Today is Worldwide Champagne Day. To mark the occasion we had a chat to Romaric, ambassador for Perrier-Jouët champagne and Martell cognac. You can read the interview below.
So you were in Chile before Australia. Do you speak Spanish as well as English and your native French?
I speak Spanish better than I speak English. I learnt English before hand. My job requires me to speak a lot.
To be recruited as an ambassador, there are a number of steps, one of which is to ensure your English level is sufficient. Because my job requires me to communicate the brand messages, it’s important that people can understand. It’s the first step. Then we are trained. I was trained in champagne and trained in cognac.
What’s the content of the training?
It’s especially about the history of the brands. They have very strong histories. Perrier-Jouët is a brand which was established quite a longtime ago in 1811. It has a strong identify with chardonnay, flowers, nature and art. There’s something that I like to unmask.
The same flowers on your bottles and glasses?
Yes, that’s right. So there’s a historical part. There’s also a technical part. We speak about how it is made, what are the specifics, about the vintage.. All about the champagne process. That’s what also gives it its price and we were taught about that.
There’s also a business part [to the training]. Which are the key markets? What are the volumes globally? What are the challenges and difficulties for the years to come? And all of the same things for cognac. I wasn’t a big cognac drinker straight away before and it’s still a very expensive and not very common alcoholic drink.
Yes! My Dad always used to ask me to buy him a cognac VSOP each time I went to France. I’d buy it from Nicolas, where I think you used to work.
Yes, I worked there. It’s interesting because the distribution of alcohol here is completely different to in France. We buy alcohol in the supermarkets in France. Nicolas is the only independent liquor store. Here, between Liquorland, Vintage Cellars, Dan Murphys – in the beginning I didn’t understand anything about how it worked. Consumption of alcohol is different. I was completely lost – I didn’t understand anything.
So you worked at Nicholas… Is that where you worked with all things alcohol for the first time?
I worked in retail for a little while. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I thought about doing finance. In commerce, my first internship was at L’Oreal. That’s when I realised that France has a lot of luxury goods – and I thought why not specialise in luxury goods because we have a lot of products that are renowned in France. In France and overseas. I wanted to travel.
When we think of luxury products, we often think of France.
Exactly. I spent 6 months in perfumes in Chile – the perfume Aqua de Gio. i realised at the end of that time that I was more interested in high-end luxury products but not so much beauty or perfume. It’s not my thing… it’s not my cup of tea.
I wanted to make the transition into an industry luxurious but in a category which appealed to me. That’s why I went to work at Nicolas. It was to switch. For two months I had my head in the books – what’s a whisky? What’s a cognac? What are the different wines we have in France. What about champagne? I said to myself that I wanted to work at Pernod Ricard.
L’Oreal has no links to Pernod Ricard does it?
The brands under L’Oreal have nothing to do with the brands managed by Pernod Ricard. L’Oreal is more involved in fashion brands.
Actually, I did an internship at Pernod Ricard in my commerce school. I worked in marketing because it was my background. And from there, there was an ambassador- someone who represents the cognac and champagne brands abroad. I applied. The application process was extensive.
We have a Pernod Ricard team in Sydney. That’s why I’m based in Sydney. My boss is the Brand Manager for Martell Cognac here.
How many ambassadors are there?
7. For Jameson – the ambassador is Irish. The Chivas ambassador is from Scotland.
There are a lot of different brands that take ambassadors. It’s cool because we are all quite young. We are all 24-25 years old. I’m 25. It’s quite a young team.
Is it only French people working for the French brands?
Thow of us who work with champagne and French brands – are at least half French. The other ambassador who works with me – the one for Mumm – she’s half American, half French. We’ve had the same training.
Whats a typical day look like? Do you go to the office?
I go to do 7 hours of training in different, what we call, networks. So for example, I’ll go to 5 retailers and 6 restaurants for Martell, 4 restaurants for Perrier-Jouët.
So it’s restaurants that are already existing clients. You don’t have to sales?
Exactly. They look at their volumes – they say we need to increase the volume – we need to approach this restaurant. We will do another training. The ambassador calls. That’s why I’m in the office. With all of the sales and marketing, we establish “where would it be strategic for us to go?” And then I’m on the ground with them to say “ok this restaurant”.
Because there’s another figure in these restaurants that we don’t yet have in the portfolio, and they’re with Moët or Veuve, we say “it’d be interesting to see that venue with Perrier-Jouët because it corresponds with our image” so we try to make contact with them and give them a training session and see if we can work together in the future.
Sometimes, it’s about preserving contracts that we already have and at others chasing new contracts and I think we are used for that sort of thing.
So here’s the product, this is what you should be serving in your bar or restaurant, it’s better than others because of x, y and z?
Exactly. When I’m not in training, I’m in the office. Jen, my Brand Manager is in the marketing side of things because there are lots of things to obtain for the brands each day – for example, if I am hosting a dinner, we have glasses, decorations..
Do you sell the glasses?
Non, not just the glasses. They are not for sale. Sometimes we do gift boxes but they are not for general sale.
It’s not because we can’t. The decisions are from France not from Australia. It’s part of the operational side of things. Each year, we ask to have these things because we use them all year long. If we don’t have many, we have less for events. So it’s a bit tight. Sometimes, we have a few more, we keep some aside and we know which event we can give them to but otherwise, not really.
They are a bit exclusive. People come to our events to get a glass.
I wonder how many people come and steal glasses!
We call them stealable glasses! It makes people talk about the brand too. It’s amazing how many people put the glasses in their bags – the number is huge. It’s part of the game.
Do you drink champagne and cognac when you’re not at work? Or other drinks?
Good question. I like beer. We don’t have any beer brands at Pernod Ricard. But I drink mainly – the advantage of being in a group with such a rich portfolio of beautiful products is that I discover a lot – I’ve discovered Irish whiskeys, Jameson for example, Chivas is absolutely magnificent. There are a lot of things I learn about at work and I drink a bit if everything. I try to be curious.
But to be honest, in my work with the brands that I love, I drink enough. In my spare time, I do sport. I have weeks where I don’t drink any alcohol. I try not to drink during the week. If I go on holidays, no alcohol. I have to have my own rules because otherwise you end up drinking everyday. It’s very easy to end up drinking everyday but I don’t want to. We have a beautiful collection. I try to keep things in moderation.
Is there a champagne that you’d like to try that you’ve not yet tried?
Yes. There are plenty.
Or, otherwise put, if it were your last meal, what would you drink?
If it were my last meal, I’d stick to Perrier-Jouët. I’d have a 2002 vintage Blanc de Blanc. It’s a very beautiful year. The reason why I’d choose a Blanc de Blanc ia because in the Perrier-Jouët history we have a very good cru n the South of Champagne, at Cote des Blancs, we have very small volumes – each time that we make a Blanc de Blanc vintage it’s with our own parcels…even here in Australia I’ve never opened a Vintage Blanc de Blanc.
How many bottles per vintage?
100,000 per year across the world. Perrier-Jouët makes 3,000,000 bottles per year. That includes the Grand Brut. The Grand Brut – our primary champagne – we make 2,000,000 [bottles per year]. So that leaves 1,000,000 bottles for the rest of the range. It depends on the year.
I have very few occasions to drink the Blanc de Blanc.
Because you always drink champagne?
How horrible to always have to drink champagne!
To be honest, I’m not a big wine drinker. I’ve tried to educate my palette but I like white wine and a few red wines. The Val de Loire has a lot of Pinot Noir. I’m not really into red wine but I drink red wine when there is something to match the wine. I’d never spontaneously open a bottle of red wine.
But for your age and people working in the alcohol industry, I’d say your tastes are quite mature.
Of course. To are wonderful red wines. In fact I’ve heard about a winery, Padthaway in the Coonawarra that makes red wines using eucalyptus. I’ve never tried it so I’ve bought a Padthaway vintage to taste it. I’m interested to see the difference. But again, spontaneously, I’m not going to spend 2 hours in a bottle shop to get a red wine.
Why do we celebrate with champagne?
This is a very interesting question and I think we should look to history to answer it. According to me, this euphoria around champagne as a drink is explained by the tradition seeing all the kings of France to be crowned in the city or Reims, the festivities that followed were filled with local wines.
It was the case with Clovis but also in the 18th century during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King. During a trip to Reims when he was 16, he immediately fell in love with champagne and made it a symbol of luxury, prestige and celebration. Later, it was served on the Titanic, tasted at the Exposition un de Paris on 1889 for the inauguration of the Tour Eiffel, and from the turn of the century became a symbol of luxury and of celebration.
And why should we choose Perrier-Jouët for celebrations and for our significant moments?
You should remember that Perrier-Jouët is a boutique and not a house (of champagne) because we don’t produce enormous volumes. The rarity creates its value, and because Perrier-Jouët is a high quality champagne, it is especially symbolic of special celebrations, significant moments or special occasions.
So why Perrier-Jouët? Because it’s the perfect champagne for key and intimate moments because of its delicacy, history and finesse thanks to its use or Chardonnay grapes.
Fun fact: Princess Grace of Monaco selected the bottle with anemones from Japan for her wedding. Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque has been served at the Rose Ball for many years.
Which champagne will you be drinking to celebrate World Champagne Day?