‘Promoting Bordeaux whites is our biggest challenge’, CIVB says

Darren Smith

Darren Smith

06 April 2017

Promoting white wines in key markets such as the UK is the biggest marketing challenge Bordeaux producers face, the region’s CIVB has said.

Speaking at a Bordeaux Blanc blending event in Soho last week, the CIVB’s Cécile Ha said that white wines were the natural growth category for the region, and a chance to show consumers a lighter, less serious image than is often associated with its expensive, prestige reds.

Bordeaux’ lighter, fruitier styles of Sauvignon Blanc-dominant dry white blends, mainly produced in as Entre-Deux-Mers, Bordeaux Blanc and Côtes de Bordeaux (as opposed to the more structured whites of Graves and Pessac-Léognan), offered high quality and a significant price advantage compared with other Sauvignon Blanc-producing regions of the world, she said.

'In the UK you drink more dry whites than red but when people think about Bordeaux they think about red,' Ha commented.

'Whereas when people think about Australia or New Zealand they think whites. So we have improve our communication to make people know that we produce dry whites. At the moment this is a handicap for us.

'Some people think the red is a little more complicated, that they need to be knowledgeable about red in order to drink it, whereas they do not have a complex about dry whites.'

Despite being synonymous with reds in recent years, historically Bordeaux was a predominantly white wine-producing region. In the 17th century, most of the region’s dry whites were exported to Holland where they were used for producing brandy.

Today white wine represents just 8% of total AOP wine production. To spark wider consumer interest in Bordeaux Blanc, the CIVB’s summer 2016 advertising campaign gave whites pride of place over the region’s red wines.

Specific on-trade promotions with the likes of, most recently, Mitchells & Butler, promoting wines such as Château Thieuley Blanc, Agneau Blanc and Baron de Luze, continue to push the Bordeaux Blanc category further in this channel.

Amid the runaway success of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, it was time to redress the balance and acknowledge the heritage Bordeaux has with the variety.

'There is a perception that Sauvignon Blanc is a safe option and a New World staple,' Fiona Juby, the UK market consultant for the CIVB, said. 'But the grape originated in Bordeaux and these winemakers have history on their side to get the best out of the grape and diversify the wines with different techniques or, indeed, adding other grapes to the blend.

'There aren’t many other regions which take this notion of blending white wines so personally, and the on-trade can benefit from these winemaker/estate narratives to deliver an interesting story behind the wine when serving to their customers.'

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