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Charles Heidsieck Relaunches Prestige Cuvee, Aiming To Restore U.S. Position

July 12, 2022

Champagne Charles Heidsieck is among the holdings of Christopher Descours’ EPI Group, along with the larger Piper-Heidsieck label.Imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners, in which EPI holds a majority stake, Charles Heidsieck was a pioneering Champagne brand in the U.S. market and ranked among the leading labels until falling from prominence in recent decades. Now, EPI is committed to restoring its former position, with prestige cuvee Champagne Charlie ($700) at the top of the pyramid. Charles Heidsieck’s U.S. volume increased 87% to 8,000 cases last year, according to Impact Databank. SND executive editor Daniel Marsteller caught up with Charles Heidsieck managing director Stephen Leroux for an update.

SND: What role does the Charles Heidsieck brand have to play in the U.S.?

Leroux: Charles Camille Heidsieck, our founder, established consumption of Champagne in the U.S. some 170 years ago. He was the first Champagne house owner to build his business, setting up the codes of consumption, and the trend to really get the U.S. fond of Champagne wines. The following generations continued his work. Our brand was still in the top three or four some 40 years ago. It was then sold to a shareholder that didn’t do much with it, letting it erode. But since the acquisition by EPI, we have again been in the heart of the group’s strategy, and the U.S. is at the helm of our priorities. We are rebuilding Charles Heidsieck at the top of the market with a highly selective distribution model.

SND: What are your goals for the launch of prestige cuvee Champagne Charlie?

Leroux: Champagne Charlie was the nickname given by U.S. citizens when Charles traveled to and from the U.S. building the brand. He really became a legend. A film was made in the late 1980s, in which a young Hugh Grant played the lead character. The legend of Charles’s alias Charlie was converted into a wine produced between 1979 and 1985. These wines became iconic. After the acquisition by EPI, and having rebuilt a solid distribution platform, it was time for Champagne Charlie to come back. It will certainly have a ‘lighthouse’ role at the very top of the tower. The year of cellaring is on the front label, and collectors will consequently be able to trace and date the wines. It will initially be available in tiny quantities, with the U.S. market being allocated half of the total.

SND: How is the outlook for Charles Heidsieck for the rest of 2022?

Leroux: The U.S. market for Champagne is solidly establishing its No.-1 position in value and now in volume. All signs point to continuous growth. For Charles Heidsieck, the market is continuing its steady growth since the pandemic. 2020 was surprisingly resilient; we only lost 5% in value. The bounceback in 2021 was impressive at 60%. If we had enough inventory, based on current trends we could grow by 20%-25% this year.

SND: How have you dealt with the supply chain slowdown?

Leroux: As all wine producers, we’ve been seriously affected, including the shortages of glass, shipping containers, and so on. As far as supplying Champagne itself, we put ourselves in a more comfortable situation by bottling significantly more wine than we were selling in the initial years of the comeback of Charles. But demand is so strong now that we face tight allocation for the next three to five years. We’ll never sell the one extra case too many that would put quality at risk.

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