BestChampagne had the pleasure of interviewing Fabrice ROSSET, President of Deutz. The House has its roots in Aÿ, one of Champagne’s most renowned terroirs and with 1,4 million bottles per year it ranks among the top Champagne Houses in terms of quality.
With 20 years of experience in the Louis Roederer group Fabrice Rosset is President of Deutz since 1996
The House has been rewarded with silver, bronze and regional medals at Decanter’s annual World Wine Awards, while both its Brut and Rose styles of Champagne have received gold and silver awards at London’s prestigious International Wine Challenge.
Under the leadership of Fabrice Rosset, DEUTZ continues the quest for excellence while always maintaining the highest integrity in quality.
BestChampagne: Monsieur Rosset, you have been the CEO at Deutz since 1996, what was the condition of the House at the time? What were your goals and have you achieved them?
Fabrice Rosset: The assessment was simple and what guided the decision of the shareholders. The main shareholder is the Roederer group; who needed a white knight to express the dormant potential of this beautiful Champagne House.
The House had acquired its letters of nobility in 1938, and since then, experienced a history that has proved extremely glorious.
Vicissitudes of life have created some ups and downs in the history of the House but still with an active and image content that made it a little gem.
Therefore, with careful evaluation from our group [Roederer], we reinforced the feeling of having something available that promised a bright future to the intrinsic qualities of all vintages in the cellar.
There were also strengths and weaknesses in the structure. It took quite a lot of investment to restore the technical equipment in order to ensure excellent productivity.
To be precise, more than 20 million euros have been invested. We have invested in gyropallets [automated riddling machines], new bottling chains, and storage enhancements.
This may sound industrial, but I think the use of gyropallets is an advantage because we have advanced regularity and consistency in the quality of the work.
The word consistency comes almost as a leitmotif in Deutz. Consistency does not mean having your head in the sand with respect to technological advancements of any kind.
Consistency in the philosophy of vine growing, oenology, can be obtained as long as you are still obsessively producing high quality, sustainably.
When I arrived, the wines were already good but we were in the crisis of the early 90’s with the Gulf War.
We returned to Western Europe in a time of crisis that lasted roughly five years and manhandled many beautiful Houses, including Deutz.
There was also a scarcity of distribution channels and therefore some parts of our activity suffered so greatly that it needed to be reorganized.
BC: In making the leap of 16 years, what is Deutz today and what can we find in your wines?
FR: You find the same passion; certainly the thread that had existed for decades. Forgive me if that may sound a bit pretentious but I think you can find a quality that has been steadily increasing.
We are ranked consistently among the top six producers of champagne in terms of quality and consistent quality.
The style of Deutz is based on an idea of vinousity, which is not dominating, together with undoubtable elegance, without giving too much of a light wine.
There is a complexity, which is already noticeable and can be found in our Deutz Brut Classic, which is a collection of 35-40 different wines from different terroirs and all three types of grapes [chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunieur], up to our cuvées William Deutz, which is rich and complex, not without elegance.
The cuvée, Amour de Deutz is the newest of the prestige cuvées, which has the subliminal aspect of chardonnay as some idea of power, but retaining the elegance. This elegance is delicately appropriate enough to the varietal designation of Blanc de Blancs.
BC: Speaking of Blanc de Blancs, why add the wine Amour de Deutz, when you already had the commercial success of the vintage William Deutz?
FR: The genesis of the cuvée Amour de Deutz was because of my personal admiration for the Blanc de Blancs of the Deutz House.
I was really a big fan of this vintage, Blanc de Blancs, with the extremely rich and extremely qualitative availability to the Deutz House’s natural resources, why not seek the ultimate expression of this beautiful varietal?
The truth is that this was a decision based on quality rather then a marketing consideration. Some marketing principles also seem to have this idea that a House should have only one prestige cuvée.
This is dictated by the intrinsic quality, that is to say, the natural resources we have available are phenomenal.
Around 80% of our contributions, whether the 42 acres of property and some 200 acres of outside suppliers, are located within a radius of 30 km around Aÿ [Grand Crus].
This is the nobility of natural resources, with 60 grape suppliers passionate about their work, just as we are. As a consequence, 80% of our grape supplies come from Grands Crus and Premiers Crus.
So this raw material and Deutz know-how in Blanc de Blancs register actually led me to isolate a part of this Blanc de Blancs for the cuvée Amour de Deutz.
BC: Since your arrival, Deutz House has experienced tripled sales volumes: 600,000 bottles to almost 2 million. What was the secret of this success?
FR: We focused on quality and in effect, the volumetric success followed. There are few Houses that have accomplished this in such a relatively short amount of time and we attribute this to our strive up the ladder in quality without accepting complacency.
BC: Today Deutz is recognized as one of the finest Champagne Houses, what do you envision for the future?
FR: As long as quality or style is never affected, why not increase volume. To connoisseurs of champagne, this connotation of frivolity, only attached to champagne, has given way to a certain reverence from all backgrounds and all wine lovers.
Since its introduction Amour de Deutz made a name for itself among Blanc de Blancs champagnes
There are also emerging countries where the interest in the culture of wine is rising in a fairly strong way. These are seen as the markets of the future, talking about the BRIC markets: Brazil, Russia, India and China.
The only limiting factor would be in the supply of grapes. For the rest, I have the talent of my team and I think that there are channels of distribution that will be very happy to have a brand like Deutz.
BC: Would you then also be looking to increase the price of your champagnes?
FR: The sale price is an element that I consider positions the brand in the world of competition. Of course, we must cover our costs, but the price element is not our driving factor.
We must cultivate the financial resources to continue to make quality; therefore investing. I love the expression of value for money even though I know this is quite vague and highly subjective.
I think value for money is also one of the strengths of Deutz; one of the elements that has earned us a respect with savvy consumers. In other words, we are not the most expensive, in spite of what I mentioned about the great Crus we use.
I would add that our wines are extracted with great precision and delicacy out of the grape’s first pressing, the so-called cuvée, which is the most noble juice.
We pose emphasis on aging and in the use of reserve wines, such as in our Deutz Brut Classic Multimillésime. These elements of production costs are relatively high but also within the reasonability of the consumer price level.
There is no desire to exaggerate the level of prices and I do not think that the reference price is the main element to describe a quality brand.
BC: Monsieur Rosset, to conclude, what is champagne to you?
FR: It is a reflection of emotion, passion, know-how and then finally, it’s a lifestyle.
BC: What would the world be without champagne?
FR: It would be a day without sunshine (laughs).
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