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Talking about champagne: the primary luxury icon is revising its own identity

«There is a rush against this war on climate change and every day we do nothing, we lose time, and this will bring consequences that nobody wants to face» says Frédéric Dufour, Maison Ruinart

«There is a phrase by Leonardo da Vinci that I used very often with the team throughout the process which is ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’». The President of Maison Ruinart, Frédéric Dufour says that the simplicity of a white casing has inspired its own modes of creativity in which many of the artists Ruinart work with are taking to the cases with drawings and creating art on the case in a way that they never anticipated before. Adopting the Second Skin, Dufour notes that there has still been significant resistance from consumers in leaving behind the idea of a box being an image of luxury. He says: «Luxury experience is not an object; it is the experience itself. The Second Skin provides a smooth, clean experience; one which isn’t damaging our planet».

Moving away from gift box packaging, the Second Skin case is unlike anything the brand has done before; made from 100% paper and entirely recyclable the case hugs the hourglass shape of the bottle with a white chalk-like surface, detailed with textures that emanate the history of the champagne and the walls of the Crayères de Reims – where the Maison Ruinart champagnes age. Manufactured with partners – Pusterla 1880 and James Cropper, together they have worked to create an eco-design which has reduced the bottle’s carbon footprint by 60% and reusing 91% of the water drawn from the UNESCO World Heritage Site during production. The eco-design of the casing is much lighter; weighing just 40 grams compared to previous gift boxes which weighed around 360 grams. The material used is from natural wood fibers that are sustainability sourced from forests in Europe. Aside from eco-friendly manufacturing, the case acts as a protector for the quality of the champagne itself; preserving its aroma and taste from sunlight and varying temperatures. Ruinart have included a novel coffret closer on the case, protected by the brand for its original addition. 

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The case manufactured with Pusterla 1880 and James Cropper to create an eco-design

Maison Ruinart is the oldest and recognized champagne house founded in 1729. First began by a Benedictine monk in the 1600s, Dom Thierry Ruinart paved the road for a new drink that would become popular within aristocratic circles during that time. It wasn’t until 1st September 1729 that his nephew – Nicolas Ruinart, would draft up the charter of Maison Ruinart as the first production company for champagne. Since the start, the brand has invested the time into perfecting the taste of their champagne, whilst maintaining a commitment to the preservation of nature throughout the manufacturing process. Revolutionizing the ways which we view sustainability, the brand has spent over three years in the process of launching their new packaging. Since 2012 an eco-design approach has been taken by Ruinart across all developments of packaging and presentation materials, in which the use of plastic for packaging has been banned since 2015; favoring more ecological alternatives such as paper, cardboard and wood. Dufour says: «At Ruinart, luxury in the future should always be conscious luxury, providing something that is beautiful and of great quality, but also something that brings meaning and is doing good for the planet».

Asides from exploring the wonders of eco-packaging, Ruinart has pioneered in the field of sustainable viticulture. Throughout the past decade, they have managed to reduce the use of chemicals by 40% and stopped using herbicides at the end of last year. The company’s policy has adopted a ‘rational delivery policy of no air transport’ to transport the supplies of raw materials in which 85% of champagne deliveries are done by sea and 15% by land. Frédéric Dufour explains: «As the oldest first established champagne company, we see the duty we have to redefine what champagne should be in the future and what luxury is all about. There is a rush against this war on climate change and every day we do nothing, we lose time, and this will bring consequences that nobody wants to face. We have to break the rules, we can’t just improve by a little bit, or we are moving too slowly». 

The creation of the Second Skin case has been in the process for over three years, representing the time and commitment needed in movements which endeavor to champion sustainability. Dufour explains that although sustainability is at the heart of all their developments, the original objective for the casing grew from the initial desire to preserve the champagne in all conditions. It wasn’t until the team began their exchange of ideas that getting rid of the box became another objective that would become central to their ambition. He said: «We really wanted to move the lines and of course, it’s not easy, there are so many new gift boxes, so it became about asking the question, how can we break this historical line of gift boxes whilst still maintaining the beauty?» A few years ago sustainability was viewed more as a constraint; a cap on creativity that hindered beauty and diminished artistic expression «It should no longer be viewed as a constraint, instead it should be seen as a source of ideas and a challenge to existing ideas which aren’t benefiting our planet. A new era that nobody would have ever thought they would see is here. A few years back it was a choice between beautiful and sustainable. Now all these worlds are now merging together for the better»

The creation of the Second Skin case has been a process of collaboration, refinement and partnership across the whole brand from marketing, to design, development and suppliers in which they have all contributed to making the Second Skin come to life. Dufour says without their partners, paper innovator – James Cropper and packaging expert – Purstela «Nothing would have been possible». Ruinart’s collaboration with James Cropper manteins a shared understanding of objectives; James Cropper like Ruinart is certified by UNESCO for being the oldest paper producer who resonates with the demands of sustainability. «We had seven prototypes before we achieved the finished casing; the very first samples we used in contact with the paper weren’t strong enough and it just wasn’t protecting the wine».

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Ruinart reduced the use of chemicals by 40% and stopped using herbicides, Crayeres

For so long unethical packaging has dictated attempts to be eco-friendly, moving away from gift boxes represents a change in the way we view functionality and how this can too intersect with sustainable goals. Dufour says: «People may view us as more traditional because our wines are almost 300 years old, but we still strive to maintain the modernity of the brand. It is not that we want to be current because we are old. The older the brand is, the more necessary it is for us to be innovating to compensate for our long tradition in being able to make wine at such a large scale. We are shaking the wine and spirits industry in which nobody wanted to veer away from the gift box». The serving of Ruinart champagne has been transformed by the welcoming of the Second Skin casing which can be reused time and time again to serve with the same elegance each time; preserving the taste and texture of the wine itself. «Consumers want lightness and elegance, in the past no gift boxes have offered the unique experience of serving which has been enabled by the Second Skin. Serving the wine with the second skin you get a much silkier touch in your hand that not only improves the experience of serving, but brings a new level of sensitivity to the wine itself and its silky texture». Since Ruinart’s announcement of the Second Skin, its creation has attracted partners to brands in the food industry – those who believe in the advance in sustainable yet luxury items, high quality ingredients and protecting the wine’s taste. Ruinart did one test in a three-star Michelin restaurant in St Tropez for 3 months to try and test using the Second Skin case; notably Dufour says that they had no ambitions for how well it would go but were thrilled of its concluded success. «We both advocated for quality of ingredients and wine protection to get the food to the perfect serve, on the perfect table right to their plate. This was our dialogue to communicate with the consumers about what the Second Skin is really about – the modernity and sustainability». Ruinart hopes that they will see other brands adopting similar sustainable approaches; the brand has already been approached by several cosmetic companies wishing to learn how they have utilizing technology to eco-friendlier. «We haven’t chosen to protect the overall technology because we wish for our competitors to adopt the same in aid of what is good for our planet. Our overall sustainable ambitions are much higher than the brand objective». 

Dufour explains that this process of collaborative work has allowed Ruinart to bring everyone along on the journey. «There are not many projects where everyone gets to be involved, with this one everyone has to be engaged. It is the first time that the team and the production have made a point of telling me how proud and excited they were to be involved in the project – not very often you get insight like that from people working». There is still a long way to go in terms of shifting the current attitudes towards sustainability across consumers and competitors. «It is the most exciting project I have worked on in the past 20 years myself and the whole team. When you work on something where you are changing the rules of the game and defying industry restraints, it is exciting, and we are very proud».

IMAGE GALLERY

Founded in 1729, Maison Ruinart is the first established champagne house. With a rich and complex history, the Maison has never stopped developing and promoting its own art of living.


Frédéric Dufour, is the President of Maison Ruinart and engineer who graduated from ENSTA and obtained a Masters in International Finance from HEC Paris. He started his career at Andersen Consulting in 1989. He joined the Moët Hennessy Group in 1996 where he held various positions; firstly in Asia as Financial and Business Development Director with Moët Hennessy Asia Pacific until 2001, and then as Chief Executive Officer at Moët Hennessy Diageo Hong Kong. He returned to France in 2005 where he was appointed Director, Brand Unit Marque Moët & Chandon, before taking over the International Department of Veuve Clicquot in 2008. Since 15 September 2011 Frédéric Dufour has been Chief Executive Office of Maison Ruinart.

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