What do a model, tech mogul and athlete all have in common? For the founders of French Bloom, an alcohol-free sparkling wine brand, they all provided a valuable lesson in market research. ‘Our consumers are not who we initially thought,’ says co-founder Maggie Frerejean-Taittinger.

She is joined by her husband and winemaker Rodolphe Frerejean-Taittinger as we sit together in a lounge at 67 Pall Mall with their new release, French Bloom La Cuvée Vintage Blanc de Blancs 2022. At £109 a bottle, it is the most expensive alcohol-free wine in the world and the first example of a vintage alcohol-free blanc de blancs sparkling. Only made in good years, using organic grapes, new French oak, no sulphites and no dosage, it ticks many of the boxes one might expect of a wine at such a high price.

The idea of French Bloom arose while Maggie was pregnant and the expectation was that it would be a brand for ‘pregnant women, the sober community and the religious market’. It transpires that those three groups ‘represent less than 20% of our customers,’ she says.

Prior to La Cuvée, French Bloom has sold sparkling white and rosé for two years and it is the ‘flexi-drinker’ that accounts for most of the company’s sales. This subset of drinkers is not a new demographic and they have been the topic of conversation in many discussions throughout the industry but Maggie and Rodolphe think that a smaller group within this one has, until now, been completely ignored.

‘In the United States in particular, there is the “executive level”,’ says Maggie. ‘The CFO, CEO and tech world. They are waking up at 5am, meditating, exercising, having a breakfast meeting and then going straight through till midnight.

‘They are entertaining or going to a client dinner and need something to bring, a status symbol, but they are not able to drink alcohol every night,’ she continues. ‘So, what are they drinking? What are they looking for in those moments? They deserve to drink something that gives them that same level of quality.’

The company’s approach has resonated with investors, who include Jean-François Moueix of Petrus and Beatrice Cointreau (Remy Martin). Of course, Moueix and Cointreau are not the only big names attached to the brand; Maggie and Rodolphe have a familiar name themselves. They are, through Rodolphe’s mother, members of the Taittinger family, though keen to highlight French Bloom is not a Taittinger venture.

While Rodolphe is not directly involved with the production of Taittinger, he knows plenty about Champagne regardless; he and his brothers make Champagne Frerejean Frères, which he credits for his understanding of how to approach the reacidification of La Cuvée. It is a slightly unexpected drink, however, that he finds most helpful.

‘We have a very old reserve of Cognac, since 1767, named Coutanseaux, that we [Taittinger] also develop,’ says Rodolphe. ‘So we create this base wine [for French Bloom], which, like in Cognac, is undrinkable. In Cognac, it is made to be distilled and here it is made to be dealcoholised, so everything is extracted, as when you dealcoholise wine you lose 60% aroma and 20% of volume.’

To make a wine that could withstand losing some of its aromatic profile, French Bloom chose to use Chardonnay grapes from the Languedoc for La Cuvée. After exploring Bordeaux, the Loire, Burgundy and Champagne, it was judged to have ‘more shoulder’, according to Rodolphe, due to the sunnier climes, and Maggie adds that the Languedoc is also ‘more open minded’.

‘The dealcoholisation process is very key as we have to do it in a gentle way,’ says Rodolphe. ‘We do cold vacuum dealcoholisation to remove the alcohol in three steps at low temperature.’

While Rodolphe won’t reveal the exact cost of this ‘innovative’ production method, he does say that research and development ran to many millions of Euros, with the machinery for the dealcoholisation alone costing €10m.

So what is the result of all this effort? What does La Cuvée taste like? Good. Really very good, actually. The wine is a deep gold with flecks of copper, which is the result of a decision to invoke visual cues of aged vintage Champagne. On the nose, it has notes of dried apricots, caramelised nuts, beeswax, honey, brioche, prune, Cognac and miso. On the palate, it has the bright acidity you would expect from a sparkling wine. The creamy texture and fine mousse speak of its sophistication, and there is an exceptionally long finish.

‘What is the definition of a fine wine?’ asks Rodolphe. ‘For us, it is first complexity, pleasure, experience, length, emotions and alcohol is quite secondary here. So, our vision is to make a true “fine wine” without the alcohol.’

Read the full article at ClubEnologique.com HERE.