Cheryl Perkins column: Champagne innovations are worth celebrating

Jan. 31, 2013
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I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Lyon, France, on business, but also took the opportunity to explore its historical and architectural landmarks, as well as the nearby Champagne region. France is the champagne capital of the world, and it is a country that is not only inspired by, but also dedicated to, tradition.

Blending this tradition with technology and innovation is a mixture that works well for the region and for the country as a whole.

Champagne first gained world fame through its association with the anointment of French kings. Royalty from throughout Europe spread the message quickly of the unique sparkling wine from France. Manufacturers subsequently devoted a great deal of time and energy toward creating a history and identity for their wines.

Through advertising and packaging, the association of these wines with luxury and power grew rapidly. Champagne, as we know it today, brings to mind high living, festivities, celebrations and rites of passage.

Although past trends depict champagne consumption as following the mood of the country, many consumers are now adopting more optimistic attitudes and are indulging in luxurious products that help them to unwind and relax. Companies that are seeing the emergence of this niche market are taking advantage of the trends as an opportunity to create new innovations. From champagne sandwich spreads to champagne — infused fragrances, the industry continues to put science and creativity to work.

Champagne-Ardennes, a major farming region in France that is world famous for its wine production, is the only French town to have three French AOC certified wines. The other two are Coteaux Champenois and Rosé des Riceys. This champagne wine-growing area started production in the 3rd century.

Here, the innovation needed to keep them ahead of the global competition comes not only from their local products and ancestral knowledge that has been passed down for generations, but from logistics, and science and technology.

Another recent champagne creation comes to us from one of Champagne’s most prestigious producers — Krug. Recently Krug has created a non-vintage/multi-vintage champagne with a label that consumers can use to look up Internet information related to the disgorgement and vintages in the blend. This is very useful for enthusiasts as they can enjoy their favorite Krug Champagne at the time that they feel it might be at its optimum age.

This concept implemented by Olivier Krug, a descendant of the historic Krug family, is considered a groundbreaking change sending the message that even Brut Champagne, lacking a vintage on the label, can and should be expected to age beautifully. Building greater consumer understanding and relationships with producers is a valuable trend for all.

Innovators continue to thrive even in an industry that in the past has been driven, perhaps more so than most, by the ups and downs of the economy. There is a lesson in that for all of us: Keep thinking, keep creating and find your niche.

As our first month of 2013 draws to an end, let’s raise our glass to toast an innovative and prosperous year to come.

— Cheryl Perkins is the president/founder of Innovationedge, and former senior vice president and chief innovation officer at Kimberly-Clark Corp. Check out Cheryl’s blog at

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