Ever wanted to discover the enigmatic milky way or step inside a champagne bottle being shrunk to the size of a champagne bubble? Nicolas Feuillatte has brought all that and more to their customers in the world’s first virtual reality-enhanced Champagne tasting.
As per usual, the experience was first tested on press and industry. With Virtual Reality goggles on, invited guests tasted Nicolas Feuillatte non-vintage Brut Réserve, non-vintage Brut Rosé, the 2008 Blanc de Blancs, and the 2006 Palmes d’Or. Immersed into the Nicolas Feuillatte virtual world, we were ‘shrunk’ to the size of a bubble, explored fairy castle towers and paradise-like gardens – the setting changed with every new champagne being tasted. The visuals were exciting and gave a better flavour of what Feuillatte have in mind when crafting champagne.
The imagery was indeed compelling but some guests admittedly couldn’t brush off the feeling that they were playing a booze-fueled computer game without any particular rules. The goggles were bulky and heavy, pressing on the nose and obstructing the olfactory experience of otherwise exceptional champagne. Another inconvenience caused by the oversized goggles – sipping from the champagne flute required tilting the head all the way back and didn’t feel natural.
The real tasting and best part continued one floor down – without goggles – where in addition we were presented with the 2008 Brut Millesime, the traditional blend of Pinot Noir Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, and the 2006 Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs. In the champagne bar, all previously tasted champagnes tasted so much better. A second and third tasting confirmed the excellence of the 2006 Palmes d’Or that indeed deserves a golden palm leaf for its great taste.
Introducing very vivid imagery during the champagne tasting, or any other tasting for that matter, will inevitably distract consumers from the gustatory (taste) and olfactory (smell) senses and should be carefully planned and executed. The representative of Nicolas Feuillatte later also confirmed this was the first virtual reality tasting in the world: “We wanted to try something different.”
While I truly believe that there is a place for virtual reality in presentations, the VR enhanced champagne tasting would not be my first choice. Instead, some visitors voiced the opinion that they would prefer to see the vineyard and the journey of the champagne they were about to drink. This would allow customers to feel more engaged and invested in the brand and the ethos.
Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne was founded in 1976 in the heart of the Côte des Blancs and is the youngest of the large Champagne houses. It is also the biggest growers’ brand, with about 4,500 contributors. Grower Champagnes are wines produced by the same estate that owns the vineyards from which the grapes come. Some of the big houses buy grapes from other parts of the region.
According to French law, brut champagne must spend a minimum of 15 months in the cellar, with at least three years for vintage champagne. Nicolas Feuillatte has extended the cellaring process to obtain extra finesse. Their brut champagnes spend three years in the cellar, and vintage champagnes age for at least four years. Ikon London Magazine was told on the day the Palmes d’Or collection is sometimes aged for eight to 10 years.
Now, Nicolas Feuillatte is the best-selling champagne brand in France and third overall in the world. And while some luxury fashion brands had very good feedback from VR presentations of catwalks and new collections, champagne is a different kind of luxury product. It is respected for the laborious production process and fine taste. Consumers pay a premium for champagne, happy to invest in the history of the brand and its ethos. For champagne lovers, the experience of virtually visiting the place of origin would be the biggest and most meaningful experience, especially in lands far removed from Europe.
Nicholas Feuillatte Champagne. Photo by Ikon London Magazine