In 1874, the year The Society was established, Gratien went into partnership with Albert Jean Meyer, an enthusiastic wine connoisseur from Alsace. Sadly Alfred died young and it was the Meyers who carried on the business, but the vision and energy of its original founder endured. We are confident that both men would be thoroughly proud of the how the company has developed and would approve of the wines being produced today.
150 years of the finest fizz
Gratien & Meyer, our oldest suppliers, celebrate an important milestone
Significant milestones in the life of a company are always special but this one is particularly so as it concerns our longest-standing suppliers, Gratien & Meyer of Saumur (and their Champagne house Alfred Gratien in Epernay) as they celebrate their 150th anniversary this year. The first wines started to appear on Wine Society Lists from 1906 and members have been celebrating special occasions with bubbles produced by Gratien & Meyer ever since.
In 1864, at just 23 years old, the entrepreneurial Alfred Gratien was quick to realise the possibilities that the new railway network would create, opening up access to markets in Paris and beyond. The land around Saumur is riddled with mine shafts and underground passageways tunnelled out in the 12th century to construct the impressive châteaux of the region from the tuffeau rock. Alfred Gratien purchased some 10kms of underground passages just outside Saumur, perfect for the establishment of a wine business. Sparkling wine production started soon after.
Not lacking in ambition, later on, Alfred also purchased some exceptional cellars in Epernay in Champagne. While the sparkling Saumur wines were high-quality 'vins de plaisir', the philosophy behind the Champagne was different; he wanted to create hand-crafted wines, stating:
"I have always been of the opinion that champagne should be to wine what haute couture is to fashion."