Editorial: Bordeaux must look to the modern world

PRWeek's correspondent in Paris brings us the intriguing news this week that the Bordeaux wine lobby is employing a fresh communications strategy to stem the declining sales of its famous 'claret' across the globe.

The Conseil Interprofessionnel du vin de Bordeaux (CIVR) has decided to franchise the concept of its Bordeaux Wine School, long-established in France, to foreign capitals including London and Tokyo. Bordeaux's winemakers believe that it needs to educate sommeliers, buyers and, ultimately consumers, in the region's unique culture.

It's certainly an appealing idea. Bordeaux is to many the heart of the wine industry and has an enviably emotive story to tell. Since the 12th century, when Henry II acquired the region through marriage, Bordeaux has been famed for its ideal wine-growing climate and unique, gravel soil.

It produces some of the most majestic wines in the world from Chateau Latour in the Medoc to Chateau Petrus near Pomerol.

But herein lies the problem. While its winemakers try to 'teach appreciation', the world's wine drinkers appear to prefer the more straightforward proposition of the New World producers.

In January, a report in The Times revealed that French wine growers were to hand thousands of barrels of the 2004 vintage to industrial distillers due to over supply. The harsh fact is that the uneven French output, bearing the names of obscure chateaux, is being overlooked by consumers who favour consistently-branded and strategically-priced wines from Australia and America.

Even in the Old World, Rioja producers such as Campo Viejo are using new promotional techniques, as media campaigns link their brands with modern cultural trends such as tapas bars and the Barcelona arts scene.

The Bordeaux initiative is an understandable rearguard action to preserve Gallic pride, but will it really stop the (noble) rot? Until French winemakers become consumer-driven, rather than supplier-driven, in their communcations, one suspects not.

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