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France needs to do better at selling itself hears French Wines Discovery tasting

Published:  14 January, 2015

France needs to better communicate its enviable attributes, according to a Harpers trade debate held at this week's French Wines Discoveries fair in London.

France needs to better communicate its enviable attributes, according to a Harpers trade debate held at this week's French Wines Discoveries   fair in  London.

"France sells, but do you sell France?" was at the heart of the central debate which started the fair, featuring 120 producers, at London'sTobacco Dock.

Key trade figures were on hand to tackle the theme: 'Making French Wines Work for Your Business'. This sparked a lively panel debate as to whether long familiarity with the UKs still dominant premium wine category means that France is too often left to sell itself, meaning that businesses fail to best capitalise on returns from this leading part of their portfolio.

All agreed that France's mix of quality aura and benchmark regions, alongside the individuality and excitement found in its sheer breadth of wine styles, remains second to none. This in turn, though, can often lead to merchants and sommeliers weighting their listing to the big hitting appellations and names and - being naturally busy - taking a back seat as those wines sell themselves.

There was also general agreement that New World countries, especially, have been far better at marketing themselves and that both the trade and drinks journalists tend to chase the excitement of new and more obscure finds at the expense of the old and established.

"Other countries in general, and the New World in particular, have been much better at tying in the marketing of their wine with food, travel and tourism and delivering a simpler but much more coherent message," said Joan Torrents, director of buying, Enotria.

Harpers was one of the key partners of the tasting and hosted a debate looking at how the trade can make the most of French wines in the UK

However, although the complexity of France may be confusing to the novice wine drinker, Torrents argued the country should not dumb down its wine offer or look to mass brands. He instead suggested France needs to better communicate the positives of having a bewildering diversity of wines, using elements of this message to attract the adventurous and more knowledgeable wine drinkers.

Alan Montague-Dennis, prestige director at Mentzendorff, illustrated a similar point, describing London's diverse demographics as "a collection of villages appealing to a global market" matched by a France that has "something to appeal to every village at every price point."

Ben Llewelyn of Carte Blanche Wines touched on a further bias in communication that inherently works against the longer established regions of France and elsewhere. Namely that the new always seems more exciting and exotic.

"Journalists, and the trade to an extent too, tend to consider the new and unknown to be more exciting, overlooking the more traditional wine regions," said Llewelyn. "But if you look to the Languedoc, for example, there are so many innovative and interesting wines, and even in traditional places like Bordeaux there is so much going on that is exciting."

For Neb Gusic, business development director, at Bancroft Wines, education remains key. "France can be both exiting and classic, it does both very well and often in the same region and this is the message that we must keep passing on."

* You can read a full report on the debate at the overall French Wine Discoverties tasting, organised by Wine4Trade,  that took place at London's Tobacco Dock on January 13 in the February issue of Harpers.