Evelyne Roques-Boizel represents the fifth generation of the Boizel family involved in the champagne business. A charming, elegant and composed yet joyful lady, she ran the family business for almost four decades with her husband Christophe, continuing the family tradition of developing great champagne wines, which for her “it is simply a matter of passion!” She explains how the identity of her family and their champagne are one thing, resulting in their gentle and seductive wines with caressing bubbles.
How the history of your house defined its current identity?
Boizel was founded in 1834 by my great-great-grandfather and has been since passed down from father to son and father to daughter to me. Since 1834, five generations (now six) from the same family in direct kinship have contributed to our story, but the family was involved in champagne before that, as part of its members founded a wine house in Aÿ during the French Revolution. Boizel has lived through the glory and adventures of the Champagne region.
I am proud of my ancestors who created their house when it was truly an adventure.
I am proud of my ancestors who created their house when it was truly an adventure. We didn’t master yet the fermentation of sugar and the bottles would often shatter during the second fermentation and producing champagne was an uncertain process. Also, the Champagne region was producing a lot of grapes, which were used to make cheap table wines. Most of the wine houses didn’t have vineyards and used only the best grapes coming from vine growers in the best parcels and from the best years to make champagne.
Today Boizel is first and foremost a Champagne house for wine connoisseurs, for people who are passionate about champagne.
Today Boizel is first and foremost a Champagne house for wine connoisseurs, for people who are passionate about champagne. It is not a house that you hear through advertising. We have always been discreet, proud of our champagnes and engaged with customers who are looking for champagnes with character and finesse, at a reasonable price.
You mention finesse and character. Do they define the style of your champagnes?
We certainly have a rather classical taste but it is difficult for me to describe our style because when we create our champagnes we just aim at what we like.
We make champagnes with tiny bubbles and with a very delicate taste, but also champagnes that have more body.
We make champagnes with tiny bubbles and with a very delicate taste, but also champagnes that have more body because we use more pinot noir for instance. But we are lucky to have many lighter wines also available. For example, we use about 30 different crus for our Brut Réserve and we aim at finding the best expression of our terroirs, the best balance, the best harmony. Therefore, finding something utterly specific to our style is difficult as the personality of our champagnes is made from a lot of different things blended together. But we try our best to convey the extreme delicacy and finesse, the light and creamy aspect that is found in great champagnes.
Boizel is a low-profile house for wine connoisseurs. Why such an approach for a glamorous wine?
For several reasons. First, it’s connected to our personality, but there is also a matter of cost. There is a will to dedicate most of our resources to invest in production tools, in modern fermenting rooms, and less in communication. My choices have been directed toward making the wine rather than promoting it.
In France, Boizel is mainly distributed through B-2-C sales. Why?
This choice allowed us to explain who we are. Direct sales are one of our strengths as they helped us to establish trusting relationships with our customers by creating a bond, by bringing them our expertise and our love for the product. Over 20,000 of our customers are loyal and regular consumers. Indeed, using this channel does not contribute to the brand’s awareness, which is why we now focus on growing our market visibility, especially in gourmet restaurants.
Champagne and food pairing is still unknown to most customers. What are your favorite food and champagne pairings?
It is a big challenge for us to convince customers to drink champagne while eating and to make them understand the pairings.
Champagne is seldom drunk at the table. Of course, it doesn’t apply to rare gourmet meals. It is a big challenge for us to convince customers to drink champagne while eating and to make them understand the pairings. As a general rule, I choose the wine first and then the menu because I am passionate about wine. For me, pairing young and blancs de blancs champagnes with seafood is perfect. With vintages, I would pick some foie gras, a chicken with mushrooms or some truffle as champagnes over 10 years of age have more intensity in taste. I find that rosé champagne is delicious with cold meats. Blanc de noirs is wonderful with cured meats. Japanese cuisine is great with champagne, especially the Kaiseki from Kyoto, which is the most traditional and noble cuisine. I am lucky to discover extraordinary pairings, sometimes unusual for my western palate, sometimes magical. But Italian cuisine and champagne is a real delight as well.
Where are the greatest Boizel aficionados? What are the new markets you are looking at?
Outside of France, the UK is our biggest market and has been such for about 150 years and it is still the main market (in volume) for the whole Champagne region after France. Great Britain is a market that expanded a lot for 100 years. It kept growing for the last 50 years despite more or less favorable periods. Unfortunately, this has changed, and Japan has become a key market in the last few years. It is a very interesting market that is moving toward maturity nowadays. Japanese people are very interested in taste, delicacy, finesse, and enjoying wines and food. They have a very interesting notion of balance and harmony that is greater than in other countries. We learn a lot in Japan. We get interesting feedback on pairing and thoughts on aroma analysis. But we are also present in most European markets such as Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands. There are a lot of markets to develop but we cannot be everywhere. There are big markets like the US for example, a wonderful buoyant market for champagne where we were extensively present in the past. There is a lot to do for us there and we are starting again with new points of sales.
A lot of countries outside of Europe are opening up to champagne, small countries but also the whole of Asia, with small volumes for now. We are very successful in China with our Blanc de Blancs and I didn’t expect that. For this market, I would have thought that wines made with pinot would work better because chardonnay has more of a mineral taste, fresher than the other vintages and from my experience, this is not something that the Chinese market is usually after. Australia, where we have been exporting our champagnes since before WW1, has been growing very fast. New Zealand is also very promising.
Among distribution, quality and brand, which one would you say is key to the success of a Champagne house?
It’s almost impossible to separate one from the others. Brand awareness is a very important element to build a distribution network. At Boizel, we look for importers of our size, businesses on a human scale with men and women keen to get involved and that have a passion for products with personality–products that are not sold in duty-free or through mass distribution–and who support quality distribution with a long-term vision. However, I would say that quality and brand awareness are probably more important than distribution; if you have these two elements, then you can find a distribution network easily. For Boizel, quality and distribution are crucial. Renown is built bit by bit.
Customers who choose a famous brand are usually after a status. We highlight the quality of our wines and our family history and we try to get customers to enjoy the finesse of our champagnes. Fortunately, some customers are happy to discover quality brands even if they are less renowned.
Champagne is a great wine and I am always amazed by the “miracle” of balance between finesse, delicacy, depth and character.
What is champagne to you?
Champagne is a great wine and I am always amazed by the “miracle” of balance between finesse, delicacy, depth and character. It is a passion in my life, a pleasure to share, a promise of happiness.