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Some Acerbity for a Monday Night

2011 November 21
by Mike

A few years ago, LVMH, the luxury goods empire whose baubles include Château Cheval Blanc, opened a hotel in the French Alps called Cheval Blanc. The swank ski resort, which appears to cater mainly to Russian oligarchs (go figure), includes a restaurant called 1947, a tribute to the château’s most acclaimed vintage. Had I been blogging or Tweeting at the time, I am reasonably certain that  I would have posted something snide about this cheesy attempt to exploit Cheval Blanc’s renown. Now comes word that LVMH is creating a collection of Cheval Blanc hotels, adding properties in Paris, Oman, and Egypt. Surely, China can’t be far behind. I recognize that luxury marketing is what LVMH is all about, but it is disheartening to see the Cheval Blanc name put to such crass use. The St. Émilion château is one of the world’s great wineries; you’d think its owners would show it a little more respect. Cheval Blanc isn’t a lifestyle brand, you vulgarians, it is a wine.

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The University of California, Davis is known in wine circles for its Department of Viticulture and Enology. At the moment, however, it is making headlines for a very different reason:  last Friday, campus police pepper-sprayed a group of students holding a peaceful demonstration in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The crackdown was caught on video, naturally, and the video quickly went viral. This is a wine blog, not a political blog, but I don’t think I’m being the least bit partisan in saying that what these police officers did was appalling. Some people should lose their jobs over this incident, beginning with UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. November 22, 2011

    Bud, fair point, but the fact that Cheval Blanc is a widely used name in France is different than LVMH turning Chateau Cheval Blanc into a luxury, multi-product brand.

    Greg, that scene with the 61 Cheval was about sacrilege, not lifestyle! Great scene, though. Thanks for stopping by.

    Bill, it doesn’t really surprise me, but I think it does take the crassness and commercialism to a new low. As for Cheval Blanc’s reputation, it rests on more than just the 47–they’ve produced a lot of spectacular wines. But obviously, the 47 is the most famous Cheval, and it is a freak.

    Francois, you may well be right; perhaps they are contemplating similar “brand extensions” with Yquem, Krug, and Dom. I disagree with you about where the blame should be placed: I think the guilty party here is LVMH. Cheval is a legitimately great wine; it is also an historic property that deserves better than to be exploited in this way.

  2. Bud Carlos permalink
    November 22, 2011

    Anyone who has traveled extensively in France has probably stayed at
    a Hotel Cheval Blanc, a Hotel du Cheval Blanc, an Auberge Cheval
    Blanc, et cetera. There’s even one in Cognac. Perhaps LVMH should
    be faulted for failing to differentiate itself, not for trading on a name
    that is more cliché than brand.

  3. Greg Gill permalink
    November 22, 2011

    Hey Mike-

    Apparently you missed the whole point of the movie “Sideways”. Why don’t you think Cheval Blanc isn’t a lifestyle brand.

  4. Bill Klapp permalink
    November 22, 2011

    Mike, I am not sure why this would surprise you in the least (or perhaps I am presuming that you were surprised). Bordeaux is a BRAND, not an illustrious chateau, nor a wine. It is blended and manipulated to suit popular taste at the moment. And while it has made some very good wines over the years, few are of first-growth quality, and Cheval Blanc’s reputation pretty much hinges upon one freak vintage almost 65 years ago that has not been replicated since. The Bordelais as a lot are crassly commercial (save maybe the occasional modest, reclusive owner), and not just LVMH. Latour, Margaux and Petrus should launch competing hotel chains, or perhaps luxury automobiles or leather goods…

  5. mauss permalink
    November 22, 2011

    About Cheval Blanc :

    To market the name of this property is in direct line with the luxury policy of LVMH. They probably have some ideas too about Yquem, Krug and Dom Pérignon.
    Up to us, in this wine world, to score not the label but the content. History and scores’ records are necessary assets for top names, but it is not a reason to have for these classified names more respect than for a simple beaujolais from Burgaud.
    We are responsible, not LVMH.

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