Champagne powerhouse Nicolas Feuillatte has acquired the venerable Champagne house Henri Abelé from the Henkell-Freixenet Group for an undisclosed sum. This is a new departure for Centre Vinicole-Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte (CV-CNF), a grower-cooperative whose flagship brand is the largest in France and number three in the world.
"This is the first time we have integrated the opportunity of having a second brand in our portfolio," CV-CNF CEO Christophe Juarez told Wine Spectator. "This was the perfect match."
CV-CNF is a relatively young cooperative, dating back to the 1970s, with 4,500 members with 5,100 acres under vine and a new, ultra-modern facility opened in 2017. They sell more than 850,000 cases a year and own the largest grower Champagne brand. They purchased the Feuillatte brand from its founder in 1986.
Henri Abelé was founded in 1757 and sells 25,000 cases a year. It has picturesque chalk cellars in Reims and long-term contracts for 60 acres, mainly in Montagne de Reims and Côte des Blancs. "It's one of the oldest, a lot of tradition, a lot of history and very interesting," said Juarez. "In the future, we will do our best effort to relaunch the brand and rejuvenate the brand image."
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Feuillatte's strategy is to take the time to consider a new style of wine, its position in the market and how it will be promoted. Unlike Nicolas Feuillatte, Champagne Henri Abelé will only be sold in on-premise venues, such as restaurants, hotels and wine bars. It will also remain a separate company, produced in its historic cellars, made from its own contracted grapes rather than CV-CNF yields. "It will be very interesting for us," said Juarez.
Henri Abelé is well-known in France, with a prestigious list of clients including royal courts in Europe, the Élysée Palace, the French Senate and UNESCO. But it's relatively unknown outside of France. The challenge for CV-CNF will be to introduce Henri Abelé to key markets around the world like the U.S. and Japan.
Henri Abelé has been part of the Freixenet Group since 1985. Henkell took a majority in Freixenet in March 2018, leading to a decision to sell Henri Abelé. There was considerable competition for the acquisition, and the deal was announced following weeks of negotiations.