Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The French Champagne King Who Backs Britain to Make Sales Fizz; INTERVIEW

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The French Champagne King Who Backs Britain to Make Sales Fizz; INTERVIEW

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Chesters

SITTING in almost regal surroundings in one of the most resplendent properties in the Champagne region, it is hard to imagine Parisian Jean-Marc Gallot pacing up an aisle of Tesco at London Bridge looking at the champagne bottles in the chiller or checking up on an off-licence's display cabinets. But this is exactly what Veuve Clicquot's president and chief executive was doing the previous week.

Perched on a stool at the bar of Cliquot's atelier at its Hotel du Marc in Reims, once owned by Madame Clicquot herself, Gallot is back from his London trip and has just hosted the brand's businesswoman of the year award in Paris, before driving to Reims for its gala dinner to celebrate 2014's winners.

Gallot, tall, imposing but surprisingly friendly, may run one of the world's most prestigious champagne brands but he is no snob. He took on the job in September and is keen to point out he wants to understand his customers, whether they are wine buffs in Paris or Londoners celebrating on a night out.

Although Gallot, 50, is based in Paris and Reims, he spends a lot of time in London. The UK is Clicquot's biggest market in Europe and the secondbiggest globally after the US: "I have visited many retailers in London. It is super important for us to listen to the UK market... We are raising the bar for the rest of the world thanks to the UK."

The British are even responsible for the brand's yellow label. When Clicquot introduced a dry variety a brut it was popular with the English, who asked for it to be labelled differently to the original white label.

But all is not well in the world of champagne. During the recession people either cut back because they couldn't afford it or because they didn't want to look like they could. Even as the economy improved, cheaper sparkling wines have benefited. …

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