Champagne: Describes a Lifestyle
It may be politically incorrect, but judgements are made by wines selected, shoes worn, and hotels selected.
And So It is With Wine
Kylie Jenner is likely to be found sipping a glass of Pinot Grigio, for the Justin Timberlake – Jessica Biel wedding cuvee, Jesse Katz blended Alexander Valley Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon from a 2009 vintage. Madonna and John Legend have been photographed enjoying Rose, while Michael Strahan prefers Pinot Noir.
And There is Champagne
Owning a special space in the wine category is Champagne, the beverage selected for celebrations and one that immediately envelopes the drinker in a space that speaks of elegance and sophistication. It signals to others that life (for you) is always a very special occasion and you don’t have time for “them.”
While there are other sparkling wines (i.e. Cava from Spain, Sekt from Germany, Spumante from Italy), the gold standard is always the Champagne region of France where a cool climate and chalky soil produce very acidic grapes that morph into a glorious palate experience.
I recently spent time interviewing a new entry into the very competitive field of French Champagne, Martin Konorza, President, Champagne De Watere. Konorza started drinking Champagne as a teenager. As the years progressed, and he had the opportunity to taste sparkling wines from other parts of the world, he was never satisfied. After attempting to follow the educational path to a business career, or following in the footsteps of his parents who are doctors, Konorza decided that he would combine his search for the perfect Champagne with his passion for entrepreneurship and a few years ago (2011), in partnership with a silent (secret?) partner, launched a Champagne that defines the lifestyle of the rich (if not the famous), De Watere.
Konorza was in New York, scoping out the opportunities for his new premium Champagne in the United States. Already widely available in European markets, the USA is currently the place to be as Americans are the biggest buyers of Champagne (2017, Reuters), buying more Champagne than the British (former title holders) who are now the second largest foreign buyers in the world.
The number 1 Champagne brand in the US is Veuve Clicquot, with a high profile for its non-vintage brut bottling, Yellow Label. Moet & Chandon shows strong consumer interest and Piper Heidsieck (imported by Terlato Wines) is popular with an almost 27 percent increase in sales in 2017.
Who is drinking all this Champagne? The Wine Market Council determined that people in their 20s and 30s are ordering sparkling wine throughout the year, not just for special occasions. Although Millennials are consuming less wine (in general) than previous generations (Vinexpo; IWSR) globally they more likely to move among beverages (drinking wine, craft beer and spirits). However, they are less loyal to products and when they do select a beverage, they are more thoughtful about their wine drinking, wanting to know exactly what is in their glass, from variety to source and production process.
Men are drinking more Piper-Heidsieck than women (52 percent to 48 percent). Not only are men drinking Champagne, they are buying it for celebrations, executive meetings and events with significant others. Piper-Heidsieck has been associated with the “art of seduction,” with its premium gold and red brand wooing everyone from Marie Antoinette to Marilyn Monroe. Jean Paul Gaultier designed a bottle for them (1990s, and 2011) and Viktor & Rolf, and Christian Louboutin did the same for their limited-edition brut cuvee.
Women have had a strong presence in the Champagne industry and Veuve Clicquot is focusing on the fact that, at the death of her husband (18th century), Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, Madame Clicquot became one of the few women, at the time, to run an international business. She is also credited with developing the riddling process (1816), an essential part of Champagne production today. Cliquot is the second largest of the champagne houses and plans to expand production facilities to the tune of 200-300 million Euros.
Konorza has selected a very competitive market in a global economy to launch his premium priced beverages. Currently there are 83,000 acres of vineyards in Champagne, producing an average of one million bottles of Champagne, daily!
The Champagne region is only 90 miles from Paris, with the local cities of Epernay and Reims, the center of the major Champagne producers (i.e., Mumm and Moet Chandon). This coveted beverage became important in the late 19th century thanks to the marketing skills and foresight of the Champagne houses who noted that because of the economy at the time (peace and prosperity), the wealthy locals and travelers were looking for distractions. Alfons Mucha and Toulouse-Lautrec were hired to promote the beverage as the drink of choice for celebrations.
Konorza is positioning DeWatere at the premium price point (think 125 Euros per bottle in Europe) for a bottle of Cuvee Premier Cru Brut Blanc (80 percent Pinot Noir, 20 percent Chardonnay). Bright yellow to the eye with fine perlage, it delivers an aroma of citrus and fruit while the palate finds grapefruit and honey, cinnamon and citrus fruits delivering a bold palate statement not usually found in Champagne. It pairs well with oysters, mussels, ripe Brie and would make a wonderful aperitif for a spring Brunch.
The De Watere Cuvee Premier Cru Brut Rose de Saignee (100 percent Pinot Noir) retails in Europe for 145 Euros per bottle. This fruity Rose is definitely fruit forward and unexpected in a Rose Champagne. The very berry palate experience heralds’ fresh strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and a suggestion of cherry or cherry juice. The deep Rose color is in fact a Heads Up – that this is not your Mothers Rose.
At this price levels, likely competitors are Dom Perignon Vintage Champagne, Veuve Clicquot, Charles Heidsieck 2006 Rose, and Moet & Chandon Imperial (1.5 Liter Magnum) Non-Vintage.
Positioning De Watere
Konorza is producing Champagnes he considers to be “eco-sensitive” as the grapes are harvested by hand and horses (not tractors) are used in the Premier Cru vineyards in the Vallee de Marne.
He is also focusing on the high-end consumer by offering a Diamond edition with a one carat round diamond set in a one-ounce pure gold medal beneath the bottle and priced at $45,290. It was designed to commemorate the 925 years of family tradition as the family name is recorded in the Doomsday Book (England, 1086).
The new design for De Watere was launched in Monaco at the annual Yacht Show (2018) and during London Fashion Week where De Watere was available in front/behind and adjacent to the stage.
Champagne De Watere Lifestyle
© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.