－4－◆ Why did you put a priority on writing the history of de Venoge?When I became President I needed to understand the history, philosophy and DNA of the brand to get it right. de Venoge was very innovative in its time ‒ we created the first illustrated label in Champagne in 1838, the crystal decanter in 1858, and registered 5,000 brands in 1864. Today, because we know our history, we are very confident. The market looks for authenticity and we have it. It is expressed in the three lines of Champagne that we make, Louis XV, Princes and Cordon Bleu. ◆ Why is Cordon Bleu so important?Cordon Bleu is synonymous with the Maison. You can see it in the label design which we have used since we first made Cordon Bleu. It symbolizes the Venoge River in Switzerland that recalls our founder, Henri Marc de Venoge, and his goal of making superior Champagne. For me, the Brut NV is very important because it is the signature of the House. Very often if you taste the NV and it is good, it means the rest of the range will be even better. For Cordon Bleu we make a major investment in using only the first pressing of the grapes, so it requires 1.5 kg instead of the normal 1.2 kg of grapes to make one bottle. It gives the blend a really good quality, there is none of the bad acidity of pressed juice, and that is important. In the Cordon Bleu range we have Brut, Rose, Blanc de Noir, and Extra Brut ‒ which is same base as the Brut but with one year more aging and a dosage of 3.5 g/l. We usually blend 20-30 percent reserve wine with the base wine. 50 percent of the reserve wine is from one year prior to the base wine, and the remaining 50 percent is from two years prior.◆ How did you evolve the Louis XV and Princes ranges?I registered the name of our top cuvee Louis XV in 2005. Given the history of the Royal Decree of Louis XV on Champagne and the available documentation, I wanted the name because it was a great story. With prestige cuvees it is not only the wine in the bottle, but also the history behind it and the legend you build. Until 1993, de Venoge’s prestige cuvee was 100 percent Chardonnay in a green glass bottle. In 1995, the new cuvee was going to be in a clear glass decanter, and the blend changed to 50 percent Chardonnay and 50 percent Pinot Noir. So on top of being a great name with a great legend, there was also the opportunity to launch Louis XV in the new bottle. We released our first wine in 2005 with the 1995 vintage, and then the 1996 and so on, and that is how the Louis XV started. We have had the Princes name for a long time, and people knew of it because it has been sold in a decanter since 1961. In 2008 we introduced the first bottles of the extended Princes range, Blanc de Blanc, Blanc de Noir and Rose, and Extra Brut a year later. The Princes are made from 70 percent Premier Crus and 30 percent Grand Crus except for Les Rises village. It is aged in the bottle for 48 to 60 months, which is an extended aging period for a non-vintage cuvee.◆ What is the story behind the carafe bottle?In Champagne quality is very important, but so too is image. For de Venoge, having a distinctive bottle is critical to our appeal. The idea for the carafe comes from 1858 when de Venoge was supplying Champagne to the Royal family in Holland. They used a crystal decanter made by Crystal Saint Louis (the oldest glassmaking manufacturer in Europe founded in 1586) to decant their Champagne because the remuage then was not as good as today, so they still had some deposits in the bottle and used to decant. We have some examples of the original crystal bottle in the office. In 1961, we reproduced this special decanter to make it a bottle. We thought that Princes needs a special touch, so we adopted this carafe-type bottle. Inside de Venoge, we call it a ‘production nightmare’ because everything has to be customized especially for this bottle. The bottom is as large as Jeroboam (3L), while it is not as high as normal bottles, so special equipment that matches is necessary for every process including tirage, remuage, disgorgement and storage. For remuage the machine that normally handles 500 bottles can only handle 200 bottles.In addition, some people say the bottle shape makes it unstable for stocking and storing, but at de Venoge we believe that Champagne should be stored upright. At our Maison, the bottles are always stored upright after disgorgement and in shipping. When wine comes into contact with the cork it impacts the elasticity of the cork, and there is a risk of cork taint. Other Champagne houses keep their bottles upright after disgorgement, but lay them down for shipping. However, recently Don Perignon started shipping their bottles upright, and we expect many others will adopt this approach soon.The first thing that Gilles de la Bassetiere did when he became President of Champagne de Venoge in 2005 was to write a history of the company. Collecting the innovations, records and accomplishments of the historic Champagne House became a key resource and touchstone as he set out to shape de Venoge’s future, filtered through his business sensibility and global outlook, informed by his instinct for what Champagne should be, and steeped in a love and taste for wine since he took his first sip with his winemaking grandfather at the age of 4. It is this respect for the past, awareness of the present, and vision for the future that defines Champagne de Venoge. (Interviewer: Dion Lenting, Kiwi Copy, June 2019)Our feature story - Part 12de Venoge interview with Gilles de la Bassetiere, President of Champagne de Venoge (2) Maison de Venoge: Part 2 Treasuring the past, evolving the future.