Champagne today is more accessible than it was in the past, but because of that it no longer quite ts the “rare” criteria we so o en expect of a luxury product, and houses are continuously striving to o er something different to clients. Saturated markets with the increased competition from prosecco and a growing worldwide sparkling wine industry has forced champagne houses to go with new marketing strategies, like Lanson becoming the o icial champagne of Wimbledon, and Moët using celebrity endorsement and devising an international “Moët Day” with worldwide events. Brand representatives say it’s a way to show the Moët “savoir fete,” a play on words that means they know how to party, not just make great champagne. The aim is to go around the clock and show people all the ways you can enjoy Moët on di erent occasions, again trying to dispel the idea that champagne is just for celebrations.
In a notoriously strict industry where innovation is rare and di icult, breaking rules is tough, but might be vital. Ever the pioneers, Moët & Chandon cra ed the MCIII expression, an unconventional concept that blends three ways of producing champagne (in stainless steel tanks, oak casks, and bottles) using the best vintages from years spanning 199 -200 and aged for 10 years 20 years in one bottle.
Innovation by individual brands is good for business, but it also helps keep the whole category relevant, say Moët & Chandon brand ambassador Amine Ghanem and Moët-Hennessy Market Manager for North Africa and the Near East Briac Dessertenne, who visited Lebanon for a series of events in uly. They explain that it’s their responsibility to anticipate the future needs of clients and currently those needs are personalization and experiences.
CHAMPAGNE IN LEBANON
Speaking of experiences, Ghanem was in Lebanon to lead a Moët masterclass on the MCIII. During a visit to Beirut at the beginning of the year, Lanson Champagne’s export manager, Emmanuel Gantet, held a masterclass at Ashra eh’s The Malt Gallery on his brand’s range, giving not only a history lesson on champagne in general, and on Lanson speci cally, but also introducing several special bottles. Vintage Wine Cellar hosts champagne tastings a couple of times a year. Beirut’s ve star Phoenicia Hotel has also held champagne pairing dinners, introducing people to various brands and expressions, while encouraging the pairing of champagne with ne cuisine.
In Lebanon, champagne is largely still viewed as something you drink on a special occasion, says Riachi. Perhaps because of its luxury status, it can be intimidating. While the Lebanese love luxury in general, Riachi says they will o en have a ute before dinner, but later pair a bottle of wine with food, even though the price of champagne can be the same as a good bottle of wine. Meanwhile in Europe, it’s more common to order champagne with a meal, or drink it casually, he says.
It might take a while for the Lebanese to start drinking champagne casually but maybe it’s just not in Lebanese blood to be casual. If champagne is seen as the drink of special occasions, then perhaps we just need to nd more excuses to celebrate.