Friday, May 31, 2013

Veuve Clicquot Takes Champagne Marketing On the Road

You know the bright orange label with the black text. You recognize it. If I came up and asked you to visualize a specific bottle of Champagne, I bet many of you would picture this very label. I’m going to claim this as fact: Veuve Clicquot’s non-vintage Champagne is one of the most well-known wine brands in the world.

This recognition is partly due to the fact that Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin produces around 7 million bottles of Champagne every year. Their non-vintage brut Champagne (a blend of 50-55% Pinot Noir, 15-20% Pinot Meunier and 28-33% Chardonnay) tastes consistently toasty, zippy and delicious, and it retails for around $40-$50, making it one of the most easily obtainable Champagnes on the market.

But, mostly, you know about Veuve Clicquot because they’re damn good at marketing.

I’m no Champagne marketing insider. I can’t afford the cover charge to that club and I don’t possess the appropriate attire. But I’ve always been fascinated by how the massive Champagne houses market their bottles. The schwag, the glitz, the color, the clothes, the sexy people, they’re selling a glamorous façade as much as they’re selling sparkling grape juice. And when it comes to selling opulence, Veuve Clicquot reigns supreme. (By the way, it’s pronounced voov klee-koh.)

Part of the luxury behemoth Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, Veuve’s marketing tentacles stretch far and wide: polo classics in New York, Ferrari Formula 1 Grand Prix events in China and Barcelona, golf invitationals in Italy, beach resorts in Brazil, and a host of other “lifestyle events.” Clicquot Insight, an iPhone and iPad app, has a Vogue-like aura of glam, focusing on fashion, food, design, travel and (sometimes) wine.

Another new tool in that big marketing box is the Veuve Clicquot Airstream, a sleek, aerodynamic bullet of a minibus. This week, the silver and orange bus cut through the 92-degree Washington, D.C. heat and stopped outside two hotels, the Dupont Circle Hotel and the W Washington D.C. Part of a two-month tour of the U.S., the goal of the Veuve Clicquot bus is to get people partying with the orange label.

And it seems to be working.

On a sweaty Thursday in Dupont Circle, the minibus was crowded with curious spectators. Instead of immediately packing into the Metro, people getting off work stopped by, checked out the bus, chatted with brand reps, and ordered overpriced ($15) flutes of Veuve bubbly on the Dupont Circle Hotel patio.
Inside, the bus was packed with orange label knick-knacks and goodies. It boasts a few HD TVs, a cooking stove and plenty of booth-style seating. I didn’t stick around long because the bus didn’t have the air conditioning on, which, given the no-expense-spared pitch of the brand, was ridiculous. What was sold as a great way to cool down turned out to be a great way to sweat your ass off. 

But, despite the heat, it was clear from the growing crowd and the chorus of clinking glasses that Veuve Clicquot’s bus tour was a hit. With events like this, Veuve Clicquot cements their customer base and attracts a younger generation of drinkers. They work hard to ensure the orange label is synonymous with class and good times. With these kinds of gimmicks, it’s no wonder Veuve Clicquot is so internationally renowned.

And, hey, the juice is pretty good stuff, too. At a recent blind tasting of non-vintage Champagnes, I rated Veuve’s orange label brut 88 points, and the rest of the tasting panel enjoyed it as well. Here are my notes from that tasting…

Aromas of chalk, limestone and white flowers, mixed in with freshly toasted bread. The palate is creamy and tangy, with dominant flavors of fresh apple juice, toasted baguette and lots of lemon peel. The palate shows a lot of cut and a mineral-driven finish. Rich yet lean. (88 points)

For more information on orange label parties, check out Veuve’s schnazzy website.


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