|Interview with Philippe Guettat|
BestChampagne had the pleasure of interviewing Philippe GUETTAT, President of Martell MUMM Perrier-Jouët, the brand-owner of the Martell cognacs and the MUMM and Perrier-Jouët champagnes within Pernod Ricard Spirits & Wine Group. G.H. MUMM is the leading champagne brand in France and the third best-selling champagne in the world. Perrier-Jouët is the first Champagne House to have created a dry champagne in 1856. It too, is one of the finest Champagne Houses in the world, noted specially for its “Belle Epoque’ prestige vintage ranked No.3 in the world.
Philippe Guettat: I first joined Pernod Ricard in1991 and I had the chance to work in China for seven years, looking after the brands Absolut, Chivas, Martell and G.H.MUMM & Perrier-Jouët Champagne as well. So it is interesting, as I could really feel the strong appetite from our sales force in China for selling G.H.MUMM and Perrier-Jouët. I am very excited about this enthusiasm.
BC: How do you see China as a champagne market? Is it a market of today or a market of tomorrow?
PG: I think China is a market of today and tomorrow. It is a market that you have to start building today in a strong way, if you want to be successful tomorrow. This is what we are doing, with both G.H.MUMM and Perrier-Jouët.
BC: How do you build this?
PG: We capitalize on two things; a very strong appetite from Chinese consumers for wine and an appetite for celebration and having fun times together, which is by essence champagne. We also benefit from a very good distribution network within Pernod Ricard that helps us develop our presence in places where people enjoy wine.
BC: In positioning your champagnes, what is the order of importance between quality and brand strength?
PG: First of all, I think you cannot build a brand without optimal quality. This quality supports your wine as well as the history and heritage of your brand. This is the first spoon of the success recipe.
BC: What are then the stories of your Champagne Houses: G.H.MUMM and Perrier-Jouët and how do they come together?
PG: Both G.H.MUMM & Perrier-Jouët Houses have a wonderful heritage and stories to tell.
G.H.MUMM has a strong heritage dating back to 1827, created by a German family, the MUMM family. In 1876, Georges Hermann Mumm, the son of one of the founders brought this House forward, and created the iconic Cordon Rouge which turned the House into an international successful company. From the beginning, quality was a state of mind for G.H.MUMM, driven by the founder’s philosophy “Only the best” that the house stands for to this day. Thanks to an exceptional vineyard G.H.MUMM embodies today the true culture of Champagne promoting authenticity and respect for Champagne traditions, in a spirit of tradition and innovation.
Perrier-Jouët is a 200-year-old authentic Champagne House, which was founded in 1811 by Pierre Nicolas Perrier and Adele Jouët. The story of Perrier-Jouet is very much about building a legacy, the heritage of a family deeply rooted in the Champagne history, and in the purest tradition with an exceptional vineyard of 65 hectares. The wines are recognised for their finesse & elegance, resulting from the savoir-faire of only seven Cellar Masters since its establishment. Since its creation, the House has also been dedicated to craftsmanship, and cultivates its love for arts and design, which is still embodied into the Belle Époque cuvee today, whose Perrier-Jouët was not linked to Mumm at all until the 50’s when the Perrier-Jouët Family looked for another family to buy their House.The two Houses combined are very complimentary. Perrier-Jouët is more feminine champagne compared to G.H.MUMM, which is more masculine, but both of them are recognized for the high quality of their wine.
BC: How the stories of these 2 Houses lead to their respective unique styles and how would you describe such styles?
Both Perrier-Jouët and G.H.MUMM are recognized internationally for the quality of their wines, due to their exceptional vineyards made for its majority of Grands Crus. For G.H.MUMM, quality is a state of mind. It began with the founder, Georges Herman Mumm, who wanted, “Nothing but the best”, G.H.MUMM style is the perfect expression of its exceptional vineyard, today made of 218 hectares, including 160 hectares of Grands Crus, llocated in eight historic villages that express the full
Authenticity of the Champagne terroir such as Ay, Bouzy, Ambonnay, Verzy, Verzenay, Mailly, Avize and Cramant This vineyard explains our wine style that is strongly dominated by the Pinot Noir that delivers rich but yet complex & intense aromas. Our flagship cuvee, Cordon Rouge embodies this house style of subtle balance between freshness and intensity, a complex blend made of over 77 Crus
Lying in the heart of the Champagne region, Perrier-Jouët also owns a beautiful vineyard of 65 hectares rating 99.2% as Grand Cru in the best Chardonnay region that is la Côte des Blancs (Cramant and Avize Grands Crus). From as early as 1756, the Perrier-Jouët family owned vines in Champagne and Pierre Nicolas built up this heritage shrewdly. With an instinctive ability to capture the supreme expression of Chardonnay, he established the unique floral theme of the Perrier-Jouët style that we know today. By 1846, the Cuvée blends were being scrupulously recorded in a cellar book, like a Book of Secrets handed down from the first cellar master to the seventh one in200 years. Today, Cellar master Hervé Deschamps fashions each Cuvée like a craftsman, using Nicolas Perrier’s cellar book, and preserving the unique style of Perrier-Jouët wines, renowned for its floral, elegant, feminine & diamond-cut aromas.
BC: When Champagne Houses change ownership, does it influence the quality of its wines?
PG: I think it will depend on the overall objectives of the owners. As far as we are concerned we are pure players in wine and spirits. So this is really what we know and are good at. We are putting a lot of effort into the quality, the production and the assets of our Houses. Champagne is a very capital-intensive industry. So we have come into this to really develop the Champagne business in our portfolio, with clear visions for success.
BC: G.H.MUMM is a very popular champagne brand thanks to its sponsorship of Formula One. What is the message that you convey with this?
PG: G.H.MUMM champagne is a byword for celebration and because of its history and its endless quest for excellence and perfection;
For nearly two centuries, G.H. MUMM has been the champagne befitting any celebration, taking center stage during the magic moment that caps a superlative victory ceremony. This illustrious past has made G.H. MUMM’s iconic Jeroboam with its famous red ribbon, immediately recognized around the world, as the symbol of champagne, and a true ritual charged with intensity. We celebrate the victory and the jeroboam of Cordon Rouge is the perfect means to share & express this joy on the podiums (we promote the win and the “after-win” when the car is stable in the garage). It is important to highlight that we do not advertise on the racetracks because we do not want to be associated with drinking and driving.
BC: You launched an iPhone App called Champagne Protocols of G.H.MUMM. What is your feedback on this initiative?
PG: We got fantastic feedback on this App that has already been downloaded 170 000 times since its launch last year! From the sabrage of a bottle of champagne to its service in an appropriate glass, The Champagne Protocols of G.H.MUMM application is designed to initiate people into the rituals and rules of champagne for their drinking pleasure. This makes the protocol quite easy for people to understand Champagne or for people who are already quite familiar with Champagne and serve it or so forth. You can learn so many new things with the App. It is easy & simple to use, educational, and fun. We had some great reviews and feedback from the trade side as well and from consumers. This is a good example of how technology can bring a lot to our business and Champagne in general.
BC: How do you see technology enhancing Champagne education and marketing?
PG: I think it makes it easy for us to communicate with our consumers, and explain the strength and value of our brands. So in a way, technology helps you be more transparent. You want to be known, you want people to know you. This opens a lot of opportunities. So I think it makes the Champagne business easier.
BC: You are not from the Champagne region and now you find yourself immersed in this very special world. What does Champagne represent for you?
PG: Champagne has always been a world of fascination for me. Drinking a glass of Champagne is about a unique moment, a unique pleasure. It is also a strong ritual in itself: you have to chill the bottle first, then serve it, open it, pop of the cork, serve it properly… It has a strong heritage and respectful tradition. And I think that as a French person you always feel a bit like an Ambassador of Champagne.
BC: What would be France without Champagne?
PG: It would be a very different France without Champagne! It is part of our culture. It is like having France without the Eiffel Tower, New York without the Statue of Liberty or food without flavour… All these symbols charm-up their countries and would not be the same if they were removed.
BC: Do you drink Champagne every day?
PG: “Everyday” is a big word. We are promoting values as well. So I drink responsibly.
BC: Do you drink G.H.MUMM & Perrier-Jouët only?
PG: It depends on social occasions. At times I will only drink G.H.MUMM and Perrier-Jouët and other times we have tastings and we regularly review other brands as well.
BC: Lastly, a piece of advice to people new to Champagne drinking, how should they approach and choose Champagne?
PG: I think it is driven by the occasion. I would ask them about their moment of consumption, the type of wine that they like, the budget they have in mind and also whether their wine is accompanying a meal.