States.

While the Rothschilds are best known for their iconic Bordeaux estates like Lafite and Mouton, “We do have a history in Champagne,” says Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, chairman of Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA. “My grandfather had a stake in Henriot.” That interest was eventually sold, and there was about a 25-year gap before the three branches of the family decided to unite and re-enter the category with the Barons de Rothschild Champagne brand. They spent several years building inventory before launching their first Champagnes in Japan about five years ago. “We started in Japan because we have a very strong presence there through our distributor, Enoteca. It’s a key market for us, and the Champagne has been well received,” Sereys de Rothschild explains. “Now, we’re actively pursuing the U.S. market, and it’s going very well so far.”

Handled in the U.S. by DBR (Lafite)-owned Pasternak Wine Imports, the Barons de Rothschild Champagne range includes Brut ($100), Blanc de Blancs ($125) and Rosé ($125) styles. Imported volume of the wines to the U.S. has steadily risen: this year the Brut will approach 1,000 cases, roughly double its 2012 volume, with the Blanc de Blancs and Rosé also more than doubling over the same time period, to about 300 cases each. Additionally, Barons de Rothschild unveiled its first vintage Champagne in the U.S. market earlier this year. That offering, a 2006, sold out quickly, retailing at around $300 a bottle. Pasternak tells SND that it expects the brand to grow about 35% next year.

Sereys de Rothschild adds that the Rothschilds are looking at potential vineyard acquisitions in Champagne, but finding the right opportunity has proved difficult. Likewise, there’s no shortage of competition in the Champagne market in the U.S. or globally, as deep-pocketed competitors—foremost among them Moët Hennessy—slug it out for sponsorship opportunities and exposure. Still, the three branches of the Rothschild family are committed to the Champagne project and have coalesced behind a unifying principle. “The family is all agreed on the philosophy,” Sereys de Rothschild says. “Whatever happens, we won’t damage pricing. If you sell 2,000 bottles fewer because of that, it’s all right.”

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