21 Feb New Direction for Champagne Pommery
Champagne’s Grandes Marques seldom change their chefs de cave; their longevity often assured for most of their working life. When they do, it’s often a chance for rejuvenation, beckoning the young and brave – those with a contemporary mix of ambition and modern-thinking coupled with traditional foundations in education and the land.
Last year, Champagne Pommery (part of the Vranken-Pommery Group) announced that Thierry Gasco – its chef de cave of some 25 years – was retiring. As ninth cellar master, Gasco presided over much of Pommery’s current-day success, not the least of which was increasing vineyard holdings and launching a string of new cuvées, such as Pop, Royal Blue Sky and the House’s first-ever brut nature in a revised form of its tête de cuvée, Cuvée Louise.
His successor was immediately announced as 37 year-old Clément Pierlot, making him Pommery’s tenth cellar master. Young, he is, but he’s also highly experienced, acutely technical and committed to the environment.
Pierlot’s Vranken-Pommery journey started more than a decade ago, in 2004, when he was appointed Vineyard Director. At the mere age of 24, Pierlot oversaw some 250 hectares of vineyards and 45 workers. Then in 2010 he joined Vranken’s champagne tasting panel before taking control of the company’s oenological development in 2014, as well as its interests in English sparkling wine. With qualifications in agricultural engineering and oenology, he has led research and development projects such as NepTUNE: water stress and wine freshness, was an Oenology Project Manager at the Comité Champagne and a Biodiversity and Sustainable Development Advisor.
Australia’s Champagne Pommery Managing Director, Inge Fransen, says that Pierlot represents the future of Champagne Pommery.
“Clément’s daily involvement in Vranken-Pommery’s vineyards and oenological development, as well as his environmental commitments, made him the natural choice to become the tenth cellar master, according to our President, Monsieur Vranken,” she says.
It’s this combination that indicates areas of revitalisation within the company. In recent times the House has signalled greater focus on sustainable winegrowing, citing its desire to be a leader in the green evolution across the region.
“Wherever we cultivate vines, our vision has changed,” says Fransen. “The real challenge for our company lies in being an actor at the heart of research and development in the field. We have joined forces with a sustainable engineering company to develop a natural fungicide that will enable us to protect our vines from certain particularly damaging diseases such as mildew, grey rot and odium.”
The product was subsequently applied for the first time in May 2017 during growing season. Organic and biodynamic winegrowing is also being trialled throughout Vranken-Pommery’s vineyards, seeking to replace previous models.
Whilst no specific changes have been publicly flagged for Pommery’s champagne portfolio or style, they will no doubt follow, especially as Pierlot seeks to make his technical mark on the House. Fransen says that Pierlot will adapt the brand to the times without revolutionising it, adding his own touch to the traditional savoir-faire.
“Clément will maintain the high standards of Pommery all the while moving towards sustainable œnology,” she says.
What this really means remains unclear for now. But the future does look bright and modern for Pommery which, historically, has taken a more traditional approach to its wines.
Pierlot’s chapter, and Pommery’s next, commenced in the lead-up to harvest 2017; a challenging time which has made for an equally challenging role in the cellar. On the other hand, it’s an opportunity for Pierlot to impress. The other part of this chapter involves Thierry Gasco who maintains a prominent role within Vranken-Pommery as a key consultant and chief wine maker for the company’s sparkling wine interests in England, California and the South of France. There, he supports the company’s pursuit to capitalise on an all-time high demand for sparkling wine across the globe.
Today, more than ever, Pommery appears to be positioned to meet its challenges as well as industry expectations. A new energy now drives one of Champagne’s oldest Grandes Marques, still deeply rooted in its past. And greater focus is now firmly on the future.