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Saturday 21 May 2016

Brimoncourt; a sparkling new name in Champagne

Less than 12 months ago a human whirlwind by the name of Hugues Villemain, a charming, urbane Frenchman, landed in Australia and started to contact wine industry and media folk.

Villemain said he was representing a new Champagne house, Brimoncourt, that was set to take the wine world by storm.

What chutzpah! In a country where big brands like Moet et Chandon, Bollinger and Veuve Clicquot dominate, what chance was there for a new Champagne house, a negociant no less, with zero pedigree? 

Well in the ensuing months Villemain has established himself as something of marketing wizard; Brimoncourt has established a firm footprint in the Australian market and can be found on lists from Catalina Rose Bay in Sydney, Punch Lane in Melbourne, The Lake House at Daylesford, Print Hall and Rockpool Bat & Grill in Perth and Willing Brothers in Hobart.

Brimoncourt has also carved out a distribution deal with Steve Naughton of Pinot Now and has gained an immense number of column inches due to Villemain's charm and tenacity.

The secret? Well, the wines are good; very good. The branding is excellent and it seems the market was ready for a Champagne that proclaimed itself "an everyday luxury".

So what, exactly, is Champagne Brimoncourt?

A noted label until the 1950s, it was re-born in Aÿ, in the Marne, next door to Bollinger, in 2008 by the colourful Alexandre Cornot, a former lawyer, naval officer, entrepreneur and New York art dealer, who is himself a Champenoise.

While plans to buy vineyards are in train, Brimoncourt currently sources all its fruit from growers.

It is based in 18th- and 19th-century buildings and gardens (some a former print works), that were partially constructed by the Eiffel Company and are classified as part of the industrial heritage of the region.

The first Brimoncourt Champagne was only launched in late 2013 (and in 2015 in Australia) - and already Cornot's audacious plan to upset the Champagne status quo appears to be working.

There are currently four non-vintage cuvées in the Brimoncourt range; table. The Brut Régence NV (fresh and vibrant) was the forerunner, followed by the NV Rosé and the Blanc de Blanc (the star of the show with its vivacious high-energy minerality). An NV Extra Brut is the most recent arrival on the scene.

The labels are artistic and different and each wine comes in its own cardboard box. The Brut Regence sports a giraffe in a military uniform; because the giraffe is the only animal that never drinks alone.

Breaking into the insular world of Champagne? So far, so good.

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