Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FOCUS

Hunger in a fertile land...

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville peace talks suspended

Read more

ENCORE!

High-tech acting king Andy Serkis on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Read more

REPORTERS

Hong Kong in rebellion against the 'motherland'

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

Dalia Grybauskaite, President of the Republic of Lithuania

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

Gaza: children caught up in the conflict

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Was the UN chief’s speech in Tel Aviv really a 'shameful message'?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

France concerned about anti-Semitism

Read more

WEB NEWS

Online movement demands peace in Gaza

Read more

  • Live: Pro-Palestinian protest staged in Paris under tight security

    Read more

  • UN human rights chief blasts Israel-Gaza ‘war crimes’

    Read more

  • Bomb attacks leave scores dead in north Nigeria

    Read more

  • Gaza protests: ‘France imported the Mideast conflict a long time ago’

    Read more

  • Poland’s Rafal Majka wins 17th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Remains of Flight MH17 victims arrive in the Netherlands

    Read more

  • Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down over rebel-held territory

    Read more

  • TransAsia Airways Taiwan crash leaves dozens dead

    Read more

  • Video: Fear, death and mourning in Gaza’s Khan Younis

    Read more

  • Young riders raise French hopes for Tour de France

    Read more

  • Defying UK, France to proceed with warships sale to Russia

    Read more

  • US courts issue conflicting reports on Obamacare

    Read more

  • Video: Lebanon fears fallout from regional turmoil

    Read more

  • Widodo wins Indonesian presidential election

    Read more

France

French wine industry ponders shift in marketing strategy

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-06-25

French winemakers are gradually giving in to global marketing trends, focussing on grape type rather than the region of production. Though it may boost sales worldwide, in a country with a proud wine tradition, this shift is hard to swallow.

The French wine industry is increasingly focusing on grape type, rather than region of production, as a key factor in marketing to boost wine sales and resist competition. In a country with a proud wine tradition, the shift is not easy.

The French wine industry—a source of national revenue and pride—is changing to adapt to a globalised market, with labeling practices the latest focus of professionals in the field.

Whereas France has historically considered its wines to be products of various regions (Burgundy, Bordeaux, Médoc), other major wine markets frequently market wines as products of specific grape types (Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, or Malbec, among many others).

At this week’s Vinexpo Wine Fair in Bordeaux, the consensus seemed to be that France, too, would increasingly have to focus on grape type in order to boost flagging wine sales and distribution. But that shift may not be a smooth one in a country with a deep attachment to wine and its own way of producing, selling, and drinking it.

‘Terroir’ versus commercial viability

A recent study carried out by Sopexa, an international food marketing group, found that up to 60 percent of wine importers from 12 different countries across Europe, North America, and Asia were anticipating an increase in orders of “varietal” wine (wine made from a single type of grape and marketed primarily with that grape name). Varietal wines are especially sought-after in Britain, the US, and Canada. Cabernet Sauvignon is the grape poised to be most in demand, according to wine experts, ahead of Pinot Noir and Merlot.

But most traditional French wines do not even display the name of the grape on the bottle. And despite a 2004 reform that authorised in France the sale of wine marketed by grape type rather than region, there is resistance to adopting that practice. According to Toulouse-based wine merchant Philippe Chaumont, “it’s easier for countries with less wine history. They can invent a system for marketing their wine from scratch. They’re trying to sell to the entire world. In France, when wine sales first started, the point was to sell to the next village over, and then the next region, and so on.”

That deeply ingrained mentality has, according to Chaumont, “penalised France in wine sales abroad, since the name of the vineyard or the region doesn’t mean anything to the average customer looking for an affordable wine”.

Popular French wine stores like the Nicolas chain, considered a middle step between supermarkets and independent wine merchants, have nevertheless been boosting their varietal wine offerings. Indeed, for France—which lost its title as world’s biggest wine producer to Italy in 2008, but remains the top wine exporter – the name of a grape will be a more effective marketing tool in its competition with thriving wine markets in various countries, from Argentina to China. It’s also a way to attract a younger, less wine-savvy clientele.

But the shift toward an emphasis on grapes in selling wine is, for France, a shift away from a tradition of geographic appellation that placed emphasis on the cherished French concept of “terroir” – the impact of region, climate, and land on the taste. “Each wine should represent its particular region,” said Chaumont. “When I’m drinking a Tuscan wine, I don’t want it to taste like a Beaujolais.”

Bordeaux is generally considered the most popular appellation, or geographical indication of wine, particularly in Asian markets. Five of the ten top-selling wine regions in Europe are Italian—but the top three are French.

That fact perhaps explains the feeling of independent wine merchants like Chaumont. “I understand that varietal wines are better adapted to today’s market, but wine is a cultural product,” he said. “It’s history, a past, a region, an exchange between people.”

If France ends up gravitating decisively toward an industry catered around grape types instead of regions, “we’ll all lose”, he said.

Date created : 2011-06-23

  • FRANCE

    French champagne giant to plant vines in China

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    Vintage 1773 French wine fetches record price at auction

    Read more

COMMENT(S)