Thursday, 20 December 2012

Desire for prestige damaging “brand Bordeaux”?

Has Bordeaux become a region where not only keeping up with, but having a higher-priced wine than your neighbours is the ultimate goal? Bruno Eynard, winemaker at St Julien third growth Château Lagrange, seems to think so. Speaking to Wine and the City last week during a lunch at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (worth a visit for the mash alone), Eynard said that the desire for prestige on the part of some of the top châteaux is damaging the region’s image.

“Big companies like Chanel and LVMH are buying up Bordeaux châteaux for the prestige that comes with such an acquisition and are selling the wines at incredibly high prices even if the quality isn’t there. These châteaux are happy to sit on a lot of stock in order to sell what they have at a high price. It’s all about image nowadays and having a higher price than your neighbours,” he said, voicing concerns that this approach will put consumers off buying Bordeaux.

“It’s a dangerous game they’re playing: Italy, Spain and other regions in France will quickly jump in and take our place if our prices become too high for consumers and the wines become pure instruments of speculation,” he added, revealing that the divide between family-owned châteaux and company-owned châteaux in Bordeaux is becoming increasingly evident. “Family companies have to sell their wine to survive, whereas company-owned estates can afford to sit on their wines. It’s not a case of greed but rather prestige,” he said.

Château Canon is owned by fashion house Chanel
Owned by Japanese distillers Suntory, Eynard has faced pressure at Lagrange to push the price of its top wine up. “If I followed what the owners wanted, the price of Lagrange would be much higher and there would be a lot less of it, but the best way to build a successful brand is to offer value for money,” he told W&TCIn this vein, Eynard recently purchased 16 hectares in Haut-Médoc for the production of a third wine for Château Lagrange, which he plans to call Haut-Médoc de Lagrange in the model of Le Haut-Médoc de Giscours.

“There’s a place in the market for this kind of wine that offers the expertise of a top châteaux but the value of a Crus Bourgeois. It’s a great way to get new consumers interested in and enthusiastic about the brand, and hopefully in time they’ll move up a tier to our second wine,” he said. The wine, set for release in 2014, will be priced at around €12 a bottle with 100,000 bottles expected for the first release.  

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