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Champagne Palmer To Play Key Role In Constellation’s Luxury Wine Division

October 16, 2018

In July of this year, Champagne Palmer named Constellation Brands as its U.S. distributor, and joined Constellation’s luxury wine division Tru Estates and Vineyards. As the first Champagne brand ever handled by Constellation, Palmer is now part of a Tru lineup that includes such upscale labels as Schrader Cellars, Robert Mondavi Winery, The Prisoner Wine Company, Mount Veeder Winery, Inniskillin, and Ruffino Estates.

Champagne Palmer & Co. was founded in 1947 by seven grower-producers, who merged their holdings to create an elite international brand. The Palmer name was inspired by the Huntley & Palmer’s biscuit brand, a staple of afternoon teas in Paris and London. Today Palmer’s ownership includes over 300 growers, and the company produces 80,000 9-liter cases of Champagne annually, 70% of which are exported. Historically, the export priorities have been the U.K., Europe, and Scandinavia. The brand wasn’t present in the U.S. until 2015, when it signed on with Gonzalez Byass USA.

Palmer has over 4 million bottles in stock, which rest in its nearly two miles of cellars in the heart of Reims. The company owns just over 1,000 acres of vineyards, including over 500 acres of Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards on the north side of Montagne de Reims. Grapes from the Côte de Sézanne, Côte des Bar, and Vallée de la Marne round out the remainder. The Montagne de Reims vineyards include 200 acres of Chardonnay in the Premier Cru villages of Trepail and Villers-Marmery.

Chardonnay is in fact Palmer’s signature. Palmer Brut Reserve NV ($60), for example, has a 50%-55% share of Chardonnay in its blend. “It’s rare to find non-vintage Bruts at more than 30% Chardonnay,” says Palmer export director Raymond Ringeval. “When you reach 50%-55% Chardonnay in a non-vintage blend, the style becomes very specific.”

In that context, Palmer’s Blanc de Blancs NV ($85) is often considered the company’s defining label. “Over the years, as Palmer gained attention from wine lovers and experts, it was mainly thanks to our specialty with the Blanc de Blancs,” notes Ringeval. “It’s the cuvée that really put Palmer on the map.”

Palmer is also known for its lengthy aging practices. “Because most of our vineyards on the Montagne de Reims are to the north, they get less sun and ripen later—producing wines that are powerful at first and need time to age,” says Ringeval. Palmer Brut Reserve gets four to four-and-a-half years on the lees (six years for the magnums), while the Blanc de Blancs gets five to six years (ten years for the magnums). Palmer Brut Reserve also has a 30%-35% share of reserve wines in the blend.

Palmer’s U.S. focus will also include Palmer Rosé Reserve ($80), comprised of 45% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, and 10% Pinot Meunier taken mostly from a red wine solera the company started 40 years ago. The Rosé is aged two to three years on the lees. The portfolio also includes vintage releases, currently led by the Palmer 2009 Vintage ($125). Then there are such rarities as 1985 Blanc de Blancs and vintage Bruts from 1978 and 1996, among others, though they’re for special events and aren’t available commercially. Under Tru’s guidance, the sales focus will be squarely on the on-premise and fine wine retail venues.—David Fleming

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