Champagne is becoming more popular in Vietnam and Saigon now has the perfect place to enjoy it. By Lorcan Lovett. Photos by MOËT & Chandon.
The dramatic warbles of opera followed by clinking glasses are perhaps the two sounds of Saigon’s classiest night.
Tourists and locals flock to Champagne Corner in 5 star hotel Caravelle Saigon for the latter sound, sipping the soaring bubbles that break the surface of their flutes and embody the pleasures of a burgeoning middle class.
Vietnamese have a growing taste for champagne, one that goes hand in hand with an increasing affluence and peak in disposable incomes, and Champagne Corner seems the perfect place to indulge.
Tucked into a stylish nook in the hotel’s entrance on Dong Khoi Street, the spot is a first time collaboration in Vietnam between Moët Hennessy and a local partner.
Even the most seasoned connoisseurs will be satisfied with the range of bubbles on offer in this intimate environment, quickly cementing the venue as Saigon’s premier rendezvous point pre or post the Opera House or dinner inside and outside Caravelle.
Oysters, caviar, and homemade truffles are available to perfectly match with the Dom Perignon, as well as time-honoured labels from Moët & Chandon, and Veuve Clicquot.
The venue is located opposite to the hotel’s Café de l’Opera, whose large windows looking out onto Lam Son Square and the Opera House offer a great vantage point to watch the world go by while sipping on your favourite tipple. There is also live music courtesy of a piano and vocal duo from 5pm Tuesday to Saturday.
There are bottles of vintage and non-vintage champagne on the wine list, and a glass of Moët & Chandon Imperial goes for VND 540,000 (VND 570,000 for the rosé). At the top end, vintage offerings such as a Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage (VND 3,060,000) or Dom Perignon Rosé Vintage (VND 14,000,000) are definitely something for a very special occasion.
Patrons can opt for the non-vintage bottles if looking for more modestly priced tipples. These include a Moët & Chandon Imperial for VND 2,700,000, and progress up to the Veuve Clicquot Rosé at VND 3,220,000. Café de l’Opera’s champagne cocktails are both classic and quirky, and are all priced at VND 450,000.
The French 75 blends Veuve Clicquot with gin and fresh lemon, while for the more adventurous can go for the Volcano, a mix of Moët & Chandon and raspberry and blue curacao liqueurs.
Champagne Corner can partly toast its success to prosperous city workers who are looking for something a little special for their after-work drinks.
Their champagne consumption bolsters Vietnam to a position where it’s seen as one of the strongest potential wine markets in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Euro Monitor.
This is helped by the country’s young population and the influence of French culture left over from the old colonial days.
Many wine companies, especially those from France and Italy, tried hard to penetrate the Vietnamese market regardless of the economic crisis.
In response, domestic players, namely Thang Long Liquor JSC and LamDong Foodstuffs JSC (Ladofoods), put extensive efforts into improving product quality as well as brand awareness by celebrating festivals and events such as The Da Lat Wine Night festival, all helping to boost the champagne market.
The Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, a major trade deal involving several countries that’s currently under negotiation, will also play a role in the future of champagne if successfully signed.
It would mean zero tax imposed on liquor products, stimulating the product’s growth in Vietnam.
China’s thirst for champagne is growing year on year, increasing by 19 per cent in 2012, however, Communications Director, Comité Champagne Thibaut Le Mailloux says South East Asia should not be ignored, especially considering Vietnam’s own market increased by 36 per cent in 2011.
“There is South East Asia as opposed to just China, it’s part of a region growing altogether,” explained Thibaut to The Drinks Business.
“If you put Asia’s markets all together you have an existing business of over five million bottles. It’s also an area that is developing very fast; if one country slows down it’s not the case for others in the same region.”
Although the whole alcoholic drinks market in Vietnam has experienced growth over recent years, the more affordable and widely consumed beer has maintained its advantage.
Champagne, on the other hand, has thrived at a more modest level, being consumed mainly in hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
The champagne industry will pop a cork to Euro Monitor’s prediction of a shift towards more premium products over the years and Saigon’s likely to join in too: who doesn’t enjoy a glass of bubbly?