Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte

A large and rapidly growing negociant


Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, sometimes mispelled Nicolas Feuillette, produces an enormous amount of Champagne, and has 18 different bottlings currently. But let’s cut to the chase – the ones you are most likely to see and perhaps the most popular, are their entry level Non Vintage Brut Réserve (called Brut Réserve Particulière in some parts of the world, like England), and their prestige cuvee Palmes d’Or which comes in a black dimpled bottle with a bright gold label, supposedly designed to resemble a diva in a ball gown. They also have a decent Rose Brut you may encounter.

Their NV Brut Reserve, although not spectacular, is a good deal when on sale which is often is. It was my house Champagne for a while as the New Hampshire liquor stores often discounted it, but I must state that I like it more than most critics, who find it decent yet boring.

Their Palmes d’Or has never excited me nor many others. Nothing wrong with it, but there are oh so many other far far more tasty and exciting choices at its price point, and it doesn’t have a reputation for aging well either. Some folks do love it though.

Nicolas Feuillatte NV Brut ReserveFirst my Tasting Note, then one from a Trusted Retailer:

Tasting Note: Nicolas Feuillatte NV Brut Reserve - June 2013, rated B+

The nose is lemon, chalk, and spicy minerals with a little baked bread.

The palate (or "in the snout" for the less oenophilious), apple, some lemon, touch of orange. Good body and buoyant acidity.. Pretty flavor packed and could easily stand up to some decent food.

With air, a nice lemony creaminess and excellent minerality.

May be too intense for "bland" wine drinkers who like the idea of wine but don't want real flavor or substance.

Next I’ll borrow a tasting note from the Apex Beverage Company, a great group of  people who have a well under $30 price as of this writing and handle shipping well. I'm a happy customer.

Tasting Note: Nicolas Feuillatte NV Brut Reserve - Spring 2013
Composed of 20% of the Chardonnay grape variety, for elegance and delicacy, 40% of Pinot Noir, for roundness and structure and 40% of Pinot Meunier for fruitiness.
Pale gold in color, abundance of delicate bubbles. Floral aromas of fruit with subtle predominance of white fruits: pear, apple, almonds and hazelnuts. Fresh opening, smooth, pleasant and balanced.

I also like how they say, "an elegant style that can be used as an aperitif, but it also had enough structure and weight that I wouldn’t hesitate to pair it with lobster, sole, or even chicken."

And now the rest of the story . . .
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte is the third largest producer of Champagne in the world (as of 2011), with over 8,000,000 million bottles in 2010. They aim to be the largest, and still have a way to go to catch up to Moet and Chandon (32 Million bottles a year) but their growth has been phenomenal over the past quarter decade. For example in 1994, they produced “only” 700,000 bottles, and in 2006 they were “only” the 5th largest brand.

They are a co-op , and their grapes come from a number of grower members. It’s complicated, but their parent company, Centre Vinicole–Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, is based in Chouilly and actually comprised of 84 co-ops plus some additional growers, for a total of over 5000 growers in almost every village in Champagne, a total of 281 out of 319, and have over 2000 hectares of grapes. Most of the wines produced are under the Nicolas Feuillatte brand, but also under other brands for co-op members and other clients. Other brands include Camille d’Haubaine, Philippe de Nantheuil, and St. Nicholas. I've never seen these and you probably haven't either.

Of course with so many growers, it’s hard to monitor what they are all doing. In 1998 Feuillatte started a “quality in the vineyard” program with an overall goal of being as natural as possible. With 5000+ growers though, it’s hard to know how much control they really have. However, only the top grapes go into the Nicolas Feuillatte branded and labeled wines.

Most of their wine are fermented in stainless steel and aged for at least thirty months. Wines from over 150 vineyards can go into their NV blends! They are also proud of their excellent conservation and environmental record.

So who is this Nicolas Feuillatte guy? He may have been a marketing and sales genius, or at least very good at it. He was born in Paris in 1926 and made his money in the United States in the coffee and cocoa businesses. Among other feats, he started and dominated the instant coffee business in New York City in the 50s. In the 70s, he moved back to France, and in 1972 bought 12 hectares of vines in the village of Bouleuse in the Montagne de Reims, released his first wines in 1976, thus starting the Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brand.

In summary, Nicolas Feuillatte is doing a lot of things correctly. However I feel they obviously are focusing on expansion more, rather than improving quality. Sounds like a bunch of marketers! The wines are decent, but the only one I buy regularly is the their entry level Non Vintage Brut Réserve (called Brut Réserve Particulière in some places) when it’s on sale. I’ve enjoyed and been happy with every bottle I’ve ever opened. Be interesting to see how Nicolas Feuillatte evolves and grows over the next few years.