You imagine a stately brand with an old-fashioned image when you think of Veuve Clicquot. But it's quite the opposite it seems! Read more about how the brand is evolutionising slowly, but surely...
By: Salman Z. Bukhari
Posted on: July 10, 2011
You imagine a stately brand with an old-fashioned image when you think of Veuve Clicquot. But it’s quite the opposite it seems! Read more about how the brand is evolutionising slowly, but surely…
True passion makes a man find a way to live his dream. Mr François Hautekeur is one such stellar example of a trained engineer giving up his career to chase his dreams, and turn into an oenologist.
Mr. Hautekeur is today a trained oenologist at one of the best schools in the field in Toulouse and founder of Oenolympics competition for students mastering the art works with the famed House of Veuve Clicquot in Reims, France. The house is renowned for creating the best champagnes and wines to come out of the country - so much so that luxury conglomerate LVMH took it under its wings in 1987.
We caught up with François on his Mumbai visit a couple of weeks ago when he came to the Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai. Over his quick two day trip (his second, first one being the Capital city – New Delhi) he tried to squeeze in as many things as possible - a meal with the lunching society ladies, a training session with the bar staff at the hotel, a bunch of meetings with business partners and associates, and yes, an interview with LuxuryFacts.
We start with a few pleasantries and then jump right in to his immediate last engagement - the lunch with Mumbai’s leading ladies and ask how did that go? He is just glad that his guests who are well heeled, well-travelled and rather discerning were pleasantly surprised at the versatility of Veuve Clicquot and how well it accompanies Indian foods, especially their Rosés. He couldn’t stop gushing about how dynamic he found these connoisseurs of his spirits which ended up lifting his own.
He is very determined to position his 239 year old brand as hip, young and trendy, as opposed to the expected traditional, old money rich and aristocratic decadent. We won’t be surprised to know that you find this a bit of a long shot, calling something with such a long history as hip as Gaga. But truth be told, that’s what the brand would like to be, now and for a while. François calls the Clicquot Maison filled with madness and not fuddy-duddy as one would expect it to be. But he is quick to add that there is a method to the madness. The art of wine and spirit making is a marriage between science of mixing and fermenting, but it also gives birth to a living liquid which takes a form of its own which no scientific approach can alter. His engineering background allowed him to apply methodology of science to this very magical process which enthralled him as a young man a long time back.
Although he is brutally honest in telling us that he has not much exposure to the Indian market, he does have reasons to believe that this is one of the most promising economies and an emerging society to watch out for. He knows there is a long way to go in building this market, with a lot of work to do, but he is open and willing to know and love India wholeheartedly. LVMH has been bullish of late in India, and rightly so, but does the age old champagne creator find the ambitious French parent company overbearing on their historical style? “Non, non. Not at all! We are given complete liberty to run the business as we want. It’s a bit mad,” he explains in his heavy French accent.
We then ask how he would get the young Indian to favour Cliquot over his or her current poison, considering it wants to be seen as a young brand. Mr. Hautekeur exclaims he would convince people with a glass of his brand in their hands. There is no better way to appreciate and finally switch to Veuve Cliquot than to savour the open, aromatic, crisp, complex, fruity, fresh, spicy, lively concoction - he says. And how exactly does he plan to do this daunting task? Simple. Train the servers and bar attendants at the hippest and chicest places around the world to first appreciate and understand the brand, and then endorse it to their patrons. The process is long, but once a person understands the passion, it passes on.
His training session with the Four Seasons staff was eventful. The young managers and severs were receptive and eager to learn what this master had to teach them. Another day of frantic activities and he takes off to yet another city in another country carrying with him the Champagne Education Program in which Mr Hautekeur plays a significant role in the communication efforts of Veuve Clicquot - tasting, promoting and training in French, English and Spanish.
When we probe him on his idea of luxury, Mr. Hautekeur ponders for a while before replying, “Luxury is to be able to have time to take pleasure”. Spoken like a true wine and champagne lover who wants to steal a sacred moment alone or with someone they love to sip on the finest drink ever made...