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[Herald Interview] High-end Champagne RSRV lands in Korea

In a country of soju and beer, young drinkers show greater appetite for wines: Pernod Ricard Korea CEO

Oct. 21, 2022 - 17:02 By Byun Hye-jin
Pernod Ricard Korea CEO Frantz Hotton poses after an interview with The Korea Herald on Oct. 13 at Grand Walkerhill Seoul in Gwangjin-gu, eastern Seoul. (Pernod Ricard Korea)

Global wine and spirits company Pernod Ricard’s luxury wine collection Maison Mumm RSRV made its South Korean debut recently to cater to an ever-evolving, pandemic-fueled drinking culture here: drinking less, but better.

“During at-home drinking occasions with a small group of people, you don’t have the social pressure of picking alcohol that is suitable for the moment. It was very interesting to see how people switch from drinking soju and beer -- the rule you must follow when you’re in a bar or a restaurant -- to choosing what you actually enjoy,” said Frantz Hotton, CEO of Pernod Ricard Korea, during a recent interview with The Korea Herald.

Hotton said South Korea’s wine market has become mature enough to appreciate a wide range of wines.

“Five years ago, wine was either white or red, French or Australian in Korea. The number of educated and sophisticated consumers, who are willing to enjoy pretty expensive wines, has grown rapidly. The ability to enjoy and pay (for luxury wines) is finally here.”

Consumers have become more educated thanks to experts like sommeliers, who act as gatekeepers to the wine market, Hotton added. Based on their years of expertise, they have taught consumers the difference between the wine brands and wine making.

Targeting wine lovers in Korea, Pernod Ricard recently launched its RSRV Champagne collection here. RSRV, short for “reserve,” was first launched in 1838 by the company’s winery Maison Mumm as a limited Champagne collection for VIPs of the winery’s cellar masters.

The RSRV’s label is folded, following a tradition where the winery has hand-picked and marked the best wines in its vineyards by folding the upper corner of the label for distinguished guests.

Three new RSRV wine collections -- Cuvee 4.5, Cuvee Blanc de Blancs 2015 and Cuvee Lalou 2008 -- are made with Grand Cru grapes produced at a vineyard that holds the ranking of the highest wine classification of French wine.

RSRV Cuvee 4.5 is a premium nonvintage Champagne with grapes from five different villages in France. It blends high-end pinot noir and chardonnay and ages them for four years. The Champagne leaves a floral aftertaste with vanilla and mocha aromas.

RSRV Cuvee Blanc de Blancs 2015 is a vintage wine that uses 100 percent premium chardonnay grapes from Cramant, France with more than three years of aging. Applying less pressure than other Champagnes, it offers demi mousse -- a moderate amount of bubbles -- rarely found in ordinary Champagnes, which have excessive bubbles that sometimes obscure the taste.

RSRV Cuvee Lalou 2008 is the most sophisticated Champagne from this collection. Aged 10 years, it blends Grand Cru grapes from seven of the finest vineyard plots of Maison Mumm in 2008. Since the best grapes selected by winemakers are usually different every year, consumers can enjoy a wide variety of tastes of style each year, according to Hotton.

Driven by younger generations' enthusiasm for wine and other sophisticated alcohol options, Hotton said South Korea’s wine market will continue to grow. “Usually, there is a perfect correlation between the development of wine and single malt whiskies. Since Korea has an expanding single malt market, it has a strong demand for wine education classes and interest in wine.”

The burgeoning fine dining trend here is also pushing consumers to enhance the experience by pairing the food with refined drinks, including wine, Hotton added.

Having joined Pernod Ricard in 1995, Hotton served as trade sales director and sales and marketing director until 2009. He was appointed managing director of Pernod Ricard for Hong Kong and Macao in July 2014. Since July 2021, Hotton has led Pernod Ricard Korea as CEO.