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Interview, Part 2: Groupe Bollinger EVP Jean-Baptiste Rivail

October 26, 2022

In the second part of our interview, Groupe Bollinger executive vice president Jean-Baptiste Rivail discusses soaring demand for Champagne in the U.S., investments at both Champagne Bollinger and Champagne Ayala, as well as Groupe Bollinger’s latest acquisition play, Domaine Hubert Brochard in Sancerre.

SND: What’s the latest news on Groupe Bollinger’s Champagne brands in the U.S.? What’s working well currently, and where are you facing challenges?

Rivail: The demand for Champagne seems insatiable in the U.S. Our brands are fully benefiting from it, and we’re supporting this growth as the U.S. market is a key priority for the group. Thanks to the partnership with our importer Vintus, we’ve steered our channel penetration and see both our brands Champagne Bollinger and Champagne Ayala gaining distribution footprint, in particular in on-trade and independent retail. Our brands are strong in the U.S.—we believe there are a lot of opportunities for them here, and we’ll continue to increase our market presence.

Bollinger and Ayala have always cultivated their traditional craftsmanship and artisanal soul. This obviously puts a natural limit on these brands’ scalability: that constitutes our biggest challenge, in this context of high demand and low inventory. True to their DNA and both in their historic home of Aÿ, Ayala has just inaugurated an expansion of its cellar, while Bollinger has unveiled an overhaul of its visitor center—including a 20-room hotel, to be opened by 2029—as well as cellar modernization.

SND: What does the acquisition of Domaine Hubert Brochard bring to the portfolio? And is further acquisition activity from Groupe Bollinger likely?

Rivail: Our portfolio is balanced, focusing on maisons that have longstanding fine wine credentials and authentic stories to tell. We have the good fortune to be in very high-demand wine segments today—Champagne, of course, but also Loire Valley (Sancerre in particular), Burgundy, Cognac, Oregon, and sparkling with Crémant de Loire. Domaine Hubert Brochard will help us grow in Sancerre. I’m thrilled about the Sancerre enthusiasm in the U.S. It’s a very exciting category with real terroir differences, hence endless possibilities for consumers to explore and grow their appreciation. Brochard is a transformational acquisition for Groupe Bollinger as it will make our group one of the biggest owners of Sancerre, with more than 200 acres of this great Sauvignon Blanc appellation, all from well-established vineyards and very respected producers. And we’re of course tirelessly looking at new acquisition opportunities as well.

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