BestChampagne had the pleasure of interviewing Mrs Evelyne Roques-Boizel, President of the Champagne House carrying her name. Founded in 1834 Boizel is a low-key House for wine connoisseurs with half a million bottles of champagne produced every year, which makes it a “little big” wine house, as Mrs Boizel explains. Today Boizel is part of Lanson-BCC, the second largest group in Champagne.
Evelyne Roques-Boizel represents the 5th generation of the Boizel family
BestChampagne: Mrs Roques-Boizel, could you please tell us about the history of your Champagne House and how it defined its current identity?
Evelyne Roques-Boizel: The Boizel House was founded in 1834 by my great-great-grandfather and has been since passed down from father to son and father to daughter to me. Since 1834, five generations from the same family in direct kinship have contributed to our beautiful story, but the family was involved in Champagne before that as part of its members founded a wine house in Aÿ during the French Revolution.
The Boizel Company has lived through the glory and adventures of the Champagne region in general. I must say I am proud of my ancestors who created a wine house at a time where it was truly an adventure since we didn’t master the role of ferment or sugar. Besides, the bottles would often shatter during the second fermentation. As a consequence, producing Champagne was an uncertain process.
At that time, the Champagne region was producing a lot of grapes, which were used to make a cheap table wine. Most of the wine houses in Champagne didn’t have their own vineyards and only the best grapes coming from the best places and the best years were used to make Champagne.
Today Boizel is first and foremost a Champagne House for wine connoisseurs, for people who are passionate about vineyards and grapes. It is not a House that you will hear from through publicity or sponsorship. We have always been discreet, proud of our champagnes and engaging with customers who are looking for champagnes with character and finesse and reasonably priced compared to very big wine houses.
BC: You are talking about finesse and character. Does it define the style of your champagnes?
EBR: We certainly have a taste that is more classical but nonetheless, it is difficult for me to describe our style because when we are creating our champagnes, we don’t look for a particular style but instead we aim to develop the champagnes we like. We try our best to convey the extreme delicacy and finesse in our vintages, this light and creamy aspect we get in great champagnes while at the same time expressing our wines personalities whether they are vintage or non-vintage.
We make champagnes with very small bubbles and with a very delicate taste, but also champagnes which have more body because we use more pinot noir for instance. We are lucky to have many samples of light wines available. For example, we will use about thirty different vineyards (crus) for a brut wine and we aim at finding the best expression, the best balance, the best harmony.
Therefore, finding something utterly specific to our style is very difficult as the personality of our champagnes is made from a lot of different things blended together.
BC: Boizel is a low-key House, for wine connoisseurs. Why such a simple positioning for a festive wine?
EBR: For several reasons. First, it’s certainly about our own personality but there is also a matter of costs. There is a will to dedicate most of our financial resources to invest in production tools, in modern fermenting rooms and less in communication. general, my choices have been directed towards making the wine rather than promoting it.
BC: In France Boizel has the characteristic of being mainly distributed through direct sales in B-to-C. Why?
EBR: This choice allowed us to explain the way we are. Until today direct sales is one of our strengths as it helped us establishing trusting relationships with our customers by creating a bond, by bringing them our expertise and our love for the product. Over 20,000 people from our whole customer portfolio are loyal and regular consumers.
However it is true that using this channel does not contribute to the brand awareness, which is why we now focus our projects on growing our market visibility especially with gourmet restaurants.
BC: What is your total annual production?
EBR: Half a million bottles, which makes us a little big wine house.
BC: What are your biggest markets?
EBR: If you’re looking abroad, Great Britain is our biggest market and has been so for about 150 years and it is still the main market for the whole Champagne region after France of course.
Great Britain is a market that expanded a lot during 100 years. It kept growing for the last 50 years despite more or less favourable periods. Unfortunately, it changed a year ago.
Japan has become the second biggest market in the last few years. It’s very interesting and it is moving towards maturity nowadays. Japanese people are very interested about taste and have a delicacy, finesse about enjoying wines and food. Japanese people have a very interesting notion of balance and harmony that is even more important than for the other countries. We learn a lot in Japan. We get interesting feedback on pairing and thoughts on aroma analysis.
But we are also present in most European markets such as Italy of course, Belgium and The Netherlands. There are a lot of markets to develop but we cannot be everywhere. There are big markets like the USA for example where we were extensively present in the past. It is a wonderful buoyant market for the Champagne region. There is a lot to do for Boizel in this great potential market and we are starting again there with new points of sales.
Currently a lot of countries outside Europe are opening up to champagne. Small countries but also the whole Asia, with small volumes for now.
New Zealand or Australia are also very promising countries. Australia is an old country of champagne since we exported Boizel there before the war in 1914. Today this market is growing very fast.
BC: Distribution, quality and brand, which one would you say is key to the success of a Champagne company?
EBR: It’s almost impossible to separate one from the others. It’s true that brand awareness is a very important element to build a distribution network.
At Boizel, we are looking for importers of our size, businesses on a human scale with men and women that are keen to get involved and that have a passion for products with personality – products that are not sold in duty free or through mass distribution – and who support quality distribution with a long term work vision.
However I would say that quality and brand awareness are probably more important than distribution; if you have these two elements, then you can find a distribution network easily. For Boizel, quality and distribution are crucial. Renown is built bit by bit.
BC: What do you think of the current economic climate of the champagne world?
EBR: The economic climate is actually fine outside Europe. Everything is moving fast and we are incredibly lucky to have an amazing label and to see this desire for champagne appearing in a lot of countries where middle classes are emerging. In some countries like China, the problem is the taste.
Customers have the financial means to buy champagne but we are yet to spread the true taste of Champagne as Asian palates are not used to sparkling Champagne. We were very successful in China with our chardonnay vintage with our chardonnay vintage and I didn’t expect that! For this market, I would have thought that wines produced from black grapes and vintage would work better because chardonnay has more of a mineral taste, fresher than the other vintages and from my experience this is not something that the Chinese market is usually after.
Champagnes have less and less added sugar and are very popular in China and sales of semi-dry wines are very small whereas everyone would tell you that Chinese people like sweet flavours.
BC: When you refer to markets not yet used to the champagne subtle taste, how would you manage to convince someone who would tend to buy a famous brand?
EBR: Customers are usually after a status when they choose a famous brand. In other industries like perfume for example, people will buy a famous brand rather than a brand they have hardly heard of. I highlight the quality of our wines and our family history and I try to get customers to enjoy the finesse of our champagnes. Fortunately some customers are happy to discover quality brands even if they are less renowned.
BC: The food/champagne pairing is unknown to most customers. What do you think?
EBR: It is a big challenge for us to convince customers to drink champagne while eating and to make them understand the pairing.
This pairing is very interesting when one likes gastronomy and wine. However, champagne is actually seldom drunk at the table because people don’t change wine during the course of a meal.
Of course it doesn’t apply to gourmet meals which are rare. As a general rule, I choose the wine first and then the menu because I am passionate about wine.
BC: Can you tell us about food and champagne that you particularly enjoy?
EBR: Pairing young and blancs de blancs champagnes with seafood is perfect.
With great vintages I would pick some foie gras, a chicken with mushrooms or some truffle as champagnes over 10 years of age have more intensity in taste.
I think that pink (rosé) champagne is absolutely delicious with cold meats.
Blanc de noirs wines are wonderful with cured meats.
BC: Outside French cuisine, is there any other cuisine that go well with champagne?
EBR: Yes, if the dishes and products are chosen carefully. I think Japanese cuisine is wonderful, especially the Kaiseki from Kyoto which is the most traditional and noble cuisine. Italian cuisine is a real delight as well.
The most important for me is to be very close to quality products. I am lucky to discover extraordinary pairings, sometimes unusual for my western palate, sometimes magical!
BC: Mrs BOIZEL-ROQUES, what is Champagne for you?
EBR: Champagne is a great wine and I am always amazed by the “miracle” of balance between finesse, delicacy, depth and character. It is a passion in my life, a pleasure to share, a promise of happiness.