The marketing of fine French wine usually involves making potential customers want to taste it. They’re supposed to anticipate experiencing in the bottle what the combination of the winemaker and the vineyard’s terroir has produced. But the biggest, grandes marques Champagnes, no matter how delicious, have been sold largely on image.
Take the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton portfolio, which now includes five historic global brands of bubbly. The company’s Moët & Chandon is the glamour Champagne at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, while at the New York City Ballet, patrons sip elegant, sophisticated Ruinart. Jon Potter, executive vice president of brands at Moët Hennessy USA, insists the differences among the imaging and promotional strategies of the five international labels aren’t just invented by marketers but come directly from the heritage of each estate. “We went deep into the history of each to find its DNA, its core theme,” he says.
So far, the strategy is working. LVMH’s Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon are leading the recent growth in U.S. Champagne sales and account for 60 percent of that market.
With a distinctive yellow-orange label, this Champagne is the chic lifestyle brand. Madame Clicquot made her pinot noir–based blends successful in the 1800s, with Russian help. Now, the brand sponsors polo matches and sailing festivals and associates itself with fashion and stylish businesswomen.
MOËT & CHANDON
This widely available Champagne is about glitzy parties and victorious moments. Once the standard spray for Formula One winners, Moët & Chandon Imperial is now regularly uncorked during tennis matches; Roger Federer is the global brand ambassador. It’s also been the official drink of the Golden Globe Awards for the past 24 years.
Even to people who can’t name a Bordeaux château, “D.P.” is synonymous with luxury. Once Moët & Chandon’s prestige cuvée, it was spun off as its own brand, with a visionary “power of creation” philosophy and manifesto. D.P. makes only complex vintage Champagnes noted for their ageability. For special packaging, it turns to artists such as Jeff Koons and David Lynch.
Owned by LVMH since 1999, Krug is the superserious bubbly of collectors and connoisseurs, the wine to pour before a three-Michelin-star meal. All its Champagnes are pushed as the ultimate prestige cuvées, from the Grande Cuvée 120-wine blend to its two, $1,000-plus single-vineyard wines that reflect a special terroir.
Moët purchased Ruinart, the oldest Champagne house, in 1963 and redefined it as a light, elegant, all-chardonnay blanc de blancs—an ideal aperitif. It’s the art and culture brand, the official fizz at the New York City Ballet and international art fairs like Art Basel. The connection: In 1896, André Ruinart commissioned a now-famous poster by art nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.