Customer Story

Les Grands Chais de France: Finding new ways to offer a virtual taste of French wine culture

Les Grands Chais de France is switching to Google Workspace to help its international teams collaborate easily, stay close to clients, and develop new ways to communicate digitally about its wines.

Google Cloud results

Connecting teams to better engage with 170+ markets

• Helps international teams to communicate effectively across borders with a unified solution that offers multiple channels
• Enables IT teams to focus on providing better support to employees by reducing maintenance tasks
• Keeps commercial teams close to clients by enabling new digital experiences such as virtual tastings on Google Meet

The French concept of "terroir" originates from a particular winemaking area, and refers to the way the character of a region is expressed in the flavors of its wines. While the French wine producer and distributor Les Grands Chais de France may be the largest global producer of French wine by volume, this family-run company is rooted in the idea of "terroir". As well as producing high quality wines to sell around the world, it wants to make sure customers know exactly what's in their glass, so they can fully enjoy a taste of traditional French culture.

Key to the success of Les Grands Chais de France is its role as both a distributor and a producer. To operate its production and distribution networks, as well as stay close to its international markets, it has more than 3,000 team members located across France and abroad. It participates throughout the wine-making process, from growing the grapes to bottling and maturation, working in close cooperation with wine cellars and viticulturists to make sure its wines use the latest technologies.

As 80% of Les Grands Chais de France's wines are sold to the international market, its focus is on promoting French wine internationally in the 176 countries where its products are present. "As well as working very closely with our producers, our mission is to remain close to our clients, who range from large distributors to wine shops, from supermarkets to hotels and restaurants," explains Anne-Laure Helfrich, who is Head of Marketing at Les Grands Chais de France (and is part of the second generation of Helfrichs to be involved in winemaking). "Because wine preferences are linked to a country's culture, those needs are very localized," she says. "For example, there's a big demand for rosé in French and American markets, while other palates are still discovering it."

In 2020, following the shift to home working due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Les Grands Chais de France decided to transform its IT infrastructure by implementing a single solution to replace its previous productivity tools. The immediate goal was to make it easier for employees in different locations to work together, but the company also wanted to open up new ways of digitally sharing information with customers. As a first step to making this happen, Les Grands Chais de France is providing its employees with an integrated business productivity and collaboration solution: Google Workspace.

"Customers increasingly want more detailed information, and they want to receive it quickly," says Anne-Laure. "We need our teams to collaborate effectively wherever they are located, which means being able to exchange information and work together easily."

Choosing a unified solution to keep things simple

"Customers increasingly want more detailed information, and they want to receive it quickly. We need our teams to collaborate effectively wherever they are located, which means being able to exchange information and work together easily." — Anne-Laure Helfrich, Head of Marketing, Les Grands Chais de France

When Franck Ostertag, CIO at Les Grands Chais de France, arrived at the company in November 2019, the group had already decided that it needed to renew its digital tools to align with changing work practices and accommodate its growing workforce. When the global COVID-19 pandemic arrived, it accelerated the process. The existing IT infrastructure didn't have the necessary tools in place for the transition to home working, so numerous solutions were quickly implemented to perform similar functions, including multiple tools to share documents and conduct video meetings. That made it difficult for team members in different locations to communicate effectively.

Franck wanted to replace the multiple tools with a unified collaborative solution that would make things simpler for employees. "Simplicity is a key factor for us," says Franck. "That's particularly important in the context of a pandemic, because if a tool isn't easy to use, people won't adopt it. That's why we chose Google Workspace, because it offers tools that are simple and intuitive, despite performing complex jobs."

Another goal is reducing the time IT administrators need to spend on system maintenance, in order to offer more support to employees. "We want to concentrate on essential work that brings value to the business," says Franck. "With Google Workspace, we're able to spend time helping employees make the most of the tools, rather than managing multiple email servers."

Helping teams work together, from any location

"A deciding factor for us was the ability of Google Cloud Search to find the right information quickly. Without Cloud Search, it's an extremely time-consuming task, however well you classify your files and emails." — Franck Ostertag, CIO, Les Grands Chais de France

For the full implementation, Les Grands Chais de France is taking a phased approach for a smooth transition. Starting with the IT team itself, it's then migrating a number of Google Workspace "ambassadors" to spread the word among employees, followed by its commercial staff. After that, the rest of the group is also making the switch. "We want to make sure everyone understands the potential of the tools, and feels confident using them," says Franck.

By implementing Gmail, Google Chat, and Google Meet, Les Grands Chais de France employees can easily connect using the communication channel that suits them best. "And often, particularly since the switch to home working, we are using all three at once," Franck comments.

They can also work together on a single document in real time using Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Sheets. "That's something that's really important, as it eliminates the issue of version control and means five people in separate locations can all work together at the same time," says Franck. And the ability to search across content using Google Cloud Search is also key in a business that handles multiple brands, products, and vintages.

"A deciding factor for us was the ability of Google Cloud Search to find the right information quickly,” says Franck. "Without Cloud Search, it's an extremely time-consuming task, however well you classify your files and emails."

For Les Grands Chais de France's non-factory-based employees, distance working doesn't just mean collaborating with colleagues from home. It means sharing ideas and experiences. "For us, being able to be very present with our clients, even from a distance, is crucial because we need to conduct tastings and help them understand our products," says Anne-Laure. "Conducting a tasting via Google Meet enables us to offer a similar experience and results, even though it's happening virtually."

Working together to find new ways to communicate

"We have an ambitious plan for transforming the company in the next five years. We believe that Google Workspace, and later Google Cloud, will help us do that, using technology to make our wine speak." — Franck Ostertag, CIO, Les Grands Chais de France

Since making the switch to Google Workspace, Les Grands Chais de France is able to connect different teams and skill sets across the company using Google Workspace collaborative tools. "We're a family of 3,000 people that works together across teams, and we need to access each others' knowledge to serve our clients," says Anne-Laure. "With Google Workspace, we're able to do that."

The next phase in the company's transformation is to explore how Google Cloud tools can help it communicate in new ways. "We want to use technology to make it even easier to learn more about our products, especially under the current restrictions," says Anne-Laure. It's exploring options such as creating interactive labels that can be scanned using a mobile phone. It's also planning to implement Chromebooks and Google Meet hardware to support its employees in making the most of Google Workspace.

"We have an ambitious plan for transforming the company in the next five years," says Franck. "We believe that Google Workspace, and later Google Cloud, will help us do that, using technology to make our wine speak."

*Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite prior to Oct. 6, 2020.