Champagne season...

By Musty Bunches | 18 June 2002

The Champenois like money. In fact, the only thing they seem to enjoy as much as making it is frittering it away on ridiculous marketing schemes that cost a fortune and are about as finely targeted as an American cruise missile (accurate to within three countries of target area - guaranteed!).

Six months ago, Musty received a wine maker's harvest report from Moët - but instead of coming on three sheets of A4 paper, it arrived in the form of an imposing tome, printed on paper half an inch thick, with expensive wispy fly-sheets in between the pages and dreamy photography. It was, no two ways about it, a beautiful publication. Shame, then, that the contents were of absolutely no interest and that it went straight in the bin.

Well now Veuve Clicquot, too, has found a similarly ludicrous way of justifying those enormous prices. To go with its summer drinking pack of four mini 20cl bottles, the company has come up with a small plastic chamber that looks suspiciously like Audrey, the carnivorous plant in Little Shop of Horrors. Le Clicq, as it is known, is designed to "allow the imbiber to enjoy the wine without the need of a glass." In other words, after two years of highly expensive research, VC have invented the funnel. Obviously, necking Champers out the neck of the bottle is terribly infra dig, especially one so prestigious as Veuve, but drinking it out of an elliptical plastic mammary... Well, there's no arguing that that's class.

At the heart of this is the fact that the Champenois are desperate to make their products 'fun'- an exercise as futile as trying to make McDonalds eclectic by selling tortilla wraps with garlic and chive sauce. When will the French fizz-meisters finally realise that people who are spending $50 on a bottle don't view their purchase as 'fun' - they view it as instant cachet, but with the added bonus of having bubbles so it makes you giggly quicker.

Will we be seeing spotty youths on skateboards with reversed baseball caps and ill-fitting trousers cruising the streets exorting their bruvvas an' sistas to check out da phat flavours of the widow Clicquot dis summa an' give it up big-time for my main man the vigneron?
Of course we won't.

It all rather reminds Musty of the recent desperate attempts by the Cognacais to shift their product by telling a thoroughly disinterested population to drink it with ice, tonic, lemonade. (subtext: Hell, drink it with anything, as long as it gets the stuff out of our warehouses and pays for my next tweed jacket). One thing they haven't suggested yet is trying it with Red Bull, though given the nose dive Cognac finds itself in at the moment, Musty is depressingly sure that such a move can't be far away.

Interestingly enough, the only two places that Cognac remains remotely fashionable are with 85-year-old ex army generals and, er, young black American males, with both groups seeing it as a badge of wealth and status.
Indeed, Allied Domecq saw a rather dismal first-half performance in the States salvaged somewhat by a wholly unplanned for 5% increase in sales of Courvoisier, following the Billboard success of Busta Rhymes' 'Pass the Courvoisier part two'.
"This may have been a fluke for us," said Musty's fictional contact at AD, "but never let it be said that Allied is slow to promote its brands. We're already trying to convince Mariah Carey to sing a little number we've written called "Make Mine a Ballantines please Barman".'

Nothing gets up the nose of New World wine producers so much as the incessant meddling with the market by European governments and the EU. Damned tree-hugging socio-utopians always giving grants here, and incentives there and generally skewing the market out of shape just to keep substandard grape growers in a job. A ridiculous state of affairs. The market should decide - end of story, as the New Worlders never tire of telling us.

Just take this example of aggrieved bleating from a pair of grape growers whingeing about the fact that suddenly no-one wants their products any more.
"Our whole livelihoods are being threatened by the huge corporate plantings being encouraged by the government's tax incentives," grumbled one.
His compatriot was equally despondent.
"I will get a harvester to pick my grapes and throw them on the ground because I haven't got a supplier," he said petulantly.
Ah, the joys of the grape glut. Still, you might be thinking, what do you expect from a big, traditional Old World country? These places are way out of step with the new fashions in wine, and if you don't produce the style of wines that people nowadays want to drink, what can you expect?
Absolutely right. But it's an argument that would have more credence were it not for the fact that both the plaintiffs are Australian…

Companies: Allied, Red Bull

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