As consumer priorities shift, Rachel Badham asks how Bordeaux winemakers can stay relevant
“What are we going to do to adapt ourselves to this changing world and to be ready for the world of tomorrow?” asks Christophe Chateau, communications director at the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB), as we settle in to talk about how Bordeaux will engage with the new generation of wine drinkers.
For Chateau, adaptability is the most important factor in ensuring that the Old World French region has a place on today’s shelves.
“We have to be ready to change the way we are producing wine and the way we’re selling wine,” he says, noting the changes in climate and barriers imposed by Brexit, which have placed added strain on the region.
He flags education as the key to encouraging younger drinkers to explore what Bordeaux has to offer, adding: “The complexity of the region can be scary for the consumers if you don’t explain the wines to them, so we’re investing a lot in consumer education.”
And as the cost-of-living crisis persists, Chateau says that education is vital in encouraging consumers to explore Bordeaux instead of reaching for wines they are already familiar with.
Speaking of the UK market, Chateau says that despite the financial pressures UK consumers are facing, he is not overly concerned for the health of the market. Confirming that the region has a “strong relationship” with the UK, he says the CIVB is planning to host more educational events in the country next year.
“We have very good relations with Liverpool in particular, and we have events coming up in the city to meet our consumers and help them discover Bordeaux wine. Many UK consumers don’t even know that we are making white and sparkling wines, but I’m quite optimistic for the UK market next year as we look to engage more consumers.”
Turning to the biggest trends in the region, Chateau says the CIVB is seeing a widespread change in consumer behaviour, with Bordeaux whites becoming increasingly popular as the sales of red wine slows. From June 2021 – June 2022, sales of white Bordeaux saw a 6% increase in the UK alone, compared to an 11% drop in red sales.
“We’re communicating to producers that the future could see the region planting more white grapes than red, because we expect the market to continue heading in this direction.”
While France still represents around 57% of volume sales for Bordeaux wines, according to Chateau, he predicts that in the next decade, the “export market is going to be bigger than France, because consumption in France is decreasing and our international exports are increasing”.
He highlights Africa and Asia as areas of the world that the CIVB is looking to in terms of exports, referencing a general decrease in wine consumption across Southern Europe.
“It’s safe to say that for Southern European countries such Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, consumption of wine is decreasing while the consumption of spirits and beer rises. However, if you go to North America, Northern Europe or Asia, consumption of wine is increasing.”
Chateau says that quality and price are no longer the only concerns for consumers when choosing wine.
“The world has changed in the minds of consumers. When buying a bottle, they’re thinking if it’s sustainable and if they’re doing a good thing for the planet by buying that product.”
Making Bordeaux wines more environmentally-friendly is not without its challenges, due to the chemical products often required to combat mildew, says Chateau.
But, he seems hopeful for the future of sustainability as he notes that around 75% of vineyards in the region have some form of sustainable certification such as organic or biodynamic.
“We’re always looking at ways that we can preserve biodiversity and use fewer chemicals. Our impact on the environment has decreased considerably during the past 30 years.”