The muselet is gaining in aesthetic and marketing value. Le Muselet Valentin is the only French company to retain this expertise. In its ateliers, this small object becomes a distinctive sign of luxury.
Inseparable from champagne, the muselet is also a component in other effervescent alcoholic beverages like sparkling wine, cider and beer. Its role is to keep the cork firmly in place as without it, the pressure that accumulates in the bottle during carbonation would expel the stopper. Originally a simple hemp string, today the muselet is made of metal. The only French manufacturer is Epernay-based Le Muselet Valentin, a company with a history dating back more than 70 years.
This rare expertise could have disappeared from France if, in 1998, Sparflex hadn’t acquired F. Valentin’s then-struggling muselet production. “Valentin created the modern muselet as we know it in the 1960s, at a time when champagne brands were automating their bottling and packaging lines to adapt to increased sales,” explains Sparflex communications director, Julie Renault. Since then, the product has continued to modernize while staying rooted in tradition.
This approach earned Le Muselet Valentin the Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (Living Heritage Company) label in 2012. It is not so much an artistic profession that is on show, but rather a combination of human skill and impressive mechanics. “Whether old or new, our machines are designed in-house as there is no specialized manufacturer for our niche market. These must be entirely reliable, and our mechanics train for at least two years to operate them. There are also specific manual operations that depend solely on human skill. For example, bouncing packets of stacked muselets to evaluate and control their flexibility before delivery, which is an important criteria in our clients’ conditioning process,” adds Renault.
The muselet combines three components: the belt, (or the metal band that surrounds the bottle neck); the cage, made of strands of twisted wire; and the round plate that sits on top. The twisting of wire alone is a highly precise operation and the result must be both flexible and aesthetically pleasing. There even exists a muselet (called muselet B), which features longer twisted wire strands than the classic version, adding to its design appeal.
Manufacturing the plate calls for a very different industrial process. It begins with a strip of tinplate that is printed, cut into small disks and then stamped into shape. Great pains are taken with the capsule as it conveys the brand’s image. It can also be enhanced via several decoration techniques: offset, pad printing, digital printing for small runs or stamping to create textures and relief effects to name a few. Color Bab by Sparflex can be used to create custom colors and new varnishes.
In 2017, Le Muselet Valentin teamed up with Ateliers Martineau, specialists in diestruck medals, for the Art & Craft concept: a plate that can feature up to five layers of texture per engraving. The process was industrialized in 2019 after the development of a dedicated machine.
Its talent for technological evolution enables Le Muselet Valentin to respond to market trends, from ultra-personalization to premiumization. Beer, for example, is one sector currently looking to increase its appeal. That should also delight placomuophiles, or collectors of muselet plates.
With 41 employees, a turnover of €12.7m in 2018 (+4.5% over 2017), and commercial ventures in new sparkling wine markets, the company can expect an effervescent future.
This article originally appeared in our sister publication Formes de Luxe.