Maison Villevert stands as a distinguished name in the world of premium spirits, where tradition meets innovation and French craftsmanship takes centre stage. Founded in 2001 by visionary entrepreneur Jean-Sébastien Robicquet, Maison Villevert has consistently pushed the boundaries of the spirits industry, crafting exceptional libations that captivate the global palate.
At the heart of Maison Villevert’s mission is a commitment to excellence and a relentless pursuit of perfection. With meticulous attention to detail and a touch of French finesse, they bottle and package their spirits by hand, ensuring that every drop meets their uncompromising standards. This dedication has resulted in a remarkable portfolio of spirits that have garnered international acclaim, boasting over 400 medals, awards and accolades. However, Maison Villevert’s devotion to quality is not limited to its products alone; it extends to its production process, environmental awareness and charitable efforts.
In essence, Maison Villevert is a name synonymous with passion, innovation and a deep respect for tradition. It’s a brand that invites spirits enthusiasts to savour the art of French craftsmanship in every sip, all while making a meaningful difference in the world.
FOUR sits down with Maison Villevert’s founder to uncover more about the brand’s history, philosophy and how the company upholds its revered reputation in the spirits industry.
Can you provide a brief overview of Maison Villevert and its mission?
I founded this company in 2001. In 2006, I revolutionised the world of gin by launching G’Vine, the first and only gin in the world made from grapes and vine flowers. G’Vine is now seen as a gold standard in premium gins across the globe. With such a great track record, Maison Villevert has become the “go-to” partner for leading international spirits groups: their needs range from creating new recipes and producing innovative spirits to building and growing their brands. Maison Villevert’s focus on excellence has gained international acclaim: in just twenty-two years, our creations have received more than 400 medals, awards and accolades across the globe — including more than 130 gold medals. Maison Villevert has created one of the top two premium vodkas in the world (Cîroc, owned by Diageo), the leading super premium gin in France (G’Vine), the best red vermouth in the world (La Quintinye Vermouth Royal) and also owns the 2016 best continental European whisky of the year (Kornog).
What inspired you to start Maison Villevert, and what sets it apart from other spirits brands in the market?
By creating and producing globally successful modern premium spirits, we are raising the profile of French expertise and excellence across the globe. French grapes and wine have been at the heart of our innovative way of working since 2001 when — in collaboration with Diageo — I created and developed Cîroc, the very first French grape-based vodka (launched in 2003), now the second-most widely sold premium vodka in the world. This initiative in creating new spirits is seen as pioneering — particularly as the region is home to the centuries-old traditions of cognac production. Maison Villevert’s dynamic approach has led to a growing range of products, including gin, tequila, whisky and vermouth, and has inspired other local companies also keen to promote premium French spirits in France and across the globe.
How has Maison Villevert adapted to changing consumer preferences and trends in the spirits market as time has progressed?
From the start of our adventure, we have continued to build on our reputation as innovators. We reinvent classic spirits, further enhancing them and creating exciting new taste experiences. Our contemporary vision in the world of premium spirits means that we have huge growth potential in the global arena, underpinned by our values and the creative energies of our teams, who bring our avant-garde ideas to life. That’s why we like to create trends rather than follow them.
Can you discuss the key products in your spirits portfolio and the inspiration behind their creation?
Over the last 22 years, we’ve created 10 leading brands exported worldwide inspired by our heritage and the French passion for life. Two examples: G’Vine is the leading super premium gin in France and in the Top 5 super premium gins in the world (source: IWSR 2021) — fifteen years after launching in 2006. G’Vine has received numerous international awards and is a trailblazer in the premium gin boom in the 21st century. The outstanding qualities of this gin come from using grapes and vine flowers in its creation — which is unique for a gin. The grapes lend it round, smooth attributes, while the vine flowers are delicate and fresh; their flavours are complemented by a bouquet of botanicals. This inspired blend, combining hand-picked vine flowers, grapes and aromatic botanicals, makes for a superbly fresh, floral and elegant gin. G’Vine is ideal for enjoying a gin & tonic “à la française”.
Next one: La Quintinye Vermouth Royal, created in 2014, is the first vermouth from the Aquitaine region in France. It is crafted from Pineau des Charentes and twenty-seven botanicals, including wormwood. It is named for the renowned agronomist Jean-Baptiste de la Quintinye (born in the Charente in 1626), whom King Louis XIV commissioned to direct his extensive kitchen gardens. The brand image conjures up the opulence of Versailles. With retro chic and classic cocktails very much in vogue, eight years after it was created, La Quintinye Vermouth Royal continues to be in the Top 2 super premium vermouths in the world and the Top 5 premium vermouths in France (source: IWSR 2021).
Maison Villevert is passionate about producing quality spirits. Can you tell us more about the production process and the attention to detail that goes into creating your products?
First, everything begins with strong motivation! And this is very much the way with Maison Villevert’s commitment to the environment, which is set out in the group’s environmental charter and shared across the group’s teams and partners. It is central to Maison Villevert’s ongoing improvements to the group’s environmental performance. Next, we breathe our French touch into each of our products: distinctive round, subtle and elegant qualities that come from using grapes and wine. Finally, Maison Villevert has the capacity to bottle and package by hand and on a large scale, shipping millions of bottles across the world, all with the same uncompromising approach to quality.
In a competitive market, branding and storytelling are essential. How does Maison Villevert approach branding and marketing to connect with consumers?
Storytelling is vital, yes. Some examples: Villevert On Stage is a one-year competition for the bar community in France. It aims to inspire and promote French bartenders. The final was held last May at Maison Villevert, and the storytelling will start next November. This competition differs from other competitions in that it aims to stimulate the creativity of bartenders over four seasons, notably through the rich qualitative range of Maison Villevert’s creations.
Collaboration and partnerships can be instrumental in the spirits industry. Could you share some notable collaborations or partnerships that Maison Villevert has engaged in?
We have a beautiful initiative in the English market, the connection between Fred Sirieix (a Frenchman) and G’Vine. Firstly, Fred is known for sharing high-quality food and drink products with British viewers, which is key for our visibility. Secondly, the sharing comes from a genuine passion for the southwest of France, which is both where he was born and where G’Vine is produced. G’Vine offers excellence “à la française”, and Fred Sirieix is obviously the most well-known Frenchman in the UK on that subject. In a busy and crowded market like the UK gin market, this partnership will give G’Vine a fantastic opportunity to be more visible and break through the variety of choices the consumer faces.
What do you believe is the future of the spirits industry, and how is Maison Villevert positioning itself to thrive in this evolving landscape?
Well, G’Vine, for example, was 20 years ago a kind of revolution in the gin category and has inspired many entrepreneurs in our industry. G’vine is definitely part of the history of gin; as such, it will last and remain the reference of the “Gin de France”. Since day 1, we have proudly claimed our French origin and French expression of a gin… it is made from grapes, floral, smooth and elegant. That is probably why it is, as of this year, the only gin available on Air France! As a family-owned company, we will keep our passion and will soon bring G’Vine to the 100,000 cases mark and beyond.
Maison Villevert has a strong presence in both domestic and international markets. How do you adapt your strategies and products to cater to diverse consumer preferences?
Our distributors work closely with on- and off-trade listings to educate on the versatility of our brands. Maison Villevert distributes the group’s creations in France through its own company (Maison Villevert France Distribution), a distribution subsidiary in Spain (Icon Spirits), a distribution subsidiary in the UK (Paragon Brands), a distribution subsidiary in the US (Maison Villevert North America) and a distribution subsidiary in Mexico (Maison Villevert Mexico). These structures showcase the group’s brands and continue to build a portfolio of premium brands with partners who share Maison Villevert’s values. Such an approach is rare for an intermediate-sized company and is a testament to the group’s entrepreneurial spirit. Maison Villevert spirits are also exported to 60 other countries, including Germany and China – and across 5 continents.
Innovation is crucial in any industry. Can you talk about any recent innovations or product developments that Maison Villevert has undertaken?
I often like to say that there is no limit to imagination, and we have a lot of creativity at Maison Villevert. But I never talk about new products until they’re launched.
As the company’s leader, what do you consider your proudest achievement or milestone for Maison Villevert so far?
Maybe the question is more about achieving your dreams? And, of course, there are different definitions of success – a version I commend includes the notions of having, doing, being, knowing and sharing. For me, “being” is important — I rate that highly, as you can have “succeeded” by learning to know yourself and truly being. And sharing is really important, too: I try to do that on a daily basis through my management model, which includes profit-sharing schemes for our employees. And, by no means least, Maison Villevert is very much about “doing”.
Maison Villevert puts effort into engaging with its community and customers beyond the product itself, such as the current fundraising campaign for the Wine To Water charity. Can you share more details on this initiative and its motivation?
From September 15th to October 15th, we are launching a global fundraising initiative across 20 countries to raise money for the non-profit organisation Wine to Water. The aim is to mobilise the world of bar and mixology to raise money via tip donations, public donations and an auction of a captured moment of mixology history. This fundraiser aims to unite the drinks industry in the mission of providing clean water to the populations that don’t have it. The charity project will donate 100% of the proceeds to Wine to Water, founded by Doc Hendley, an ex-bartender and friend of Gaz Regan (1951 – 2019, Gary was my friend too). The organisation is committed to supporting life and dignity for all through the power of clean water.
To find out more Maison Villevert, visit the below links…