The Australian - The Deal - - Contents - Stephen Brook

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.”

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