Bordeaux is still trying to figure out how to sell wine that isn’t from a classed vineyard.
With Millennials and Gen Zedders famously shunning wine, the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) has launched the innovate Hot 50 Bordeaux 2020 Selection as a means to cast off the shackles of dusty mansions and austere châteaux and offer fresh appeal to a new, young audience. As initiatives go, it’s bold for Bordeaux and not without controversy.
The Hot 50 is divided into four shiny categories: fresh and crisp, which covers whites and Crémant de Bordeaux; smooth and fruity – the easy-drinking reds and rosé; rich and complex – the more powerful reds; and ethical – the organic and biodynamic. The latter is a fairly transparent appeal to the woke and socially conscious younger generations.
This will not work. Why would younger drinkers or anyone, for that matter, look to Bordeaux to find wines that fall into generic flavor categories like “smooth and fruity”. The rest of the world already makes those wines and so does the south of France. This isn’t what Bordeaux is about and it isn’t what they do well. Unless they begin permitting MegaPurple and other additives to modify their wine, they can’t make “smooth and fruity” to compete with bulk wines from warmer regions.
Bordeaux makes distinctive wines. Even their lower priced commercial wines taste like Bordeaux and no other region makes wines with that flavor profile. Of course, it is a flavor profile that can be best summed up as “dirt and acid”, and the preferences of the wine world seem to be shifting away from that style. That is a real dilemma but it can’t be solved by nifty slogans and dumbed down classifications.
They are probably right to get rid of the image of “dusty mansions” and “austere Chateaux”. The idea of old world luxury is not going to sell a 12€ wine to an urban tech worker just out of university. But the real problem, at least for their export markets, is that Bordeaux does not offer good value. The quality can be poor even in the $25 range in the U.S.
Given the decline in demand, competition from other products, and economic recession, all wine regions will be going through some retrenchment. The only way forward is to make better wine, more distinctive wine, at lower prices. And perhaps Bordeaux should be thinking about how to persuade people that good wine doesn’t have to be “smooth and fruity”.