Wine Merchant Directory Blog


How has Bordeaux wine survived amidst competition?

For decades, UK wine enthusiasts were sold overpriced, mediocre Bordeaux wines by gentlemen that ‘look the part’. In the 70s and 80s, anyone who held an interest in wine was targeted by retails, who over time managed to develop reputations for ‘selling fine wines’.

Then came the 90s, where investors got increasingly involved, leading it to become an overpriced commodity, though becoming financially successful along the way. Each year, they would travel to Bordeaux to meet with individual Chateaux owners to discuss what they thought the UK market would be willing to pay for this year’s vintage. It was rarely about tasting and evaluating wine for quality, moreover about the market demands, forces and artificial demand they were able to create and sustain!

Fortunately, the UK market has developed since then. Wine lovers have discovered that there is much better wine than that sold by these gentlemen. The level of knowledge of the market increased it was soon after that they realised there were plenty of better options than that was force fed to them through the medium of supermarkets.

There was a time in the 90s where many consumers became incredibly engaged in the consumption of Australian single varietal wines, though discerning importers found that they needed to find better wines with more character. This occurred at the same time that key wine growing countries such as New Zealand, Chile and Argentina, who began blending their red grapes like in Bordeaux wine.

This presented an advantage to these warmer climate countries, who began using similar ideas and techniques adopted in Bordeaux. They actually have now a better advantage through their growing condition though could arguably have lesser knowledge and talent.

They hold advantage through their growing conditions though could arguably have lesser knowledge and talent. However, these countries can import French oak barriques, technological equipment and even the talent (whilst France could not important the sunshine!). Whilst the Bordeaux region is totally capable of producing and supplying wines that are beautiful in flavour, it was not necessarily the stuff that was exported to the UK. It was lesser versions that were sold based on their ‘reputation’ of the region, rather than the wine itself.

There are a plentiful number of wines from Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, California etc. that have beaten Bordeaux wine in blind tastings, at just a fraction of the price. These ‘new world' countries will give you better quality when matched up pound for pound, whilst even Italy can offer a better quality pound for pound when compared against certain Bordeaux.

So, how have Bordeaux continued selling their wine amidst this? Well, the wave of the Chinese consumer has undoubtedly come to the rescue. Since the ‘middle’ and ‘upper’ class of China is growing as unprecedented rates, the amount of disposable income available for wine purchases has gone up significantly. This has meant China has quickly become the biggest importer and consumer of wine, especially for red wine. In recent years, numerous Bordeaux chateaus have been acquired by Chinese owners, signalling the future of the next few years of Chinese wine consumption.

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