The winds of change are wafting through the vineyards of Bordeaux. What amounts to hundreds of years of history, evolution and tradition are being challenged.
The recent influx of excellent, inexpensive, fruity wines from the New World has had a significant impact on French wine sales, in particular those of Bordeaux. This has led, in part, to a major re-assessment of the whole region’s wine industry.
Realism has set in and the Bordelais wine producers are rising admirably to the challenge. Ironically, as a result, there are probably more fine French wines being produced in Bordeaux today than ever before.
The Strategic Plan
The twenty-first century began with a blaze of promotional publicity, following a hard-hitting advertising campaign in the run up to the millennium celebrations. The Conseil Interprofessional de Vin de Bordeaux (C.I.V.B.), the regulatory organisation responsible for Bordeaux wine production, clearly defined the industry’s current position. It stressed that resources were already being directed at the lower end of the market and that results, to date, looked promising. It also pointed out that concerted efforts were being made to target the thousands of small French wine producers of the region, in order to help them improve their vineyard management techniques. The introduction of new technology and winemaking procedures was well underway.
The Changing Face of Marketing Techniques
Bordeaux wine producers, today, have to base their pricing structure on the quality of their output and not just its alcohol content. This simple change of emphasis, within the last few years, has had a big influence on raising general standards, particularly at the cheaper end of the market. Labelling, too, has had to undergo a user-friendly makeover! The word “Bordeaux” now appears on all wines from the 57 appellations, throughout the region. Previously, a district indicator, on the label, such as Canon-Frosnac or Côtes de Castillon was deemed sufficient information. To the majority of wine drinkers who enjoy French wines, this was perplexingly unhelpful. Nowadays, clarity appears to be the name of the game!
Evolution Rather than Revolution
The recent transformation within the Bordeaux wine industry has not been purely reactionary and driven by market forces. Such an interpretation would be far too simplistic. The wine producers of the region have never really rested on their laurels. Evolution has been a steady and unremitting process. In the 1960s and 1970s, for instance, the Bordeaux vineyards witnessed a tremendous amount of technical progress and investment. The “Eco Sprays” are but one example. They were so successful at eradicating rot that the last unhealthy vintage on record dates back to 1968. Vinification of harvested grapes has witnessed much technological progress, over the decades. Today’s fermentation process is also a far more exact science, thanks to earlier efforts and investment. Nowadays, it is so carefully controlled, that even in hot years, it is almost unheard of for wines to become acetic.
The Proof of the Wine is in the Tasting!
The past two decades have been exciting times in the history of French wine production, especially in Bordeaux. Some of the great vintages of the 1980s, for instance, are just now reaching their peak. Results are proving exceptional. It is gratifying to note that the quality of
An interesting reflection . . .
Many years ago, it was only the great châteaux that made it on to the wine lists of prestigious restaurants. Nowadays, things are different. Some truly superb simple Bordeaux wines, not necessarily the great châteaux, or even the crus bourgeois châteaux are making their presence felt. Often, it is the inexpensive, quality regional wines that dominate the serious wine lists of restaurants, today. Theses wines represent a wise choice!
Despite the change and upheaval of recent times, it is quite clear that today’s Bordeaux wine industry has emerged triumphant.
these great châteaux wines has not been affected by the recent climate of change and transition within the Bordeaux wine industry.
More significant, however, is the fact that the quality of crus bourgeois and petits châteaux wines has improved tremendously, of late. This humbler sector of the Bordeaux wine trade, more than any other, has rallied to meet the worldwide challenge. Its success has been remarkable and its output now represents some of the best value French wines available on the market today