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L-R and South West trump ‘irrelevant’ Bordeaux for younger drinkers

Published:  20 November, 2019

The days of the old French wine hierarchy, with Bordeaux and Burgundy sitting atop a carefully calibrated pecking order, are numbered, according to a Harpers cross-trade panel.

This bold assertion was made at a recent Harpers-Region l’Occitaine round table at New Street Wine in London, where the opportunities offered by the wines of Languedoc-Roussillon and South West France were explored by a group of leading merchants, on-trade buyers and importers, leading to the conclusion that the wines of these regions are not seen as outliers by younger consumers.

In fact, quite the reverse, with a lack of knowledge or interest in France’s big ticket names levelling the playing field for the diverse styles from regions that just 20 years ago were considered outliers, with most wines destined to fill gluggable volume slots on the lower shelves.

“For young people Bordeaux is completely irrelevant now, and there isn’t the same hierarchy of classics and non-classics - many lists in London have no Bordeaux, so in the future consumers will look at Languedoc-Roussillon as being just a region of France, not a binary classic vs non-classic choice,” said Simon Taylor, managing director of Stone, Vine & Sun, a specialist in the wines of the region.

Importer Daniel Lambert concurred, adding, “the days of classic Bordeaux and Burgundy are numbered and that is where a huge opportunity lies for these regions”.

He also said that the sweet spot in terms of sales for Languedoc-Roussillon wines currently lies in the £10 to £20 RRP region (or on-trade equivalent), with those present all reporting similar healthy mid-price engagement with the wines in indie merchants and restaurants.

Both the diversity and value offered out of Languedoc-Roussillon and the South West were cited as major pluses for merchants and restaurants, with Lambert and others saying that the ‘lack of baggage’ accompanying the wines provides a clean slate to build a positive image for the wines.

France was berated by those present for being behind when it comes to promotion and marketing, especially when compared with New World producers. However, the panel added, this could work in favour of the more innovative and dynamic French winemakers in the south, with social media channels ideal for communicating the excitement and diversity being generated and engaging afresh with new consumers.

Another key point was that it is essential to get this diversity under the nose of the consumer, with the variety of styles and value to quality ratio typically meaning a high number of conversions and sales.

Rebecca Gergely, French wine buyer at Enotria&Coe, said: “A lot of younger people don’t know anything about France and when they go to a tasting they love Languedoc, Rousillion and South west wines… there’s such a diversity of soil and climate, of terroir, that it is a real strength for these regions”.

A full report on this round table will appear in in the December issue of Harpers Wine & Spirit