How is Bordeaux selling in today
An evolving marketplace and a new Bordeaux: how is Bordeaux adapting to meet the needs of today’s enthusiasts?
The global wine market is evolving at a fast pace. New markets from Poland to Nigeria are opening and China has overtaken France as the number one consumer of red wine. As different cultures embrace wine as part of their lifestyle, the profile of today’s consumer has become as varied as the wines on offer. Along with increased sales, one theme across markets is that today’s consumer is interested in more than just cracking open the bottle. The explosion of wine events and wine schools, the growing number of wine columns and magazines, and the popularity of wine tourism is proof that today’s consumer wants to communicate, to understand and to be involved.
So, how is Bordeaux responding to the changing face of today’s global marketplace and consumer?
Well to start, despite a drop in sales to China, last year Bordeaux exports hit a record high with a total of 314 million bottles valued at 2.29 billion euros exported in the year ending July 2013 (Comité Interprofessionel des Vins de Bordeaux). So, they must be doing something right.
Historically, Bordeaux producers promoted their wines to top journalists, major buyers and wealthy collectors and otherwise maintained a closed-door policy. Considering the success of the region, this approach clearly worked. But as we know times have changed and today’s consumer bears little resemblance to yesterday’s traditional wine drinker.
In many ways, Bordeaux remains very traditional in how it markets and sells its wines. Its main promotional events, En Primeur week and Vinexpo, are still closed to the public, many properties still have no online presence, and cellar door sales are few and far between. However, scratch the surface and you can find examples of how Bordeaux is evolving along with its consumers. From the classed growths to the petits chateaux, there are people and groups blazing the way forward.
So who is leading the charge?
Beginning with the product itself, there are examples of innovative line extensions across the price spectrum labeled as Bordeaux.
In 2012, la famille Ducourt launched Le Blanc Limé, a sparkling low alcohol wine flavoured with natural citrus aromas and bottled with a swing top closure. Jonathan Ducourt explained that the goal in recreating this traditional Bordeaux recipe was “to diversify”, and is having good success in markets across Europe and North America.
Negociant Yvon Mau is seeking to “rejuvenate the fortunes of mid-tier Bordeaux” with the launch of its L’Esprit de Bordeaux collection in key markets worldwide. They partnered with 8 properties to offer good value from the regions best-known appellations.
Chateau Lynch Bages offers wine enthousiasts “who dream of owning their own vineyard” the opportunity to get their hands dirty at Viniv. Customers buy premium wine by the barrel and can participate in production, from harvesting to vinification and blending to creating the label, to produce their very own wines.
Master of Wine Richard Bampfield consults in public relations and encourages his clients to communicate openly with consumers. He explained, “people want to know more and want to know that producers are constantly trying to improve”. He organizes events to facilitate that interaction.
For example he organized an event for top property Chateau Margaux where director Paul Pontalier explained the research the property is undertaking in new technologies and developments, including organic viticulture and screw cap closure.
Another client, Jean Christophe Mau of Chateau Brown has become well known for his honest and open communication, especially after he submitted a letter to the press in October 2013. In the missive he called 2013 “one of the hardest vintages, or perhaps even the most complicated, in the last 30 years” and outlined how the property intended to manage the challenges in the vineyard and cellar.
The changing face of today’s global marketplace
In terms of sales, some properties are breaking from the traditional model to sell directly to the consumer. Today, 70% of Bordeaux wines are still sold through La Place de Bordeaux – the region’s traditional trading system and visitors are hard pressed to find a bottle for sale at a cellar door. Richard Bampfield MW stated that there is a need for a more “direct route to market” in Bordeaux and hopes to see more open cellars and village shops featuring the local wines.
Chateau Bauduc run a very smart operation, selling direct to consumers through mail order and the internet. They are gaining regular listings with star chefs in the UK such as Gordon Ramsay and Rick Stein and are being hailed by top press for this step away from tradition.
It is not just the producers themselves that are trying to reach out to and involve the consumer. The Bordeaux wine council, the Civb, offer the public the opportunity to sample the entire Bordeaux range – reds, dry and sweet whites, rosés, and sparkling wines – in Bar à Vin, a wine bar located in their head offices in the centre of Bordeaux. They also offer a variety of educational courses and chateaux tours and have franchised Bordeaux only wine bars in New York and Shanghai.
The city is also investing in the industry; a €63 million euro wine cultural centre, Cité des Civilisations du Vin is due to open in Bordeaux in 2016, which, according to mayor Alain Juppe will act as a platform for developing wine tourism in southwest France.
So despite its deep rooted traditions, Bordeaux is adapting to its changing markets and new consumers. Examples across the region, from the product itself to the way it is marketed and sold and the efforts of the region itself confirm that a ‘New Bordeaux’ is emerging. And as always, Bordeaux remains with one foot firmly rooted in tradition and one leading the industry forward.
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