From the first brut champagne to the first pension fund
Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Mélin was born into a bourgeois family in 1819. At the age of 20, she married Louis Pommery, a wool merchant, who joined forces with the vintner Joseph-Narcisse Greno in 1856. Following the sudden death of her husband, Louise Pommery became a widow at the age of 39. In order to be able to continue raising their two children, she showed immense determination in assuming control of her husband’s champagne business.
In 1874, a time when sweet champagne was immensely popular, Louise demonstrated her innovative flair by creating the first brut vintage. This very dry beverage was intended to accompany a main course rather than dessert. It proved a particular success in England, enabling Pommery & Greno to expand its sales there, as well as in Russia and the United States.
The Pommery estate, Reims, 20 June 2018 © Fred Laures
In addition to this invention, Louise Pommery launched the basis for promoting luxury goods, recognising the importance of style and brand, and of the wine estate’s communications and public relations. She created the Pommery brand image and thereby elevated the company among the ranks of the most prestigious champagne houses. In 1878, she had a neo-Elizabethan style production complex built on Saint-Nicaise hill in Reims, so that her English clientele would feel more ‘at home’ and thus increase her sales. She also joined up former Gallo-Roman chalk pits to create an 18-kilometre network of underground galleries to improve the ageing of her wines.
Pommery cellars, 8 June 2018 © Fred Laures
As well as being a savvy entrepreneur, Louise Pommery was also a compassionate woman. She set up the first pension fund for her staff, drew up a company code of ethics and acted as a patron for local artists.
Her son Louis joined the company in 1866. When Louise Pommery died in 1890, her son and daughter took over the reins, later bequeathed to her grandchildren. Pommery remained in the family until 1979, when it was taken over by the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Group. It has belonged to the Vranken-Pommery Monopole since 2002
Pommery vineyards, 16 July 2012 © Eric Flogny