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Interview: Champagne Lanson Makes Its Move In The U.S.

April 14, 2022

France’s Lanson-BCC is among the largest players in Champagne, with revenues reaching €271 million ($295m) on 21% growth last year, as EBIT more than doubled to €31 million ($34m).  The flagship Lanson label has historically had a limited presence stateside, but new importer Terlato Wine Group, which began handling the brand a year ago, is aiming to help change that. In the U.S., the core Lanson portfolio includes Black Label Brut (retailing at $50), Rosé Brut ($70), and Green Label Bio ($75). Lanson is projected to reach approximately 17,500 9-liter cases in the U.S. this year, likely placing it within the top 15 brands in the category. SND executive editor Daniel Marsteller recently spoke with Lanson president Francois Van Aal and cellar master Herve Dantan for an update on the brand’s U.S. push.

SND: Lanson is now about a year into a new effort to raise its profile in the U.S. Champagne market. How is it going so far?

Van Aal: With the new partnership over the last year with the Terlato team, we really have set up the ambition to have our fair share of the market in the U.S., the biggest export market for Champagne in value. Lanson is one of the oldest Champagne brands. It’s been around for almost three centuries. The fundamental pillars are the quality of the wine, and our commitment to authenticity and transparency. Demand in the U.S. in 2021 was quite astonishing. We had shipments three times bigger than what was expected and gained a lot of distribution—over 5,500 new accounts in the past year. But we have more than adequate stocks, with over 20 million bottles—five or six years’ supply—in our cellars. We’ll be releasing two new cuvées this year: Prestige Cuvée Vintage 2009; and Clos Lanson, a 2007 vintage Champagne from a one-hectare plot in the center of Reims.

SND: How do you characterize Lanson’s house style?

Dantan: We have a style that has never changed during all these years of the brand’s history. It’s a fresh style thanks to a method of vinification, mainly non-malolactic, that reveals the natural freshness that is always present in outstanding wines. We use a minimum of 50% Premier Cru and Grand Cru for the Black Label. We can go up to 70% or 100% in some of the cuvées. We use a lot of reserve wine, a minimum of 35% for the Black Label and 45% and more for some other cuvées. We hold our wines at least four years before selling them. When we talk about a vintage bottling, it can be longer. For example, with Vintage 2009, launching in the U.S. this year, we held it for 12 years in our cellars.

Van Aal: Transparency and sustainability are also important parts of the brand. If you take a bottle of Lanson, whether the Black Label, the Rosé, the Green Label, or Vintage Lanson in the U.S. market, on the back label you have all the information in terms of how many crus, the percentage of reserve wine, the harvest, the disgorgement date, and the percentage of each grape varietal. That’s something quite new in the Champagne industry. In terms of sustainability, our Green Label Bio is farmed organically and biodynamically. We’re committed not only to furthering sustainable viticulture ourselves but also among our growers.

SND: How is the on-trade side of the business developing?

Van Aal: On-trade is where consumers can taste the product by-the-glass, and where you build the image. Clearly, this is also where our partner Terlato is especially effective—building brands in the on-premise, which today represents about 40% of our sales. So we’re continuing to access new consumers on-premise. But over the last two years the on-premise has of course been difficult, so we’ve also been building the brand’s accessibility in the off-premise. We fish where the fish are. We need to build the brand in big markets like New York, Florida, Illinois, California, and Texas and beyond, and continue to expand distribution.

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