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In the 20s and 30s, Lillet was served on very special occasions and at official receptions, soon becoming the aperitif in vogue all over the world. In 1937, Lillet’s first major advertising campaign was designed for the American market. The campaign by French artist Robert Wolff, better known as Roby’s, remains famous in the USA and France to this day.
After the Second World War, the small family-run company decided to focus on exporting the brand to the US market. Lillet became the star drink of every trendy New York bar. The Anglo-Saxon market really took off in 1945 with the launch of Lillet Dry, which could be mixed with gin or served in cocktails and inspired the famous Vesper.
In 1962, it was Pierre Lillet who expanded the range by adding Lillet Rouge, a stronger, ruby colored alternative to its white counterpart, which appealed to Lillet fans and red wine lovers alike. In 1972 came the 1961 vintage “Lillet Vieux”. The brand was already called “Lillet” in the USA for customs reasons and Kina Lillet officially became Lillet worldwide.
The Lillet brand acquired a new lease of life on the French market in 1985 with the organization of numerous tasting sessions in Bordeaux and Paris and a more modern and sophisticated design for the bottle. In 1995, Lillet won the gold medal at the International Wine Competition, confirming its quality once again. In 1999, Lillet became one of the 100 top-selling brands in France.
The 21st century has seen Lillet go from strength to strength, with ever more countries discovering the brand. Connoisseurs and mixologists ensure that Lillet features in all top cocktail bars around the world, leading to the launch of Lillet Rosé in 2011, which immediately won the Chairman’s Trophy at the Ultimate Beverage Challenge.
French wine is nearly synonymous with fine wine and all things epicurean, France has a culture of wine production and consumption that is deeply rooted in tradition. Many of the world’s most beloved grape varieties originated here, as did the concept of “terroir”—soil type, elevation, slope and mesoclimate combine to produce resulting wines that convey a sense of place. Accordingly, most French wine is labeled by geographical location, rather than grape variety. So a general understaning of which grapes correspond to which regions can be helpful in navigating all of the types of French wine. Some of the greatest wine regions in the world are here, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône and Champagne, but each part of the country has its own specialties and strengths.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the king and queen of Burgundy, producing elegant French red and white wines with great acidity, the finest examples of which can age for decades. The same two grapes, along with Pinot Meunier, are used to make Champagne.
Of comparable renown is Bordeaux, focused on bold, structured red blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc including sometimes a small amount of Petit Verdot or Malbec. The primary white varieties of Bordeaux are Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
The northern Rhône Valley is responsible for single-varietal Syrah, while the south specializes in Grenache blends; Rhône's main white variety is Viognier.
Most of these grape varieties are planted throughout the country and beyond, extending their influence into other parts of Europe and New World appellations.
Historically a dry, herb-infused, and sometimes pleasantly bitter fine wine, today vermouth is indispensable to any modern mixologist. Typically vermouths are Italian if red and sweet and French if golden and drier in character.