By Timothy Coghlan
The economic bubble may have burst long ago in Japan, but bubbles of a different kind still persist in many venues across Tokyo. Synonymous with celebration, celebrities, good time and good taste, champagne is the drink of choice for many occasions. Demand for champagne worldwide is on the rise and recently experts in the wine industry have been talking about the current ‘wine revolution,’ with prices expected to rise in the coming months.
To date, champagne brands such as Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon have tried to take the taste buds of Japan’s drinkers away from the traditional karakuchi (dry and sour) spirits such as shochu and sake that the older and more affluent generations grew up on. This challenge is slowly being eliminated by young consumers who have been raised on Western cuisine and an over supply of TV shows and magazines dedicated to modern dining. In general this change in drinking culture is a blessing for wine brands, however, it has also brought about other problems. For Charles-Antoine Picart, Brand Director for Dom Pérignon in Japan, one of his main challenges is controlling the brand’s image of creativity, seduction and luxury. For luxury brands, more customers are not necessarily a sought after thing, as too many regular consumers have the effect of watering down a brand’s perceived status. Situations such as people drinking directly from the bottle are exactly the type of behavior brands like Dom Pérignon try to avoid, as they aim for the high-end luxury market that treats those worthy to a classy and sophisticated ‘Hyatt and Ritz–Carlton’ type of experience.
To maintain their image and contact with customers, many of the champagne and wine companies conduct educational dinners at some of the most expensive hotels around Tokyo. These intimate dinners are usually held in private function rooms and feature a specialized chef and select wines chosen by the inhouse sommelier. Champagne brands also conduct their own promotional events throughout the year, often collaborating with celebrity designers or other luxury brands. Since 2006 the Creative Director for Dom Pérignon has been none other than famous fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld. He has done special projects with Dom Pérignon Rosé and his current campaigns feature European supermodels Eva Herzigova and Claudia Schiffer in sensual and alluring scenes. Last November Dom Pérignon also collaborated with designer Marc Newson to introduce a special lime-green ice bucket, which is on display and for sale in selected high-end establishments around Tokyo.
Despite the emergence of other Asian economies, there is still no other connoisseur market like Japan when it comes to luxury dining establishments that feature prestige wines and scotches. Even in Europe there may not be a country who’s customers are as discerning and willing to spend as in Japan. To take advantage of this situation, many of the top hotels in Tokyo put on special champagne brunches every weekend. The popularity of these brunches is proven by the fact that the hotels don’t go to any great effort to promote their brunches, yet they are always well attended. Three hotels offering champagne brunches include the Park Hyatt, the Grand Hyatt and the Ritz–Carlton.
Timothy is a freelance style and design writer and can be contacted at email@example.com
The Park Hyatt Shinjuku
Still enjoying the popularity gained from the movie Lost in Translation, Tokyo’s most famous luxury hotel is the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku. Perched on the 52nd floor of the hotel, the Park Hyatt’s New York Grill restaurant has been offering a Sunday champagne brunch for 14 years. The Park Hyatt’s brunch, which has a friendly atmosphere (families with children are welcome), is offered on Sundays from 11:30 to 14:30. For ¥6,200 guests are privileged to a glass of Anderson Valley Champagne upon entry and are then free to help themselves to the appetizer buffet featuring a fantastic array of seasonal dishes. Guests can then choose a main meal from a selection of six dishes before heading back to the buffet for dessert.
Besides the impeccable food and service, another unique aspect of the New York Grill is that the space is semi-divided into two areas, granting guests the opportunity of relocating after the main course to witness the live jazz music and sample coffees, desserts and a magnificent view of Tokyo from a different angle. The Park Hyatt also hosts special events on many of the major festivals throughout the year including Christmas Day and Valentine’s Day that have featured exclusive tie-ins with champagne brands such as Cristal.
Photograph courtesy of Hyatt Group
The Grand Hyatt Roppongi
Belonging to the same group company, the Champagne Brunch at the Grand Hyatt in Roppongi follows a similar format to that of the Park Hyatt. Although the Park Hyatt boasts better views, the Grand Hyatt backs onto Roppongi Hills which lures shoppers into its labyrinth for sustained spending sprees. In this way, brunch at the Grand Hyatt’s French Kitchen can be the perfect way to unwind and relax after a concerted morning of reckless consumption. Just be sure to keep at least ¥5,800 for brunch. Alternatively, a few laps of Roppongi Hill’s labyrinth could do wonders for your digestion after the sumptuous brunch.
The Grand Hyatt’s Champagne Brunch is set in a relaxed atmosphere and available on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from 11:30 to 15:00. Guests can look forward to a glass of Piper–Heidsieck white champagne and may then choose their main course from a selection, while appetizers and dessert are served in a buffet style. The Grand Hyatt also serves Bollinger and Dom Pérignon by the glass.
Photograph courtesy of Hyatt Group
The Ritz–Carlton Roppongi
The Ritz–Carlton, nestled in the upper floors of Tokyo Midtown, has taken the bold move of making Dom Pérignon their house champagne, making it an essential part of the Ritz’s brunch experience that runs between 11:30 and 15:30 on Sundays. Held in the Forty Five restaurant on the 45th floor, the brunch costs ¥12,500 and consists of a four-course meal (guests can choose one dish from each course), coffee or tea and free flowing Dom Pérignon for two hours. Considering Dom Pérignon when sold individually is priced at ¥36,000 per bottle and ¥4,500 by the glass, two hours of free flowing bubbly becomes quite good value. In February, the Ritz plans to launch a champagne brunch at a Japanese restaurant.
Photograph courtesy of Dom Pérignon