STILL IN SPARKLING FORM
CHAMPAGNE IS NOT A PRODUCT. IT’S PART OF THE CULTURE OF AN EDUCATED MANKIND.
It’s 10am and already Thibaut Le Mailloux, directeur de la communication du Comite interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne, the global champagne marketing authority, is holding a flute of bubbly in his hand. But it’s only a photographic prop.
“The morning is not great for drinking, but it is great for tasting,” he says. “The best moment is in the middle of the morning, when your tastebuds are awake enough and some hunger is starting to arrive, so your brain’s open to identifying some romance.”
Le Mailloux doesn’t have too taxing a job here. Australia is the world’s eighth-largest champagne market, with an impressive 4.8 million bottles sold last year. That’s up nearly 32 per cent on 2010, making us the fastest- growing major market.
It’s all thanks to our strong wine culture and a love of champagne inherited from 18th- century Britain, Le Mailloux explains. Add to that the rising dollar and a competitive retail sector, which have combined to push the price of champagne significantly lower.
Globally, champagne represents just 13 per cent of the sparkling wine market. “We are not intending to be the [biggest- selling] sparkling wine; we are intending to remain the most prestigious. Champagne is not a big advertiser, but it is a product of choice for cinema stars, artists, creators and designers. Champagne is not in this area by luck or product placement.
“Part of our marketing is in the air; it’s history, because we are part of life. Champagne is not a product. It’s part of the culture of an educated mankind.”
But the Comite does spend a lot of time creating local organisations, termed “embassies”, to defend the appellation against the cowboys and pirates who would pretend their local sparkling wine is from France.
Australia has no such problem, thanks to local regulations, and neither does China. Surprisingly, the US does. “Some of the Americans don’t seem ashamed of that. They speak of China as the counterfeit country, but they still steal our name.”