Moët Hennessy is betting on a new bubbly for those ready to socialise and sip aperitifs on sunny terraces as lockdown restrictions ease.
The drinks maker – part of luxury group LVMH – is launching Chandon Garden Spritz, a sparkling wine made in Argentina that’s set to compete with other brands such as Aperol Spritz.
“We want to make this the drink of the return to the terraces,” Philippe Schaus, chief executive officer of Moët Hennessy, said in an interview. “We do expect a very strong recovery of demand,” he added, as the savings accumulated during lockdowns will be partly spent in restaurants and bars.
“Whenever we reopen, people are just desperate to get out to the terraces,” he said.
Chandon Garden Spritz launched in Europe and the United States on Wednesday.
The pandemic took a toll on drinks consumption last year as celebrations were postponed or cancelled and bars and restaurants were shut for extended periods. Shipments of Champagne slumped 18 percent to 244 million bottles, the lowest since 1993, according to a group representing French producers.
Sales at the wines and spirits division of LVMH – which includes Moët & Chandon – fell 14 percent to 4.76 billion euros (US$5.75 billion) in 2020, but have rebounded in the first quarter of this year. Schaus said his business has benefited as consumers stuck at home started buying better quality and higher-priced wines.
France is gradually exiting its third lockdown. The terraces of cafes and bistros will open on May 19, while indoor eating and drinking with limited capacity is scheduled to resume on June 9. Bars and restaurants in the United Kingdom opened with outdoor seating last month and are set to resume indoor service on May 17.
While demand for most of Moët Hennessy’s drinks has bounced back, the market for vodka remains weaker because it’s often served in nightclubs, which have yet to reopen in many places, Schaus said.
A 75-centilitre bottle of Chandon Garden Spritz sells for 19.90 euros at LVMH’s Grande Epicerie in Paris, cheaper than a bottle of the group’s Ruinart Champagne, which starts at 44.50 euros.
Garden Spritz mixes Argentine sparkling wine with an orange bitter liqueur. It took Chandon four years and 64 trials to create the drink, said Sibylle Scherer, president of Chandon.
Parts of France suffered a severe cold snap last month that followed a warm spell, sending a shudder through wine-producing regions and forcing workers out into the vineyards with anti-frost candles to prevent lasting damage. The abrupt swing in April temperatures was the most drastic since 1947, weather forecaster Meteo France said.
Schaus, however, said the production of Champagne was little affected by the cold, unlike producers of Bordeaux.
The brands owned by Moët Hennessy typically operate with a system of individual reserves for Champagne and cognac production that can be tapped to compensate for potential deficits.
Moët Hennessy made headlines earlier this year when it announced the purchase of half of Jay-Z’s Champagne brand, Armand de Brignac, for an undisclosed sum.
Schaus said stars can bring a “lot of energy and different perspectives,” to the market, adding that he expects more celebrity-endorsed drinks in the future.
by Angelina Rascouet, Bloomberg