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AN IN DEPTH DISCUSSION WITH RAPHAËL LIPSZYC, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER OF VEUVE CLICQUOT

The History of Veuve Clicquot

Founded in 1772, Veuve Clicquot is an emblem of the Champagne region and the development of its world-famous fine wines. A family business, Veuve Clicquot began with land in Bouzy owned and tended by Philippe Clicquot. The tradition he started quickly grew into a revolutionary new business, which was carried on after his death in 1805 by his wife Barbe Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, and has developed into one of today’s iconic Champagne brands.

The latest innovation from the House of Veuve Clicquot, their new Rich Champagne is an audacious and newcomer to the champagne. Veuve Clicquot is already well-known in the wine world for its innovative spirit, reflected in their creative packaging, updated annually. This new creation goes deeper than just packaging, however: they have truly created a new category of Champagne.

Meet Raphaël Lipszyc

Leading the business developing front is Raphaël Lipszyc.  A graduate of University Paris-Dauphine, Raphaël LIPSZYC started his career working in marketing for the Cosmetic Industry (L’Oréal and Dior) before joining the Wine & Spirits at Moët Hennessy Diageo France, the distribution company dedicated to the French market. In 2013, he was appointed Brand Marketing Manager for Belvedere Vodka, the super-premium vodka of Moët Hennessy. In 2017, he was promoted Business Development Manager of Veuve Clicquot, where he is responsible for all Commercial activities of the Brand across Canada, Mexico, Africa and Middle-East. He is also in charge of the International Partnerships as well as Training and Education at Veuve Clicquot.

In this interview, SCHICK goes in-depth with Raphaël on tackling challenges in the luxury business industry, the launch of Veuve Clicquot Rich and ambitions and goals for the African market. Enjoy!

Hello Raphael, it’s really lovely to meet you

Nice to meet you too

How are you finding the Nigerian Weather?

It’s -2 degrees in Paris right now! so you can imagine that I’m finding it quite hot with a lot of humidity but trust me I prefer it, it’s better to be here than in Paris. (smile)

Veuve Clicquot is one of the longest established and most well-known champagne houses. What is the distinguishing feature of your house that makes it so successful?

Definitely the story of Madame Clicquot is inspiring for all men and women in the world. At the age of 27 years old, Madame Clicquot became a widow, ‘Veuve’ means widow, and she decided to take the lead of the company. She was the first business woman in the world! She was powerful and audacious. Her quest was to get the “the finest quality” with the ambition to bring Champagne out of the Boarders of France. She invented the riddling table in 1816 in order to have crystal clear champagne, she was the first one to launch a remarkable vintage champagne and she was the first one to create a Rosé through the blending method in 1818 – she was such a brilliant woman that she was given the nickname: ‘Grande Dame de la Champagne’. This story is really special and authentic so it makes us proud to tell it to our consumers whenever we can. It’s part of the DNA of the brand. Another distinguishing feature is the use of Pinot Noir in our blend – the strength of the VCP Champagne is provided by the Pinot Noir predominance and its characterized structure. I felt that the structure and the body of our champagne match with the Nigerian taste and it is a perfect pairing with spicy food. Of course, our Yellow colour is also one of the distinctive features of the brand!

How do you create the balance between sales and quality while maintaining the brand value in Veuve Clicquot?

The motto of Madame Clicquot is “One quality, the Finest.” So even if we are the second biggest champagne brand in the world we still focus on quality, and because we are big, we can afford to be a bit patient in order to get the best results. According to the legislation, you have to wait 15 months to produce a bottle of champagne – but for us, in Clicquot, we wait as long as 3 years! The ageing process is luxurious and has a cost, definitely, but the quality is our priority and we want to give the consumer a memorable experience each time. We believe this is one of the reasons why consumers love Veuve Clicquot.

How important is innovation for Veuve Clicquot?

It is at the heart of our DNA. As I mentioned earlier, Madame Clicquot was extremely innovative and audacious. Thanks to her, we are able to enjoy crystal clear champagnes,  before Madame Clicquot, a decanter was used to clear champagnes. This year, we celebrate the 200-years anniversary of Madame Clicquot creation of the Rosé champagne by blending method. All of this can testify of the importance of innovation for the house. By the way, do you know how Rosé champagne is made?

No

It is by adding between 12 & 15% of red wine to your Brut Champagne.

Simple!

Well it may sound simple but the complete process is more complicated than that – Madame Clicquot created this method and now almost every champagne house is using this. One of the latest innovations of the House is Veuve Clicquot Rich that we launched 3 years ago. ‘Rich’ is a sweet champagne dedicated to mixology. The concept of mixology with champagne is very new, very innovative. Also last year we launched the ‘Extra Brut, Extra Old’, drawn from the house’s famous collection of reserve wines. Bringing creativity in every moment is key for us. We constantly make sure to create « WOW » events, be creative and distinctive – a good example of that is the International Lagos Polo Tournament that we sponsor every year with a different twist each time – this is part of our values and DNA.

How do you feel being the Business Developing Manager of a brand that is renowned globally?

The Maison was founded in 1772 and we are therefore carrying a grand heritage! We will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the House in 2022… Madame Clicquot was one of the first to explore opportunities outside the French borders and to recruit new consumers throughout the world from an early stage. Part of my role is to ensure that we value and respect it by continuously working towards giving the brand a bright future. I feel proud, definitely, but also responsible.

Your role in Veuve is crucial to the expansion and diversification of the brand. What are your biggest challenges and how do you conquer them?

As far as I am concerned, education is key, especially when you enter emerging markets. At Veuve Clicquot, we like to share anecdotes about the House. Veuve Clicquot is more than Champagne, it is an attitude and we expect people to embody this attitude by bringing our stories to life, to make them relevant and exciting to our audience… one big challenge: Education! It’s not always easy to understand precisely what champagne is, so for me educating our consumers and clients is key because they are the first prescribers. Secondly, competition is fierce so we have to keep being innovative. We don’t want to be the drink of choice for rare occasions only but we want to accompany every moment of our consumers ‘lives.

How do you define luxury and how does it impact the events you endorse?

In Veuve Clicquot, we say “we want to colour our life with audacity”, and that goes with our slogan “let life surprise you”. It’s part of the way we understand luxury in the house. We like to play with convention, bring something different, bring a twist to traditions. When we first launched the Yellow Label to make the difference between sweet and brut champagne, a lot of people thought we were too audacious to choose this colour but it is now our most important graphic asset – we definitely like to reaffirm our difference. Veuve Clicquot is not like every other champagne, it has a unique style, and the brand loves to dare and to innovate. And like I said, Madame Clicquot was the perfect example of being daring, as she was the first businesswoman. Can you imagine being a woman in business in 1805? It was totally unusual and that’s the heritage from Madame Clicquot that we want to keep.

What are some of the biggest challenges in the luxury drinks industry and how is Veuve Clicquot tackling this?

To be responsible and attentive as we have to take care of our vineyards in a responsible culture. At the end of the day, this industry depends on mother nature so we have to be careful and maintain a sustainable culture. It is one of the biggest challenges to sustain in this business.

You recently launched a new champagne called Veuve Clicquot Rich – can you tell us more about this champagne?

It is a champagne dedicated to mixology. It pairs perfectly with pineapple, cucumber, peppers, grapefruit but you can also mix it with any ingredient that you particularly like and with 5 ice cubes. The idea is that you’re able to create your own “clicquology” experience with this champagne. This product allows for new consumption modes and attracts a new generation of consumers who are looking for more playful and sweet experiences on the palate. I was out with some Nigerian friends last night, and they were all drinking and appreciating sweet champagne. The traditional way of drinking champagne is not with ice cubes but Veuve Clicquot Rich is a different champagne and is anything but traditional – it is innovative and playful. With Rich, it is also about the packaging – it is different, vibrant and it seduces a lot of customers.

That means the reception has been great for this new champagne?

Yes, it has been very positive so far but there is always room for more opportunities. The current biggest market for Rich is South Africa and I’m certain that Nigeria will follow very fast.

How important is the African market for Veuve Clicquot?

The African market is one of our main priorities. There is a strong potential in several key countries like Nigeria and we want to keep growing in a qualitative way, and step by step. In the future, the growth of Veuve Clicquot will come mostly from Africa, definitely.

What are the ambitions and goals for Veuve Clicquot in Nigeria?

We want to grow of course, not only in terms of volume but also in terms of value. We need to be at the right place, at the right moment with the right consumer. Last year was a great year for us in Nigeria, the beginning of the year is going pretty fast also. I’m very proud to see how the brand is growing in Nigeria! Nigerians know how to party and celebrate life so we are the perfect brand for you. (smile)

Within the Clicquot range, where do your priorities lie?

Yellow Label is the flagship, you can find it anywhere in the world, so Yellow Label definitely. Rosé is also important because this year we are celebrating the 200 years anniversary of the Rosé so it’s another opportunity for us to tell the story of Madame Clicquot. There is something very emotional about that story. And finally, Rich is also a priority in Africa, to address the needs of our consumers in this region, who have a sweet palate.

As one of the largest champagne houses, you have a certain responsibility to lead the way in the future of your world. How do you see the future of champagne? Is the profile of the champagne consumer changing?

Yes, absolutely and that’s why innovation is so key. If you want to continue to grow and catch new consumers you need to bring something different, you also need to ask yourself the right questions.

What do you think has changed over the last decade in the champagne industry?

Good question. I used to work for Belvedere in the vodka industry in Marketing and noticed that people continue to fall in love with cocktails as it always presents something different. I think champagne will have to break the code. Now, we encourage our consumers to enjoy champagne in wine glasses instead of flutes, for example, because it brings out all the flavours of the champagne. Innovation is part of our strategy and I think this industry has started to notice the importance of innovation and react accordingly.

What else can we expect from Veuve Clicquot in the coming months?

We launched “La Grande Dame”, the premium range of Clicquot in 1972 for the 200th anniversary of the house. This year, we will launch the New “La Grande Dame”, the first La Grande Dame of Dominique Demarville, and it is a very elegant, very delicate champagne – the reflection of the exceptional Veuve Clicquot Terroir! The new blend is quite unexpected and will probably surprise a lot of people in Champagne. Nigeria will hopefully have it soon.

Thank you very much! Any last words?

Raphaël: Thank you for your time and cheers to Nigeria!

 

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