Sustainability, Leonardo DiCaprio & Serena Williams: A Sparkling Chat With Champagne Telmont’s Ludovic Du Plessis

Champagne TelmontPhoto Credit: Champagne Telmont

For nearly twenty years, Ludovic du Plessis has dedicated his career to the world of luxury wines and spirits. Human encounters are at the heart of his professional arena. After 10 years spent at Dom Pérignon and Moët & Chandon, he joined LOUIS XIII Cognac as Global Executive Director in 2014. But du Plessis, his career deeply rooted in French soil, was ready for a new entrepreneurial adventure.

He then identified the House of Telmont in 2019. He made the introduction to the Rémy Cointreau group, which share the same values as Telmont: time, terroir, people. Rémy Cointreau, welcoming the initiative, purchased a majority share in Telmont champagne in October 2020.

Here is his story.

Champagne Telmont
Réserve Brut close up

Photo Credit: Champagne Telmont

What led you to embark on a career in the spirits/wine industry and specifically Champagne Telmont?

I have always been driven by passion. Twenty years ago – at that time I was working in the cigars industry – I was lucky enough to cross the path of Richard Geoffroy, who was the cellar master of Dom Pérignon for twenty years; and this encounter led me to dedicate my career to the world of luxury wines and spirits. I have never regretted this choice! Before joining Telmont, I was the Global Executive Director for LOUIS XIII cognac, for six years. It was a tremendous experience to lead such a Cognac, I learned a lot during these years. But as years passed, I wanted something more. First, I wanted to develop a project of my own, and to be an owner, at least a shareholder, of this project. I also wanted this project to be a business for good, reconciling luxury and sustainability. And I wanted to invest myself in the terroir… So, I began looking for opportunities in Champagne, and after spending months screening a huge number of Champagne Houses, I discovered Telmont. It was love at first sight! Telmont was checking all the boxes, it was really what I call the “Belle Endormie”, a Sleeping Beauty that had everything I was looking for: it was a century-old house, with strong values; it was a traditional family-run business; their wines were amazing; and they had already started its organic conversion.

Can you describe “In the Name of Mother Nature” and what it means for Champagne Telmont?

“In the Name of Mother Nature” is a lifelong project, and a team project. We are 17 women and men and we launched it 18 months ago, and since then it has been the cornerstone of our strategy, the compass that guides most of our business decisions, and motivates us every morning. “In the Name of Mother Nature” encompasses many different dimensions – everything that will contribute to reducing our impact on the environment. This means preserving biodiversity of course, but going one step further by moving to organic agriculture conversion (stop herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers). It is also a radical overhaul of our packaging policy, of our logistics, of our energy supplies… It is really a 360-degree review of everything we do, with the objective to reduce our environmental footprint. For example, we have completely stopped using giftboxes, which completely goes against the grain in our business. Why? Because it reduces our carbon footprint, and it doesn’t change anything for the quality of the wine and the tasting experience. Everybody told us that we were crazy, but for us, what is crazy it to continue using giftboxes that generate carbon emissions, and that will have a lifetime of a few minutes only in our customers’ hands…

“In the Name of Mother Nature” also means being radically transparent about our wines. Each of our bottles is numbered, and its front label contains all information regarding the composition of the vintage, where the grapes came from, and many details on how the wine was produced. The label is a kind of identity card of our wine… This complete traceability is indissociable of what we do to reduce our footprint; and we believe that our clients are asking for it. One last thing that is important about “In the Name of Mother Nature”, is that we are not alone in this endeavor. Since the beginning, we have been working with partners, from our winegrower partners to our suppliers, and to the Green Star Chefs who share our vision. There is a whole ecosystem that has crystallized around this project – with at its heart, all those who love the Earth and our champagne!

Champagne Telmont
Reserve Brut

Photo Credit: Champagne Telmont

Can you speak more on Champagne Telmont’s existing sustainability initiatives beyond the elimination of gift packaging?

I could speak for hours on this topic! The most obvious would be the organic conversion, on which we keep progressing, and that we aim to complete by 2025 on our estate, and by 2031 on those of our partners. This means renouncing the use of all herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Another example: we completely stopped using air freight to ship our wines, including to America or Asia; we ship it by boat instead. Yes, logistics are a bit more complex when wines have to spend a few weeks at sea; but we can manage it, and the impact on CO2 emissions is huge. We are also working very hard to reduce the carbon content of the bottles: we only use standard champagne bottles – the famous, green “bouteille champenoise” – made up with 86% of recycled glass. We stopped using transparent bottles, which contain 0% of recycled glass. We also stopped all special bottles with different “shapes”, which are more heavy than standard champagne bottle, and thus generate more carbon emissions. And now, we are studying with our partner Verallia, a highly innovative glassmaker, how to reduce the weight of glass used in each bottle, because less glass means less CO2 emissions… Very soon, Champagne Telmont will be using the lightest champagne bottle ever made. Over time, it has really become an obsession: how can we reduce our greenhouse gases emissions? How can we do it faster?

How do you plan to pioneer these initiatives for the Champagne region and wine industry overall?

This initiative, “In the Name of Mother Nature” has put me in a dilemma. On the one hand, yes, we want to set out an exemplary path towards a 100% organic viticulture, using production methods with reduced impact on natural surroundings; and yes, we would love it if this inspires others to follow our path. But in the same time, we remain very humble in the face of this objective, and we certainly don’t want to give lessons to anyone. Winegrowing, in particular in Champagne, is a difficult trade. A lot is being done already in our region to preserve biodiversity and the terroir. Many of us winegrowers are traveling to the same destination, but each of us goes at their own rhythm. For Telmont, sustainability comes first; it is truly a priority. This is why we are leading the way on the organic conversion, on packaging, on logistics and energy, on the experiments to use the lightest bottle ever in Champagne… and on the holistic approach we use to reduce our GHG footprint.

Champagne Telmont
In the name of mother nature

Photo Credit: Champagne Telmont

Have you noticed increased desire from consumers on more sustainable options when it comes to purchasing Champagne?

Yes! Absolutely. For many of our customers, it’s not only an “increased desire”, it’s quickly becoming a “must have”. Some customers only want to buy sustainable products, and they are sufficiently knowledgeable not to be fooled by greenwashing. At the core of our customer base, are demanding connoisseurs, well-educated on sustainability, who demand high quality products that also are green “360-degrees”.

What is your ultimate goal and/or benchmark for success when it comes to Champagne Telmont?

Our goal is to make the best champagne, and the most sustainable. Actually, both aspects are linked: we believe that organic conversion, relying at the same time on innovation and on traditional methods, will bring us the best grapes possible. As I often say, the wine is good if the Earth is true… My ultimate goal is that my children and grandchildren, when they grow up, are able to enjoy champagne of the highest quality, a champagne as good as the one we drink today.

Knowing that Telmont is centered around sustainability – do you think the luxury industry as a whole is moving to a more sustainable future?

Yes, of course. There is no other way. I am very optimistic about the future, and we see all around us many initiatives that go in the same direction: sustainability. Something is happening! But maybe it needs to happen faster than it does today, we need to accelerate, each of us. Preserving our planet and reducing our carbon footprint must become a priority for us all.

Champagne Telmont
Reserve Brut

Photo Credit: Champagne Telmont


How did you begin to work with Leonardo DiCaprio and what synergies between him and the brand do you see?

Leonardo is a friend. We met 15 years ago in Los Angeles, we had a lot of tastes and convictions in common, and we became friendly. I was impressed from the start by his vision on sustainability. I must say that he has inspired me and motivated me – perhaps unconsciously – to pursue my own mission: to create the most sustainable champagne brand. Regarding Telmont, Leonardo is an investor, he is not the face of the brand. He is truly interested in understanding how we are carrying out our project, that’s why he came to Damery a few months ago, to see things by himself. He is fully on board, fully supportive of our vision, and he is encouraging us to push ourselves further, and to go even faster in this transformation. Obviously, his support increases Telmont’s visibility, and will help us reach a broader audience worldwide, further and faster.

Where do you see Telmont future forward?

The future is what we are working for. A fully sustainable future, where climate change has been contained, and where champagne still tastes the same. This is why we cannot make any compromise on the rollout of “In the Name of Mother Nature”. Our brand is over a hundred years old, and we will be here in another hundred years, for our kids and our grandkids.

Champagne Telmont
Front façade – Damery atelier

Photo Credit: Champagne Telmont

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned as a CEO, and by whom?

I am blessed to have Serena Williams as a close friend. I am very much inspired by her, by her will, by her pugnacity, by the energy she invests in reaching her goals. This is the greatest lesson: never give up. Yes, there is a mountain ahead, but if we believe in ourselves, we can move this mountain.

Have you ever made a mistake along the way? What did you learn from it?

I have made a lot of mistakes, I make mistakes every day, but each time I try to understand them, to learn and grow from them. This is perhaps the legacy of the years I have spent in the United States, where mistakes are valued as a source of experience, of progress.

What to you is the greatest luxury in life and why?

The greatest luxuries are time and a healthy planet. Two things that money can’t buy!