"Cuvée Spéciale" a demi-sec rosé Champagne made with 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay
For anyone not brought up around the cutesy world of Japan, it might seem a strange combination. For Paul Herman, at first it certainly was.
But since seeing the ubiquity – and popularity – of Hello Kitty, the cute cat mascot developed by Japanese company Sanrio and marketed around the world on an endless array of products, a Champagne product featuring the character made sense to the Dutchman.
“I thought this character was just for 5-10 years olds, until I saw a Hello Kitty launch party in LA hosted by Paris Hilton and Beyoncé,” he said.
“It’s amazing what you can find – Hello Kitty-branded Swarovski-encrusted bikes, Mini Coopers, even [Taiwan national carrier] Eva’s Boeing jets that fly the Taiwan to Tokyo route. Even the inflight meal [features] Hello Kitty. I’m a Dutch guy, so I’m very open-minded. I’m always looking for new things.”
After travelling throughout Asia, and particularly Japan, for the past 25 years, Herman has come to know the market intimately and he has no doubt that the Cuvée Spéciale, a demi-sec rosé Champagne made with 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay created by Champagne M.Hostomme will be a huge hit, and not only in Hello Kitty’s home country.
“People think Japan is the main market but actually Hello Kitty’s popularity is very widespread. Thailand is the number one – that and Hong Kong. She’s very popular in lots of countries around the world. It’s amazing.”
Given the mascot’s popularity in Hong Kong, it is fitting that Herman chose to launch his new venture at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair, which closed last Saturday.
“I approached Sanrio last year, and they gave me the global license. It was quite a long process, and we needed to get Sanrio approval every step of the way. It’s the first time there’s been a Hello Kitty-branded champagne.”
The idea, he said, came up at last year’s VinExpo and since then he’s been working tirelessly to get Kitty-chan, as she’s known in Japan, onto the bottles.
There are 16 individual labels, designed by Japanese artist, illustrator and designer, Hiro Sugiyama. Herman says that he has a distribution agreement in place in Japan with the Yamaya chain of liquor stores – 400 in all – and is in Hong Kong to promote his product and secure distribution elsewhere in Asia and around the world.
So far, he says, he’s seen a lot of interest from restaurants, and expects that the bottles will also become collector’s favorites.
It’s might end up being a little sweet for some palates – although it pairs well strawberries – but Herman isn’t worried. “It’s for the sweet girls,” he said.