Niel Hendriksz still remembers his first taste of champagne, the bright fruitiness of the apples, pears and grapes with a hint of limestone.
He enjoyed the drink and today works as the brand ambassador for one of the world’s prominent champagne houses, Moët Hennessy, in Africa.
As an ambassador of the prestigious French winery, he oversees some of the finest brands under the group’s wine and spirit sector including the Cognac Hennessy, fine whiskey Glenmorange, and champagne Moët & Chandonon, which have been recently introduced in the Kenyan market.
Moët Hennessy is part of the world’s largest luxury group, Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton (LVMH), which has over 60 brands in five different .
Kenya’s growing thirst for luxury drinks has been on the rise and driving the demand for fine drinks. There has been a demand for finer drinks, especially single malt whiskies, with international brands looking to grow their market share locally.
“The middle class in the country is growing and Kenyans are travelling to London, Paris, Dubai, they come back to Kenya with the experience,” says Nicolas Ruellan, Moët Hennessy Marketing manager for East Africa.
“I am seeing more people drinking champagne, single malt scotch and cognac. They are luxury products, but more and more people and drinking them. I am not saying that they have stopped drinking beer, but on special occasions, they are having fine products,”
To make sure one of the products they are enjoying are from the luxurious group it official launched the Moët & Chandon Nectar Imperial in East Africa, last week, at the fitting venue of Sankara Hotel’s The Champagne Bar.
The Moët & Chandon Nectar Imperial is one of the many products under the winery, which was founded in 1743.
The launch in Nairobi is the third in Africa after Nigeria and South Africa where it is the fastest growing champagne. LVMH is paying attention to this market and investing in it having opened a regional office in Kenya and planning to expand its reach even further.
“There is opportunity in this market and the company is willing to invest in it,” says Neil. “We want to educate the consumer while making the brand accessible and available.”
Queensway International is the company behind importing this fine liquor in the region and is working with Moët & Chandon to run campaigns to popularise the luxury brands. Africa is becoming a major consumer of the fine bubbly with Nigeria leading.
A study by research company Euromonitor showed champagne consumption in the west African country had the fastest- growing rate of new champagne consumption in the world, second to France.
The worth of champagne consumption went up by 20 per cent in 2012 to $59 m (Sh5 m) and is expected to reach $105 m (Sh8.9 m) by 2017.
The group is also investing in popularising its single malt scotch Glenmorange and Cognac Hennessy. The drinks are becoming readily available in certain restaurants across the city and in supermarket chains as well as liquor stores.
Their uptake in this market has been high, according to Neil. Though LVMH is concentrating on growing these brands in the market, it’s other champagne brand Veuve Clicquot has partnered with local fine dining restaurant Seven’s Sea Grill.
He was in the country for the launch of the fine bubbly with a select few getting the opportunity to learn from the connoisseur himself how to enjoy it.
Imperial Nectar is fruity more tropical champagne than the Brut, which was already available in the Kenyan market. With ripe pineapples, mangoes, peaches and vanilla, as the champagne becomes warmer, the fruitiness becomes more intense.
Served in an ice bucket filled with water, the champagne is best taken chilled. “The ice chills the water and the water chills the champagne,” explains Hendriksz. Champagne is all about the grapes it is made from.
For Hendriksz, his personal favourite champagne vintage is the 2003. “It was different and the most challenging to make in 80 years. There was a heat wave in Francem therefore the grapes were harvested earlier than scheduled,” he says.
The result was big, bold, fruity, and mature champagne.