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The 0% vintage fizz selling for over £100

Published:  20 March, 2024

A new premium blanc de blancs vintage wine retailing in excess of £100 is about to hit the shelves, with a one-month exclusivity agreement with Harrods now in place. So what’s different about this particular premium fizz, with its luxe marketing strategy and hefty price tag? It’s completely alcohol-free.

By any definition, £100 is in the upper echelon of sparkling pricing structures. Yet French Bloom La Cuvée 2022, made by husband and wife team Rodolphe and Maggie Frèrejean-Taittinger, seems to prove that for the right crowd, the £100 price barrier is a Rubicon they are willing to cross.

The brand’s behind-the-scenes pedigree might be helping in this respect. The brand is the creation of Rodolphe Frèrejean-Taittinger, part of the Taittinger family which has interests in both Cognac and Champagne and Maggie Frèrejean-Taittinger, a former Michelin Guide international development manager.

La Cuvée 2022 (RRP £109) is positioning itself as the world’s first alcohol-free blanc de blancs vintage sparkling wine, which has been four years in the making. Only 17,000 bottles have been produced and the wine will only be made in the best years.

Intended to present like an aged Champagne, the idea sprang from a period in 2019 when Maggie became pregnant with twins and suddenly found herself “at a loss of what to drink while at client dinners in starred restaurants”. She describes feeling “excluded for not drinking alcohol” for the first time, so set out to create a gastronomic sparkling wine which could evoke a much older sparkling wine without alcohol and sulphites.

The project’s price tag and its lofty claims to ape the complexity of an aged premium sparkling wine will have its sceptics. This aside, the project has attracted serious backing from top names, including Petrus, Cointreau and Rémy Martin. Though the Taittinger family is not an investor, there is cultural cross-over via the family’s Cognac house, Cognac Coutanseaux Aîné, which provided inspiration for the process of using a base wine in order to create a premium zero alcohol sparkling.

Rodolphe explained: “The know-how from Cognac helped here, where we knew we could create a base wine which is perfect to be de-alcoholised. There is a parallel to the Ugni Blanc in Cognac, where before it is distilled, the base wine is undrinkable. It’s the same with our 0% wine. During the dealcoholisation process, we knew we would lose close to 60% of the aromas during the process, so we had to exaggerate all the characteristics.”

Made from organic Chardonnay grapes sourced from hilltop parcels across the Languedoc, grapes were picked two weeks earlier than usual in the region to ensure a maximal acidity. The wine was then aged in oak barrels for over six months in 225l new French oak barrels, followed by reacidification and triple dealcoholisation via a low-temperature vacuum distillation process.

“With alcohol-free, the challenge is that we don’t have the possibility to age wine, as without alcohol, the wine is not stabilised,” Maggie continued. “We also cannot do the third fermentation in the bottle or purchase a vintage and put it in our personal cellar for an extra 10 years, as we love to do with Champagne. Age is not on our side.

“This was where the challenge lies. How do we create a wine of great complexity that evokes a much older sparkling wine at its peak maturity? Without alcohol and the paradox lies in the fact it is a quite young wine.”

Presumably, the pair are still welcome at family gatherings and haven’t been blacklisted for their zero alcohol efforts?

“We’re still invited to Christmas dinner,” Maggie said, adding that the project is part of a future the pair believes is centred around a “mixed drinking culture”.

“We’re still wine producers and drinkers, we’re just drinking higher quality, but a bit less. We wanted to create something really premium for those moments when we’re not drinking. It’s important to be open-minded,” she concluded.

La Cuvée 2022 is launching in Harrods from 15 April, with wider distribution to follow. French Bloom launched two years ago with its initial offering, its Le Blanc and Le Rosé wines, which now have a presence in 32 countries.