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Major Champagne merger for Nicolas Feuillatte to go ahead

A new cooperative group with projected sales of more than €280m is set to be created for the start of 2022 after a merger deal between ‘Centre Vinicole - Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte’ and another large player was finalised, it has been announced.

Nearly 9% of Champagne’s vineyard area will be covered by the merger between Centre Vinicole – Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte and the Coopérative Régionale des Vins de Champagne (CRVC), which includes the Champagne Castelnau label.

A deal was delayed earlier in 2021, but the merger has now been approved by the two companies’ extraordinary general assemblies. It is expected to be effective from 31 December.

Together, the two groups will create a new cooperative, ‘Terroirs et Vignerons de Champagne’, with a projected annual turnover of €287m and volumes of 20m bottles.

Its new CEO, Christophe Juarez, described the merger as ‘an operation of unprecedented magnitude for the vineyards of Champagne’. Juarez, who joined Nicolas Feuillatte (CV-CNF) as CEO in 2017, said the new entity would be better placed to react to market needs and adapt to climate change.

The new group will incorporate 3,000 hectares of vines across the appellation and 6,000 growers. It aims to reach a turnover of €300m within five years, and has a potential yearly production capacity of 24m bottles.

Véronique Blin, who will be president of the new cooperative, said, ‘The creation of this new group is a reflection of the continued consolidation of more and more players in Champagne, as well as the need for a restructuring of the cooperative model.

‘It is a response to the downward spiral in vineyard sales observed since the last crisis in Champagne in 2008, where the appellation saw the loss of 40 million bottles on the French market.’

Blin, president of Nicolas Feuillatte (CV-CNF), has been working on the deal alongside CRVC president Emmanuel Comyn for the past two years.

Comyn described the merger as ‘an incredible opportunity’. He said the new group would be ‘one of the three major operators in Champagne’, affirming the power of the cooperative model.

The new group has inventory of €416m, as well as debts of €179m.

In terms of the new entity’s business model, the two groups said they have chosen a ‘matrix’ structure.

Maison Abelé 1757 will continue to be managed independently, preserving its ‘special status’ within the group.

Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte and Champagne Castelnau were also set to be run as separate divisions. A ‘Services’ division will handle collaborations with specific partners.

Initial figures from the Comité Champagne suggest Champagne sales have rebounded in 2021. Global Champagne shipments were up by 50% in the first half of the year, versus the same period of 2020, when demand sank to ‘historic lows’ following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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