MBA Luxury Brand Management

MBA Luxury Brand Management
Class of 2016-2017

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Field Trip: Champagne

By Marilu Pena, MBA in International Luxury Brand Management 2014-2015, Mexico

It is by far the most emblematic French beverage. Main ingredient of famous cocktails such as mimosas and French 75, known all over the world and a symbol of class and refinement: Champagne has been throughout history and is still today, the liquid representation of luxury.

But there's much more behind this bubbly liquid and fancy bottle, so the students of the MBA in International Luxury Brand Management went on a trip to the city that gave birth to this iconic drink to better understand the complexity behind it.

During this trip to the city where Dom Pierre Perignon accidentally added some yeast to a white wine more than 300 years ago, the students learned that there's much more to champagne than what meets the eye. From the more well-known double fermentation process, to specificities such as the wood of the barrels and its age, or the process to remove the sediments, "Champagne" requires time, attention to detail and taste in order to obtain the best blend.

Located in the northeast of France, the Champagne region is home to more than 30,000 Champagne-producer families (according to Union des Maisons de Champagne) and spreads across different cities such as Reims and Epernay, where most of the larger cellars are located. From well-known brands such as Moët et Chandon, Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot, Nicolas Feuillatte or Perrier Jouët, to more "niche" brands such as Krug and Colette, or even small producers that differentiate from others by creating organic Champagne like Francis Boulard. All houses have things in common: the French heritage and savoir-faire behind the making of this fancy drink.

The class visited 2 houses with completely different approaches both in the brand's DNA and business model. Veuve Clicquot on one hand is very well known for its historic tradition and for the fact that it is one of the few houses that was run by a woman: Madame Clicquot, widow of François Clicquot, son of the founder (Philippe Clicquot-Muiron). The name Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin literally means Widow Clicquot Ponsardin, which alludes to Madame Clicquot’s situation after her husband’s death. 

A company with more than 240 years of history, since Mme. Clicquot was shipping bottles during the Napoleonic wars, the brand has become famous for its yellow label as well as for its original packaging and editions featuring things such as mailboxes, mini refrigerators or even sardine cans. 

Colette, on the other hand, is an understated yet well-known brand in France. With a more artistic approach and bottles that evoke "l'art nouveau" and the cabaret.
While visiting these houses might seem like a common touristic attraction, the truth is that few tourists come to Reims, which is a shame as not only is the city beautiful, but also its architecture and history are also quite rich. One such example is the impressive gothic style cathedral built in the 13th century and that even today is very well-preserved.

Embracing this unique culture and, as Dom Perignon would’ve said, “Drinking the stars” is only possible in the Champagne region, and it proved to be a very enriching experience for the MBA class of 2015.