I was a bit surprised when I was told that Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte is the best-selling champagne brand in France and the third best selling champagne in the world…I am not sure why, but I was – I had other ideas of who would have held this position. I have visited Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte twice now – once in the summertime as a part of a public tour given in French. The second, on a scheduled media visit which focused on tasting their top-tier champagnes.
Located in the Côte des Blancs subregion of Champagne in the Grand Cru village of Chouilly, the story of Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte is one of passion, vision and solidarity. Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte is the oldest and biggest cooperative in Champagne producing over 19 million bottles a year (10.3 million bottles for the CNF brand alone). One of every three grape growers in Champagne grows for CNF. The cooperative was formed in 1972 and was called the ‘Centre Viticole de Champagne’. Two men are responsible for the development of Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte…
Henri Macquart was a main force in the cooperative movement in Champagne. Having held incredibly powerful positions within the Champagne region (representing growers at the CIVC and President of the SGV), he felt that growers had to come together to secure value and sales of their grapes. In 1970, the Champagne region experienced an overly bountiful harvest and the question of what to do with the excess and where to store the wines was the spark that started the concept of building the storage facility that became the Centre Viticole de Champagne two years later.
Nicolas Feuillatte was a Parisian who came from a family of wine merchants. He made his personal fortune in the coffee trade and rubbed shoulders with Hollywood’s elite. In 1976, he purchased a 12-hectare vineyard in the Ardre Valley, near Reims, and crafted his own champagne which was an instant hit with the American A-list. Nicolas Feuillatte sold his brand to the ‘Centre Viticole de Champagne’ in 1986.
Today, the new visitors centre of Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte launched in June 2017 and is very different from the storage facility first envisioned in the 1970’s. There are 360° views around the building and it is truly an elegant and remarkable building.
Tasting Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte:
- Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Blanc de Blancs Collection Vintage 2012 Brut – this is a ‘trade only’ recently launched wine crafted from the best Chardonnay grapes from non-Grand Cru vineyards. It is a generous wine alive with ripe flavours of apple and pear, a hint of jasmine and a top note of brioche.
- Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Réserve Exclusive Brut – a nice blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay. Crafted from the biggest cuvée of CNF, it defines the house style. Full of flavour and matured anywhere between 3 and 6 years, this is a rich champagne with tension and length.
- Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Collection Vintage 2009 Brut – just released, this well-crafted blend has 33% of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This is a fantastic wine that has developed and matured perfectly. It has excellent structure and is nicely fruity and full of beautiful apricot, peach, biscuit and plum notes.
- Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Grand Cru Millésime 2012 Blanc de Blancs – here is a textbook Blanc de Blancs if you are a Chardonnay fan. Searing and pure in its minerality, it is full of zesty notes of lime rind, chalk and a delight of baking spices on the finish.
- Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Millésime 2008 Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs – this is the champagne I quite enjoyed when I first visited in the summertime. It is athletic and a bit moody with concentrated flavours of walnut and crushed raspberries. It has great length and is well-balanced.
- Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte 2006 Palmes d’Or Brut – Nicolas Feuillatte himself created the tête de cuvée iconic bottle for Palmes d’Or in the early 1980’s. Luxurious and golden in colour, it is crafted with 50% Grand Cru Pinot Noir and about 45% Grand Cru Chardonnay with an added 5% of Chardonnay from the village of Montgueux. The grapes from Montgueux bring exotic pineapple and mango notes to the blend. Creamy, delicious and full of dried apricot, tropical fruit, honey and brioche – this wine is a celebration of the story and success of the brand.
- Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Réserve Exclusive Rosé – a blend of 45% Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir with 10% Chardonnay, this rosé has between 15 and 18% of still red wine added. In the glass, it is a pretty salmon pink hue and tastes like watermelon and fresh strawberries. It is refreshing with some fun spicy end notes.