French Vodka: a sophisticated tipple01-07-2016
With its flair and distinctive character, every year French vodka increases its share in foreign markets. In 2014, France exported 161 million litres around the globe.
French vodka mirrors a generally flourishing global market. In 2015, exports of “Made in France” wines and spirits were worth 11.7 billion euros, according to recent figures published by the French federation of wine and spirit exporters (FEVS). This +8.7% increase has enabled the sector to break all previous records. With a trade surplus of 10.4 billion euros, wines and spirits have once again taken position as France’s second commercial surplus after aeronautics.
Vodka plays its part in this surplus. A new breed of French brands such as pioneering brand Grey Goose, its challenger Ciroc, Eristoff or Pyla, have risen through the ranks to feature among the best performers of the world’s no.1 spirit. Most importantly, they have successfully won over the US market, where French vodka has proved quite a hit.
“The French provenance is inextricably linked to our country’s excellent track record in making spirits,” offers Vincent Badreau, sales and marketing manager for Pyla vodka. “We have years of experience making premium wines and spirits, such as Cognac and Armagnac, which are highly sought-after on the US market. This expertise was a reassuring factor when French vodka first arrived on its shores”. The same can be said in China and other countries seduced by white “Made in France” spirits. “We are making luxury, relatively smooth, quite sophisticated vodka. We work with more high-quality cereals like wheat,” explains Vincent Badreau.
Pyla vodka is an exemplar of this approach and reaps the benefits of its parent company Valdronne, who specialise in the design and launch of premium spirits brands.
French vodka at a glance
The mainstay of French vodka is made in Cognac, which is the case for Grey Goose, the most well-known brand, and also Ciroc. Eristoff is made and bottled in Beaucaire in the Gard region, while Pyla is made in Bordeaux. French vodka is largely targeted at young hipsters, at least for the most famous brand. Grey Goose kick-started the scene 18 years ago. It was the dream of Sidney Frank, an American businessman, to launch a premium white spirit with a distinct French identity. He immersed himself in the expertise of the Cognac region. Its success was immediate with 30,000 cases exported in only its second year of trading.
In the throws of the commercial export success of Grey Goose, Ciroc was born. To differentiate from the competition, the new French vodka brand tried a different approach. It would be the world’s first grape-based vodka, offering a particularly popular fruity dimension.
Pyla, vodka of the dunes
There are currently some thirty French vodka brands on the market. Amongst them, Pyla has forged its place on this uber-competitive market. Made from high-quality French wheat, and gluten-free to remove some of the bitterness, this is the signature of a vodka bearing the name of the sand dune so famous among locals and tourists alike.
“Our approach is honest and frank. We focus on its Bordeaux provenance and proximity to the Charente region, which is strongly linked to Cognac. But what really differentiates our vodka is the sand from the Dune de Pyla through which we filter the vodka. It is rooted geographically both nationally and regionally,” underlines Vincent Badreau, sales and marketing manager of a brand which has earned its place among the very best. At least 20,000 bottles were sold in France last year.
Several thousand bottles were also exported. “We are starting to attract markets at completely different ends of the geographic spectrum. Sales in Europe are quite sporadic, essentially in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. Interestingly we have started selling in Cambodia; as a nation they are huge vodka fans, and in Kazakhstan and even Irak. And we are also in Australia, which is a similar market to the States,” explains Vincent Badreau.
Pyla vodka has a wide, relatively upmarket audience, who enjoy their spirits in a variety of ways. Pyla can be enjoyed as a cocktail component, as a digestive, or even with certain food pairings such as fish or caviar. “It’s an elegant, food-friendly vodka”. A vodka with a great future ahead, like all those who have dipped their toes in the export scene.