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Bordeaux’s Plan to Cull Chateaux

Reports from Jane Anson in Decanter and from the AFP have revealed Bordeaux’s plan to drastically reduce the number of chateaux producing low cost “Basic Bordeaux”. These plans, hailed as the ideas for “Bordeaux Tomorrow”, were unveiled at a meeting announcing the handover of the presidency of the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) from winemaker Alain Vironneau to negociant Georges Haushalter, general manager of Compagnie Medocaine des Grands Crus.

The CIVB’s strategy, dubbed “The Reconquest”, is to increase overall production by 12% while reducing the current 1.1 million hectolitre production of so-called “Basic Bordeaux”. At a conference held following the CIVB general assembly, trade leaders declared there was no room for “Basic” in Bordeaux’s future. Georges Haushalter has said that “the ‘Basic’ wine does not correspond to the image of Bordeaux”. This is because producers and merchants fear that the cheaper Bordeaux labels dilute the region’s image as the home of prestigious wines.

I think this stinks! The chateaux at the upper end of Bordeaux’s wine industry are busy pricing themselves out of their traditional markets and are positioning themselves as luxury goods at the expense of the little guys. Many petit chateaux and co-operatives produce super wines that quite simply don’t get the publicity and exposure that their grandiose brethren enjoy. Lesser known appellations – some of which have fabulous terroir and great potential – are just not heard of. Take Sainte Croix du Mont for example – it is endowed with one of nature’s strange wonders – it lies upon a panoramic plateau comprised of vast fossilised oyster beds which give it an exceptional terroir. If you want to find out more about these appellations check out my blogs here.

Apparently as part of the new campaign, the number of countries targeted for marketing has been reduced from 60 to 30. No surprises which country the Bordelaise are giving top priority to . . . China. Seven markets will receive priority: China, the United States, Britain, Japan, Germany, Belgium and France. Nine other markets, including Hong Kong, South Korea, Russia and Canada come just behind.

The all-powerful CIVB, run by winegrowers and merchants, will use government quality control measures to remove poor-quality producers. The strategy offers business plans for struggling wine merchants, overhauls the focus of wine cooperatives, and divides Bordeaux’s current wine production into four price categories — Art, Exploration, Fun, and the much-maligned Basic. Under the plan, one-third of the current 1.1 million hectolitres of “Basic” will be improved and sold in a higher category, one-third will become another product like rose or clairet and one-third of the vines will be ripped up.

In my opinion it is not only the wine producers who are going to lose out – it is the consumer as well. If Bordeaux spent more time valuing and promoting what it has got under its nose rather than pandering to the precious few it would find be better for all of us. Sadly Bordeaux’s wine producers are too fragmented to pull together and those with a say are starting to resemble a cartel. As usual the little guy loses out.

Some of these lesser known appellations and the wine producers they represent have only just started to obtain a presence on the internet, some have no presence at all. I have compiled a list – by no means comprehensive, of all the appellations websites that promote their wines so that those of you who enjoy pocket pleasing Bordeaux can learn more about them. Where there is no website I have included the phone number of the Syndicat Viticole. I created Bordeaux-Undiscovered to bring wines that are not seen outside France to you and will carry on doing so – it’s a shame that the CIVB doesn’t agree with me!

The Appellations

Barsac – Sweet White Wine
www.barsac.fr
www.sauternes-barsac.com

Blaye – Dry White Wine, Red Wine
www.aoc-blaye.com
www.bordeaux-cotes.com

Bordeaux and Bordeaux Sec – Dry White Wine
www.planete-bordeaux.net

Bordeaux – Red Wine
www.planete-bordeaux.net

Bordeaux Clairet – Clairet
www.planete-bordeaux.net

Bordeaux Haut Benauge – Sweet White Wine
www.bordeaux-haut-benauge.com

Bordeaux Rosé – Rosé
www.planete-bordeaux.net

Bordeaux Supérieur – Red Wine, Sweet White Wine, Dry White Wine
www.maisondesbordeaux.com

Cadillac – Sweet White Wine
www.cadillacgrainsnobles.com
www.bordeaux-cotes.com

Canon Fronsac – Red Wine
www.vins-fronsac.com

Cérons – Sweet White Wine
tél. 05 56 27 02 43

Côtes de Bordeaux Saint Macaire – Sweet White Wine
tél. 05 56 76 40 20

Côtes de Francs – Dry White Wine, Red Wine
www.cotesdefrancs.com
www.bordeaux-cotes.com

Côtes de Bourg – Dry White Wine, Red Wine
www.cotes-de-bourg.com

Côtes de Castillon – Red Wine
www.cotes-de-castillon.com
www.bordeaux-cotes.com

Côtes de Blaye – Dry White Wine, Red Wine
www.bordeaux-cotes.com

Crémant de Bordeaux – Sparkling White Wine
www.planete-bordeaux.net

Entre deux Mers – Dry White Wine
www.vins-entre-deux-mers.com

Entre Deux Mers Haut Benauge – Dry White Wine
www.bordeaux-haut-benauge.com

Fronsac – Red Wine
www.saint-emilion-pomerol-fronsac.com
www.vins-fronsac.com

Graves – Dry White Wine, Red Wine, Sweet White Wine
www.vins-graves.com

Graves de Vayres – Dry White Wine, Red Wine
www.gravesdevayres.fr
www.vins-graves.com

Haut Médoc – Red Wine
www.medoc-bordeaux.com

Lalande de Pomerol – Red Wine
www.lalande-pomerol.com

Listrac Médoc – Red Wine
www.listrac.com

Loupiac – Sweet White Wine
www.vins-loupiac.com

Lussac Saint Emilion – Red Wine
tel. 05 57 74 60 13

Margaux – Red Wine
www.medoc-bordeaux.com

Médoc – Red Wine
www.medoc-bordeaux.com

Montagne Saint Emilion – Red wine
www.montagnesaintemilion.com

Moulis en Médoc – Red Wine
www.moulis.com

Pauillac – Red Wine
www.pauillac.com

Pessac Léognan – Red Wine, Dry White Wine
www.pessac-leognan.com
www.vins-graves.com

Pomerol – Red Wine
www.vins-pomerol.fr
www.saint-emilion-pomerol-fronsac.com

Prémieres Côtes de Blayes – Red Wine, Dry White Wine
www.blaye-cru-bourgeois.com

Puisseguin Saint Emilion – Red Wine
tel. 05 57 74 60 13

Sainte Croix du Mont – Sweet White Wine
www.sainte-croix-du-mont.com

Sainte Foy Bordeaux – Red Wine, Sweet White Wine
www.saintefoy-bordeaux.com

Saint Emilion – Red Wine
www.agccse.fr
www.premiers-saint-emilion.com
www.saint-emilion-pomerol-fronsac.com
www.vins-saint-emilion.com

Saint Estèphe – Red Wine
www.saint-estephe.com
www.vins-saint-estephe.com

Saint Georges Saint Emilion – Red Wine
tel. 05 57 51 64 88

Saint Julien – Red Wine
www.saint-julien.com

Sauternes – Sweet White Wine
www.sauternes.com
www.sauternes-barsac.com
Syndicat des Crus Classés de Sauternes
tel. 05 56 27 15 06
Syndicat viticole de Sauternes
tel. 05 56 76 60 37

General

Cercle Rive Droite des Grands Vins de Bordeaux (the Right Bank Circle of Great Bordeaux Wines)
www.cerclerivedroite.com

Conseil des vins du Médoc
www.medoc-bordeaux.com

Fédération des Vignerons Indépendants de la Gironde
tel. 05 57 77 35 25

Syndicat des Crus Artisans du Médoc
tel. 05 56 59 00 85

Syndicat des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc
tel. 05 56 48 18 62

Union des Côtes de Bordeaux
www.bordeaux-cotes.com

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One Response to Bordeaux’s Plan to Cull Chateaux

  1. The Cave Public Wine Storage Lockers says:

    Thank you for this one, Nick. There have been several discussions at The Cave recently amongst the "little guys" about what's perceived as elitism in the wine industry and how it's abandoning otherwise curious, interested, potential customers who feel like if they need to be wealthy to enjoy a DECENT bottle of wine. Sorry, Bordeaux, the future is looking a bit Chile.