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Cecile Bonnefond moves to Piper Heidsieck to give champagne a new sparkle in the U.S.

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December 31, 2011

Cecile Bonnefond moves to Piper Heidsieck to give champagne a new sparkle in the U.S.

After being sold by Remy Cointreau to EPI this past summer for a reported $520 million, the centuries-old house found itself a new CEO. Cecile Bonnefond, 55, had spent several years as president at Veuve Clicquot and working at luxury goods conglomerate LVMH before leaving for Piper-Heidseick.

Now, she’s looking to give the Champagne house a new image, one that’s more appealing to the U.S. market.

Bonnefond says she is relying on a combination of instinct and tradition to give this Champagne house a new look.

[quote]”Luxury is about tension; tension about history and tension about today,”[/quote] ?she says.

Bonnefond invited descendants of the Heidsieck family to lunch in November, hoping to learn the family stories about Mr. Piper. She mentions, “They haven’t been invited by the former shareholder for the past 25 years.”

So how exactly does she plan to dust off this centuries-old brand? “Luxury is about heritage. Luxury is about resilience. It’s about characters, founders, stories, vision. All those things come with time,” she says. And, thanks to clever marketing, like a recent ad partnership with French couture label Jean Paul Gautier, Bonnefond says she is able to stay true to her brand while attracting a younger crowd. “A lot of young people like to eat and like to drink. Well, that’s all us!” she says with a laugh.

The U.S. is a power-drinker when it comes to champagne, downing upward of 7 million bottles of bubbly this year as of July 2011. With shipments of over 16 million bottles this year, the American champagne market experienced a major turnaround after taking a nosedive between 2007 and 2009, suggesting Bonnefond just might be looking in the right direction. The mid-year shipment numbers to the U.S. for 2011 increased by just shy of 22% from the previous year, says Sam Heitner, director of the CIVC’s U.S. Bureau.

Heitner says America is one of the only countries in which sparkling wine grown outside of France’s Champagne region can be labeled as “champagne.” To the inexperienced drinker, E & J Gallo Winery’s Andr? California Champagne appears to be the real deal — even though its grapes were harvested in California.

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Source:?Colleen Leahey?(2011).?Giving champagne a new sparkle in the U.S., CNN Money?http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2011/12/30/giving-champagne-a-new-sparkle-in-the-u-s/?published Dec 30, 2011. Viewed Dec 30, 2011,

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