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Un champagne sans alcohol s’il vous plait!

Lorenzo Biscontin

The other day I was participating in a conversation in a Clubhouse room and a sommelier who works in an important restaurant in Paris spoke about the growing trend of consumption of a 0% alcohol “champagne”.

This was already interesting in itself, but what I discovered in the subsequent one-to-one conversation analysis was even more interesting.

The sparkling wine is called French Bloom, then I’ll come back to it, and, obviously, it is not legally a “champagne”, but just as obviously it is essentially presented as “a sparkling wine that is like a champagne, but without alcohol”.

The response from customers is so positive that it has become a qualifying proposition both for the venue and for the sommeliers who suggest it.

This is the thing that struck me the most: the fact that for sommeliers it is not a fallback, but a choice to be proposed with the same dignity as a wine. Indeed, as a product with which to make a good impression on customers who cannot or do not want to drink alcohol, even to be suggested in the case of the increasingly frequent request for a wine that does not exceed 13% of alcohol.

It is a sparkling wine drunk by everyone, both foreigners and French.

Everyone means everyone, that is, French customers ask to serve it to children too, creating a certain short circuit to the sommelier because the sparkling wine is alcohol-free, but it looks in all respects like a standard alcoholic champagne.

On the other hand, all the research highlights how establishments that offer NOLO wines increase their turnover compared to those that do not. This is not too surprising, considering that adding these wines to the assortment means broadening the base of potential customers.

On the wine list, the price of French Bloom per glass is 30% lower than the “entry” champagne.

On the website of the French wine shop chain Nicolas it can be found at 29 euros per bottle, more expensive than the store-brand champagne, while in Italy Etilika e-commerce sites sells Le Blanc at 32,90 and La Rosè at 34,90 euro per bottle.

In the company e-shop, Le Blanc sparkling wine is sold at 29.49 euros per bottle and Le Rosè (yes, they also make rosé) at 34.56 euros per bottle.

In summary, French Bloom is a high-end sparkling wine that makes the absence of alcohol the main plus on which to position and differentiate itself.

How does it do it?

Scrolling through the French Bloom website is like reading an excellent brand management manual.

French Bloom was born in 2019 when French friends Maggie Frerejan-Taittinger and Constance Kablonski meet again in Paris after a long time. The first was Director of the Michelin Guide and pregnant with twins, the second was a super model. Both were therefore attentive to well-being first and foremost and both have realized the absolute non-existence of a joyful, elegant and sophisticated non-alcoholic drink.

That is, French Bloom, according to the marketing manual, was created to fill a void on the market.

Quoting from the site “Our organic non-alcoholic sparkling wines are dedicated to those who want to be with their loved ones and celebrate without moderation”. I’ll write it again “… celebrate without moderation“, how much nicer does it sound than the, very right, “drink in moderation”?

To be successful, however, good ideas must be put into practice, keeping the promises of the product concept.

And here comes Rodolphe Frerejean-Taittenger, Maggie’s husband and CEO of the Maison Frerejean Freres which produces Grand Cru and Premier Cru Champagne in Avize, bringing all his skills.

From a technical point of view, French Bloom is the result of two years of research and development to achieve the balance and aromatic complexity.

The sparkling wines are 100% organic and the cuvée is made from alcohol-free Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, to use the official EU terminology, with the addition of other ingredients, among which the site mentions only lemon. Consistent with the components of well-being and inclusiveness at the basis of the proposal, French Bloom is produced without the addition of “…colorants, preservatives, sulphites and sugars”.

Here too it is worth pausing to reflect on the profound (marketing) choices behind these words. French Bloom does not start from the skills and technologies available in the dealcoholization of wine and then build a story / positioning, but starts from the unsatisfied demand of the market to define a positioning from which the product is developed.

One of the strongest choices is to develop a recipe in which ingredients are added to the de-alcoholized wine to obtain the desired organoleptic profile.

A strong choice compared to the apparently hegemonic sacralized vision that sees wine exclusively as the result of the fermentation of pressing the grapes. A vision that is anything but historical and unique if we think of traditional products such as Vermouth, Barolo Chinato, the spritz, which before being made with Aperol was made adding sparkling water or the French Jacqueline based on white wine, lemonade and pomegranate juice.

From a hedonistic and non-philosophical point of view, when the caloric and inebriating components in wine, both linked to alcohol, lose their importance that of taste becomes prevalent. And maintaining it, or enriching it, by removing alcohol becomes a plus.

Is hedonistic the only approach to wine consumption? Surely not. But it is equally certainly the one adopted by many people, in many consumer situations.

I copy and paste from the site for the last time:

Thanks to a highly technical aromatic blend, the French Bloom collection of alcohol-free sparkling wines offers an exceptional tasting experience. Each alcohol-free cuvée is a complex equation of natural ingredients to achieve a harmony between minerality, intensity, depth and freshness. Tasting of our non-alcoholic sparkling wines is conceived as a sensorial journey of pleasure where each step reveals a new facet as bold as it is balanced.

So much more than an alternative to the classics of the cellar, our alcohol-free creations individually embody an emotion, a character, a personality that slips in among your guests to make these precious moments of sharing sparkle.” To understand how serious they are, I conclude by pointing out that this year a new product was presented: La Cuvée Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2022, sold at 110,81 euro per bottle on the company e-shop.

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