Treasury Wine Estates has opened what it terms “a new chapter in French winemaking” with the launch of a new brand, Maison de Grand Esprit, aimed at younger Asian consumers. In a major first for the company and the industry, it brings together wines from the major wine regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and Provence, all under one house.

The company introduced the newly created brand (which translates as ‘The House of Great Minds’) at a memorable launch event in Paris on Friday, attended by key customers and media, including The Moodie Davitt Report. The move was first flagged in March.

The company said that it was challenging convention by showcasing the best of France’s wine regions, unlike traditional French wine houses where the focus is on a single sub-region.

“We want to be the number one premium company in the world and we identified that Asia plays a critical part in our ability to do that. To be the number one wine company in Asia we needed to enter the French category.” – Treasury Wine Estates Chief Marketing Officer Simon Marton

Grand reveal: Treasury Wine Estates unveils Maison de Grand Esprit at a sumptuous evening at the Hotel d’Evreux in central Paris

The strategy, it said, is to bring simplicity to the French wine category for consumers, notably in Asia, who can find it complex and intimidating.

Maison de Grand Esprit will be available from November initially in Greater China and Japan followed by Southeast Asia, with certain wines in the collection available in Australia and the USA later. Travel retail will play a part in the roll-out. There are three tiers to the wine, ranging in price from around RMB300 (US$45) to RMB1,600 (US$240).

Highlights of the range: La Mystèriale is one of three tiers developed under the new brand

Treasury Wine Estates Chief Marketing Officer Simon Marton told The Moodie Davitt Report: “This is one of the most interesting and game changing initiatives for Treasury Wine Estates in a long time. We want to be the number one premium company in the world and we identified that Asia plays a critical part in our ability to do that. To be the number one wine company in Asia we needed to enter the French category, especially given its size and growth.”

Pinnacle of the range: The St Estephe line (right) and a visual from the new advertising campaign (left)

The launch collection includes the following (split into the Grand Esprit, La Mystèriale and L’être Magique tiers):

  • Grand Esprit – Saint-Estèphe
  • La Mystèriale Santenay Premier Cru;
  • La Mystèriale Lussac-Saint Emilion;
  • La Mystèriale Châteauneuf du Pape;
  • L’être Magique – Bordeaux;
  • L’ être Magique Bourgogne
  • L’ être Magique Crémant de Bourgogne
  • L’ être Magique Côtes de Provence

Simon Marton: “This is one of the most interesting and game changing initiatives for Treasury Wine Estates in a long time”

Maison de Grand Esprit Consultant Winemaker Sebastien Long, who comes from the Rhone Valley, developed the multi-regional range.

Depending on the wine and its appellation, each offering is made with respect to the process required by the appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) specification. The wines are sourced from a selection of French vineyards and grapegrowers; all are made and bottled at wineries in the individual regions from where the grapes hail.

Sebastien Long: “This flexible sourcing approach provides luxury wine lovers with the opportunity to discover the best of France under one trusted brand”

Long said: “This flexible sourcing approach provides luxury wine lovers with the opportunity to discover the best of France under one trusted brand. Maison de Grand Esprit offers something that other French châteaux cannot given their traditional sourcing methods. The collection has been designed with a modern luxury consumer in mind – hence the wines are contemporary in style – full bodied with bold, fruit flavour characteristics.”

He later told us: “We have created a brand to offer a piece of France in each category. My approach was led by the consumer who liked more fruit-driven, new world styles of wines. I grew up in French winemaking through my family and I have worked in the French wine regions, but also in the new world. Our approach was to combine those two points and bring something unique.”

Winemaker Sebastien Long took guests on a journey through the range in Paris on Friday

“We started with what the Asian consumer wants, which is consistent with our consumer-led company vision.” – Treasury Wine Estates Chief Marketing Officer Simon Marton

Marton noted that sales in the French wine category are expected to grow above the global average over the next five years. Given its size, and the many established producers in the market, Treasury Wines Estates had to do something different to stand out, he said.

“We wanted to bring innovation and importantly growth to the category, as well as introduce new consumers to wine. We did a lot of homework and research, and found that consumers, especially in Asia, found French wines complicated and a bit intimidating.

“Using what they said and what we know of wines, we have now brought a new brand proposition, one that blends the credentials of France and its history with a new world angle. It is a consumer-led, branded approach. We started with what the Asian consumer wants, which is consistent with our consumer-led company vision.”

Marton added: “Maison de Grands Esprit has been tested with the Asian consumer. We have some incredible new wines and packaging that is very different in the category. Our partners are seeking innovation, and at the luxury end of French wines, there has not been much innovation to date. We are bringing a modern, contemporary French expression, which has been inspired as much by French design and fashion as by French wines. And we are building a brand rather than a region that shows off the best of France.”

The Moodie Davitt Report President Dermot Davitt at the launch event with Treasury Wine Estates Managing Director Europe Tom King

Travel retail will play a role, confirmed Marton. “The channel is a good way of showcasing and getting trial on new brands. We’re aware that the French category is under-developed in travel retail. We don’t think anyone has led the category in the channel with a focus on Asia. So across our portfolio of brands we’ll now be talking to our partners in travel retail about an expanded portfolio, either by country of origin or even going to market with the 90+ Club proposition, into which we think some of these wines will fit. It’s a great way of making a consumer connection.”

Elaborating on the company’s insights into the Asian consumer, Marton said: “Our research tells us there is a part of the [Asian] market that understands the system, the classifications, the regions and the styles but it’s a very small part of the market. Most new consumers coming into wine in China and elsewhere don’t understand this complexity and we want it to be clearer, without dumbing down. What we do know is those consumers understand brands, and if you build a relationship and trust with them they will stay with you.”

Location, location: Treasury Wine Estates chose a stellar site, facing onto the Place Vendome, for the evening

He added: “We need to provide education and sampling and we know we are building from scratch. We are clear that in year one it will not be a home run. It takes time. We will build distribution with our key partners early on, beginning with China, Hong Kong and Japan from November, then moving into southeast Asia, the USA and Australia. But initially it’s very much Asia-focused.

“Every market has a different entry strategy. In some you will have maybe one line that goes into restaurants while in China we also need an online strategy. As it grows and develops, we will expand the proposition for other channels.”

The launch will be supported by a major advertising campaign that aims to evoke luxury and French culture but is firmly targeted at the Asian consumer.

On the various price points, Marton said: “The pricing is based on the different channels we serve and on the different consumer occasions. We have a good profile in Australia and the USA and understand the sweet spots [on pricing]. We designed this range around that knowledge.”

He also said that the company could ensure consistency of supply, having struck long-term agreements with winemakers in the regions.

“A key point is that we are in this for the long-haul and it is a multi-year exercise. We have multiple vintages and years ahead committed for supply. The multi-region sourcing approach allows us to bring the best of France together vintage after vintage, year after year. We will build this brand through a fully integrated approach as we have with other brands in our portfolio.

“It will take persistence and effort. But if we want to be the number one premium wine company in Asia we have to get the French category right. It’s a big opportunity for us. If we can make this business substantial, it can really positively affect our growth.”