Castel targets UK with 'back to the roots' Cachet launch

09 March, 2007

Castel UK is launching Cachet - its first UK-tailored wine range.

The French wine supplier - a sister company to Oddbins and Nicolas - has developed a selection of Vin de Pays d'Oc single and dual varietals, with Viognier/Chardonnay, Shiraz/Cabernet and Pinot Noir rosť the first to be launched. Castel UK managing director Anne Burchett, who has spearheaded the brand's development, said: "We want to be one of the leading brands for the south of France category."

Wines will be priced at £5.99 and promoted down to £3.99.

Castel's Languedoc-Roussillon winery Domaines Virginie will supply the wine for the range. Burchett said she had initially considered Bordeaux as well as the Languedoc-Roussillon as a potential source. She added: "We decided that Bordeaux was tough, there had been an explosion of Bordeaux brands and we wanted to take Cachet away from the corporate side. With Languedoc-Roussillon we can go AOC or VdP."

Burchett said she made a decision to keep the project small and "go back to the roots of what Castel does best".

She said the decision on the wine style had been "pretty straightforward. We wanted the best wine at the best value. The best we can do for 30,000 bottles, but it needed to be sustainable." Consultants Allan Cheesman and Lynne Whitaker and wine writer Robert Joseph were all involved in development.

Castel UK's sister company Oddbins will list the range, and discussions with other major retailers and wholesalers are ongoing. "Some of them are companies we're not trading with at the moment. We've decided not to show the wine before it's bottled," Burchett said. She added she was confident that Sainsbury's would be interested.

Burchett admits that when she joined Castel's newly-formed UK supply arm in 2005 she was faced with a "catalogue which was a mixture of ageing product, leading French brands and export developments not tailored to the UK. There was very little in there I felt I could play with.

"We had our own-label business with Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's and had an undoubted ability to do quality and to do service - we couldn't supply M&S otherwise. I knew we could do well and that we had something there but, at the same time, didn't have the branded offering that we deserved."

Castel launched own-branded wines to the UK market four years ago, but the range was trimmed and was eventually de-listed by Sainsbury's.

Burchett said: "We needed to start afresh and starting from scratch was easier." She described the launch as "not arrogant", and added "we're not saying we know what's best, but that we're trying our best. A failing of the [previous] Castel brand is that it was presented as the solution to world poverty. That was a bit too ambitious, a little bit on the incautious side."

While Burchett admitted she has "taken a criminal risk in career terms" by identifying herself so closely with a new brand, her outlook on the scope for Cachet once it secures listings is upbeat.

She said: "It's like having a sports car but not the road. If you get the road you can unleash the power. I can go and see Pierre Castel and say this is what I need to take it to the next level. "

Burchett also warned that French wine is in danger of becoming "like haute couture - an oddity" if producers do not invest more in brands.

"People will go to France and drink lovely wines, come back and wonder why there are not more French wines here. The category must be welcoming enough," she said.

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