Q & A

Mireille Guiliano:
The Bubbly Biz's Bon Vivant

Mireille Guiliano
President, Clicquot Inc.

Mentors: Her mother, and PR exec Irving Smith Kogan.

Favorite magazine: The New Yorker

Hours of sleep each night: Six

Favorite vacation spots: The K Club off Anguilla and her apartment in Paris

March 5, 2001, 12:00 AM EST

Mireille Guiliano, president of the U.S. marketing arm of French champagne maker Veuve Clicquot, throws fabulous parties with gorgeous flowers, great music, fine food--and cases of Veuve Clicquot, of course. But those events do more than just entertain her guests, who include distributors and top customers, as well as chefs and wine connoisseurs. Guiliano's parties also have helped to galvanize Veuve Clicquot's U.S. sales: Its share of the U.S. champagne market has jumped from 1 percent in 1984, when Guiliano was hired, to 15 percent today.

Guiliano, a soft-spoken, tr?s chic woman, traces her knack for hospitality to her childhood in Alsace and Provence, France. Her family “always had a house full of company,” she says. “My mother was always cooking. For her it was a joy. Entertaining, giving pleasure was something I inherited.”

A true bon vivant and a one-time Sorbonne student and interpreter--her languages include Italian and German as well as English and French--Guiliano moved to the United States in 1973. She became a translator at the United Nations, and later a public relations executive at a firm that represented the French champagne industry; Veuve Clicquot, one of its producers, hired her away in 1984 to start its U.S. arm, Clicquot Inc.

Since then the empire of Veuve Clicquot, now part of the luxury conglomerate LVMH, has blossomed: Its portfolio today includes more than 15 top wines and champagnes. And besides increasing Veuve Clicquot's U.S. sales, Guiliano has established it as the champagne of choice at such luxe restaurants as Le Cirque 2000, Jean-Georges and Daniel.

To charm Veuve Clicquot's customers, influential foodies, and professional and personal friends, Guiliano throws between six and 12 parties per year in New York and another five to 10 around the country. Among her prime events is Clicquot Inc.'s annual Halloween bash, which rotates among six American cities and features offbeat entertainment and prizes for the best costumes. Clicquot also throws an annual Bastille Day event, using tons of sand to create a p?tanque court on a Manhattan street.

Guiliano also hosts an annual Fourth of July blowout in the triplex apartment she shares with her husband, complete with two terraces, on West 14th Street. “We have an unblocked, 360-degree view of Manhattan, so we can see the Hudson River and all of the fireworks,” she says.

What matters most to Guiliano when she throws a party, particularly in her home, are the flowers (she uses designer Olivier Giugni of L'Olivier Floral Atelier for more formal occasions, and makes her own arrangements for more casual events); the music (she has a piano and sometimes brings in jazz musicians); and, to go with the wine, the food (which she cooks herself or has catered by Daniel Boulud, Tentation and others). She often plans menus specifically to show off the variety of Clicquot's wines and champagnes. To help guests pace themselves, she always prepares a printed menu, which they can consult before they begin to eat and drink.

One of the secrets to Guiliano's success: the soft sell that pervades all of her events. “I don't spend half a million dollars to do a party. I'm not trying to sell my guests anything,” she says. “They just want to have a good time.”

Posted 03.05.01

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