Interview with South African Dignitaire
of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne,
Shaun Anderson

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You’ve recently returned from a visit to Champagne, and you had the honour of meeting the newly elected Commandeur of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne. Can you tell us a little about the Order and what it does?

Yes, the Order of Champagne or in French, L’Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne is a fraternity of Champagne lovers around the world. It was started over 600 years ago.

During the mid-17th century, three aristocrats at the court of Louis the XIV, namely the Marquis de St Everemond, the Marquis de Bois Dauphin and Comte d’Olonne Mortemart, founded the Order. They were wine connoisseurs and, by all accounts, especially fond of Champagne from the three ‘coteaux’ (hillsides) Ay, Epernay and Hautvillers.  They were dubbed ‘Les Trois Coteaux’ and later ‘L’Ordre des Coteaux’ as others joined the group.  Today, the Order has over 5,000 members dedicated to promoting the ‘wine of kings’, and is the Champagne region’s way of celebrating Champagne enthusiasts and ambassadors.

And the new Commandeur is the CEO of the second biggest Champagne brand Nicolas Feulliatte who is no stranger to South Africa, having run the French owned Stellenbosch winery L’Avenir. His name is Christophe Juarez. I took him some biltong and we laughed about our love for South Africa...and Champagne.

Champagne is not just a drink, it’s a lifestyle; it represents excellence, celebration, sophistication and achievement.

The titles Chevalier and Dignitaire conjure up images of medieval French courts…

You’re not far from the truth! Chevaliers were French knights, so in a sense, the chevaliers are there to protect the prestige of Champagne. Dignitaires are higher office bearers, mainly from the Champagne region, who are ‘ambassadors spreading the word’ if you will. Members of the Order are inducted at formal Chapter Dinners where we wear robes and chains that are distinctly medieval in character! It’s part of the mystique, tradition and ceremony of Champagne.

As the South African Ambassadeur Dignitaire, what are your plans for Champagne in Africa?

My mission as Ambassadeur Dignitaire is to create regional Chapters and see more people recognised for their love of Champagne and being their own ambassadors of this special bubbly.

We are partnered with Absa CIB in the annual Absa Champagne Festival since 2002 where thousands of Absa’s valuable clients have had a chance to experience a whole range of Champagne producers from big name “Grand Marques” to very talented artisanal grower producers. There are only a few huge big brand Champagne houses or GRAND MARQUES such as Moet et Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Lanson, Piper Heidsieck, Laurent Perrier, GH Mumm, Louis Roederer, Taittinger, Pommery and Nicolas Feulliatte, but thousands of smaller grower and co-op Champagne labels. It’s this diversity that deserves to be, and is  showcased!

Absa CIB is a proudly Pan African  banking brand of excellence. The synergy between these two great brands is obvious and what better way to celebrate Absa CIB clients than with Champagne? Absa is represented in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, the Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania (Absa and National Bank of Commerce), Uganda and Zambia.

The Absa Champagne Festival and “Champagne in Africa” website are wonderful springboards to bring all that Absa and Champagne represent, to their valuable clients and the public in other Africa countries soon.

Which brings us neatly to the new Commandeur of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne – Christophe Juarez.

It was an honour to meet him – the first Commander from a Champagne Co-operative (Nicholas Feuillatte), not a single ownership brand We spoke about the opportunities in Africa and he was very enthusiastic. In fact, he agreed to open the 2022 Champagne Festival and preside over the induction of 50 new Chevalier in Cape Town on the 19th October 2022.
He is a great friend of South Africa and through a recent Champagne merger in France, Nicolas Feuillatte is now the second biggest producer of Champagne – producing around 28 million bottles per year, the best selling Champagne house in France.

The future for Champagne in Africa is sparkling!

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The Champagne in Africa team support enjoying life and the responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic beverages are not for persons under the age of 18. Please remember to drink responsibly.