PARIS — Move over, Aperol — there’s a new spritz in town.
Moët Hennessy, the wines and spirits division of luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, is planting its flag in the thriving “aperitifs” market with the launch of Chandon Garden Spritz, which hits the market just as many countries are lifting restrictions designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
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A sparkling wine blended with bitter-orange liqueur, the drink is the brainchild of Ana Paula Bartolucci, the first female winemaker in 60 years at Chandon Argentina, one of six wineries worldwide making sparkling wine under the Chandon label.
“Our inspiration for this product was the Argentinean love for bitterness,” Bartolucci says via Zoom from Mendoza. “We drink maté every day, we drink Fernet and vermouth.”
The drink might well have been called 64, since that is the number of recipes that Bartolucci went through before hitting on the winning formula, which contains no artificial colors or aromas.
“I’m really very proud of this recipe because it’s unique: it’s made only with natural ingredients,” she says. The oranges are grown on a pesticide-free family farm, with dried and fresh rinds going into the blend. The juice is donated to local schoolchildren, while the waste gets used for compost.
“It’s a very artisanal process,” Bartolucci says. “It’s very special for me because it reminds me of my childhood, playing with some herbs and spices in the background while my grandmother’s making limoncello and narancello.”
Whereas other spritzes are made from mixing liqueur and sparkling wine just before serving, Chandon Garden Spritz is blended before bottling, meaning the quality remains the same with every glass — ideally drenched over ice with a sprig of rosemary and a sliver of dried orange.
Sibylle Scherer, president of Chandon, hopes the drink will appeal to a more health-conscious consumer.
“We see this big trend that we care about what we put in our body. We care about how it is made, where it is made, and what we put inside of us. On average, it’s half the sugar in a Garden Spritz that you would generally have with a spritz,” she explains.
Since rival Campari Group energized its Aperol Spritz with a highly successful marketing campaign in 2017, the cocktail has become near-ubiquitous, and fueled a growing trend for sparkling mixology drinks.
“We see a big evolution of consumers looking for new flavor profiles. They are open for tasting new things,” says Scherer. “It opens up a new market for us. I think we’re actually creating a new market with that product, because I don’t think that anything like Garden Spritz exists at the moment.”
The drink is launching in Europe and the U.S., marking Chandon’s first big push on the international market, underscored by a new visual identity with eye-catching vertical labels. Previously, the brand was sold mainly in the countries where it produces sparkling wine: Argentina, Brazil, the United States, India, China and Australia.
“We thought one day it would be nice to be in Europe, to be sold there, but we needed something innovative and different, because Europe doesn’t need another brut,” says Arnaud de Saignes, international director of Chandon.
“It came from a local culture, and it crossed with a global trend of aperitifs around bubbles, and we thought with this there was a unique opportunity, which was to bring to the world of spritz a signature on the sparkling wine,” he adds.
Garden Spritz is made with a dry sparkling wine that blends chardonnay, pinot noir and semillon grapes, while other spritz drinks are usually mixed with sweeter prosecco wines from Italy. Scherer said LVMH was not concerned about denting the existing market for its Moët & Chandon Champagne.
“It’s a very distinctive product that no one could produce in the Champagne region, because there’s a certain appellation and there are certain rules to it. We have the freedom to innovate a little bit, and that’s what we’re doing here, so we’re not afraid of any cannibalization. We think we bring a nice fresh approach that will support everyone in the category,” she explains.
Chandon is introducing the drink with an online and outdoor marketing campaign, starting in cities. It’s positioned at the premium level, with a recommended price of 19.50 euros a bottle in stores, or 8 to 10 euros a glass in a bar. Suggested food pairings include spicy Asian food, sushi, old cheddar, dried exotic fruits and nuts.
It will be served in specially designed ridged glasses, with Chandon’s signature seven-pointed star engraved in the base, that will be also available to buy online from July through LVMH’s wines and spirits e-commerce site Clos 19. Underscoring the positioning of the drink, its cooling bag is made from washable paper, jute and cotton.
Sampling campaigns will be key, since the team behind Garden Spritz is convinced that flavor is its strongest selling point. “The most important thing is for you to taste it and to feel the equilibrium between the sweetness, the bitterness and the acidity. I love to say that it has a tonic effect that makes you want one more sip,” says Bartolucci.
Scherer, who joined Chandon from LVMH’s travel retail business DFS and previously worked at Escada and Jet Set, hopes Garden Spritz will become popular with the fashion set once physical gatherings are authorized again.
“I would love to have us partnering with a couple of fashion brands when they have their fashion shows in the summer seasons, but I think also museums, art exhibitions. I think it’s a perfect association with us,” she says.
In the meantime, she believes it’s the ideal drink to toast the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
“In a way, the naturality of how we come together is what you have in a glass, so I think it’s the perfect drink for de-confinement. It’s the happy drink to drink on a terrace, or in the garden, or at the beach. I think it’s really what we’re all longing for at the moment,” she says.
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