Located in its historical estate in Reims, Lanson is among the largest and oldest Champagne houses. It is very popular in the UK, but not so much globally. This is changing, however; since the BCC group, which owns other great Champagne houses, acquired Lanson in 2006, it has been working on refreshing and repositioning the brand in France and abroad, and on further improving its winemaking tools for even greater champagnes.
François Delamotte, a magistrate in Reims and owner of vineyards, founded in 1760 his Champagne house carrying his name. In 1798, Nicolas-Louis Delamotte, François’ youngest son, succeeded his father. Having been admitted as a knight of the Order of Malta, at a very young age, he used the Maltese cross as the house’s emblem, which has remained ever since.
Jean-Baptiste Lanson, a friend and later associate of the Delamottes, played an increasingly important role in the management of the house. He succeeded Nicolas-Louis after his death in 1837, and this having no heirs, he renamed the business Maison J-B Lanson & Cie.
In 1855, Victor-Marie Lanson, Jean-Baptiste’s son, took over the running of the house and changed the name to Lanson Père et Fils. Jean-Baptiste worked to develop the business outside of France, and particularly in Great Britain where the house eventually reached a dominant position and became official purveyor to the British court in 1900 (and still is). Later, Lanson also became official supplier to the Spanish Court and the only champagne of the principality of Monaco.
Victor Lanson, who took the helm in 1928, wanted to promote sales of non-vintage dry champagne that was particularly appreciated in Great Britain, the house’s biggest market. This is how in 1937, he crafted such champagne and named it Black Label, which has remained Lanson’s main cuvée. Victor was also one of the first to re-develop rosé champagne.
Etienne Lanson, one of Victor’s sons, took over in 1967 and decided to keep some of their vintage champagnes in the cellars to develop a unique wine library, from which the house still benefits today.
After changing hands a few times, in 2006 Lanson joined the Boizel Chanoine Champagne (BCC) group, which became Lanson-BBC, the second largest group in Champagne. Its president ever since was Philippe Baijot. He retired in 2019. François Van Aal, with a long experience at French spirits group Rémy-Cointreau, is now in charge.
Vineyard and Production
The house’s supplies come from over 500 ha throughout Champagne, of which 120 are directly owned. They permit the house to produce and sell about 4 million bottles per year. They own one of the very few clos of Champagne: Clos Lanson. The winemaking is characterized by the predominant use of pinot noir and chardonnay and blocking malolactic fermentations. In 2014 the house invested 14 million euro to upgrade its production chain and cellar with new thermo-regulated vats and 23 oak casks. The new vessels permit to better extract the uniqueness of crus and parcels, for more sophisticated and complex assemblages, while the use of oak adds complexity to the wines. In 2015, Hervé Dantan officially replaced Jean-Paul Gandon, Lanson’s historic chef de cave since 1982, and has signed all the champagnes produced ever since.
Given these champagnes are primarily made of pinot noir and chardonnay, without malolactic fermentation to preserves the natural purity of the fruit and some of the freshness, Lanson champagnes are indeed crisp and fruity, but they are aged enough to account for it, resulting in elegance with a certain complexity, and great aging potential to develop richer aromas.
The portfolio has been narrowed down lately, from 15 to 10 cuvées and divided into three ranges: Core, Rare & Exceptional, and Prestige. The first includes the classic non-vintage champagnes brut, rosé, and demi-sec, and since 2020 two superb new champagnes: a brut on “steroids” dubbed Black Réserve, and a great blanc de blancs. Rare & Exceptional includes Vintage, Green Label, a very seductive organic champagne, and Clos Lanson, a full-bodied barrel-fermented vintage blanc de blancs issued from their walled parcel planted with Chardonnay adjacent the house in Reims. Prestige includes their top vintage champagne Noble Cuvée, also available in blanc de blancs. I really like all their champagnes, with their crispness, elegance, and depth, but my favorite is Black Réserve that Hervé created on his arrival in 2013 to add a gastronomic wine to the range, with freshness, complexity, and fulness. I find it to be one of the best BSA in the market.