All of a sudden, Chennai seems to be attracting the top brass in the Champagne world. Late last year, it was Michel Drappier from Cham-pagne Drappier who dropped by for an exclusive dinner at Park Hyatt. Tonight, Taittinger, one of the few Champagne houses still in family hands (when Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger bought back the family Champagne business in 2006), will be pulling out all the stops at a dinner with their export head and scion, Clovis Taittinger, at the Leela Palace. It is a fitting venue, given the popularity of the bubbly among this property’s clients—besides a new Champagne promotion at Library Blu, this is the hotel with the city’s most expensive Champagne brunch. At `50,000 ++ for two, it includes a bottle of Dom Perignon and handcrafted specials (tonight’s dinner, incidentally, features Japanese scallops, Belgian chocolate and Thai calamansi among other treats). Clovis, who lives with his wife Corentine and two children in Paris, has been in a celebratory mood all week, thanks to the Singapore F1 pre-race party by Taittinger. With a property and finance background, and a love for Guy de Maupassant and Honoré de Balzac, he is, like his outspoken father, proud to be in “the business of happiness.” Admitting that his brand and strategy in India call for renewed efforts, despite products like the iconic Comtes de Champagne and the nightclub-ready Nocturne Sec, he tells us more:
When I visited the Taittinger headquarters in Champagne a few years ago, your team was upbeat about the Indian market.
How have you modified your India strategy since then?
To be very honest, we haven’t progressed much over the last years for India. The blame is mine as I really lack comprehension on the structure of the Indian market, due to shortage of time. I wish I could be the “Shiva divinity” with many arms to do everything at the same time. I am a perfectionist and I don’t like to do things in a mediocre way or in a copy paste mode. This visit is to decide the strategy for the future.
Addressing the challenges Champagne faces, from the popular Prosecco and other sparkling wines.
The challenges are caused by us, not a reaction to Prosecco or other sparkling wines. We are our own enemies.The main challenge is to explain to our consumers that Champagne is a symbol of love, happiness, and an extraordinary complex wine to make.
What can we expect from Domaine Evremond, the wine company that will produce Taittinger sparkling wines in Kent, the UK, following the first harvest in 2020?
You can expect good wines that we will be proud to make and sell. The UK is the first “sparkling nation” after France and very close to our country. It will be a signature cuvee in the typical Taittinger style —light, pure, feminine and elegant.
Is there a market for your great cuvees in India?
There is definitely a market for the great cuvees and, among them, the Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs and Rosé. I just have to do my job and explain what it is, where you can find them and that they are among the very best wines in the world.
A priceless lesson you have learnt from cellar master Loic Dupont?
To make something complex very simple. Loic is extremely modest and never compromises.
The best part of your 1,800-year-old cellars?
The silence. It is essential to compose great wines.
At Leela Palace today.
By invitation only.
— Rosella Stephen