A recent article in Bordeaux Wine News has got me standing on my soap box once again. They are reporting on Bordeaux’s new strategy, hailed the “Bordeaux Tomorrow” project which I have already written about in Bordeaux Wines and Fair Pricing. For those of you who have not yet heard about the plan it is: “the result of a year’s research and an in-depth document of 130 pages, presenting a strategic, medium and long term road plan, with goals to reach by five to eight years.”
It has 24 measures that Georges Haushalter. President of the Inter-professional Council of Bordeaux Wine (CIVB) has told Bordeaux Wine News he is keen to act quickly on:
“We are starting off with group work sessions to establish the practical details for the implementation of the 24 measures announced. We must move quickly and, as soon as the inter-professional wine council’s 2011 budget comes out, the plan’s financing will be defined.”
Apparently there is a vast amount of work to be done to restore Bordeaux’s tarnished image (and by Bordeaux we are talking here not of the Grand Crus but of the basic Bordeaux at the other end of the scale:
“It still appears that, despite the accreditation reforms set up three years ago, a number of wines are simply not up to quality. The plan reacts to this by recommending a measure loaded with meaning: “the suppression of products whose level of quality is not coherent with the brand image.”
This might sound fair enough to some but it concerns me – and I have a case in point. A number of years ago a small wine maker in rural Bordeaux found himself between a rock and a hard place. He used to sell his entire wine output to a local merchant, who bottled and marketed it for him. But, for the first time, the merchant is refused to take any of it. Did he give up? No. This wine is now flying off the shelves and has been reviewed by Jonathan Ray of the Telegraph:
2005 Château Les Eymeries, 13.5% vol Absurdly good value this – a 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Bordeaux. One of the classic recent vintages, it’s full flavoured and fruity, with sturdy tannins and structure but an underlying subtlety and suppleness too. Classy claret for the price, it’s ready to drink now with Sunday roasts etc but will keep.”
If the wine maker found himself in this predicament under the new measures that the CIVB are bringing in would he be able to find a way to save his wine? I doubt it.
“Another of the plan’s urgent measures is a tightened quality control on operators practising abnormally low prices. Despite the free market context, the plan aims to put pressure on the industry by checking that the wine concerned is up to standard.” Does this mean that cheap Bordeaux will not exist any more? Does a good wine necessarily have to be priced off the planet?
And last but not least: “Consequently, the audits on concerns in difficulty will be intensified (as has already been the case for years) and everything will be done to develop the practise of the buying grapes: rather than making poor wine, it is better to sell the grapes. This is not common practise in the Bordeaux region, contrary to the Alsace or Champagne vineyards for example.” This will end up with the little producer supplying grapes to the big producer who has the money to be a “Brand” and we all lose out as small struggling wine makers give up the ghost.
As for “Brand Bordeaux” – it had better be careful it doesn’t end up as “Bland Bordeaux” and follow in the footsteps of its much envied New World cousins Gallo et al.