Bordeaux’s largest producer was selling 260,000 12-bottle cases in the UK in 2006, but pulled out of the market as half-price deals dented its margins.
It decided to wave the white flag and anticipates it will sell 70,000 cases this year based on its current listings. It has appointed Stevens Garnier as its off-trade distributor and plans to conquer the market by targeting younger consumers with “modern wines”.
“The UK is a fragmented market for Bordeaux,” export director for the UK market Philippe Koch told OLN. “Bordeaux needs a leader in the UK and we could be that leader. That would be good for the overall health of the Bordeaux wine category.
“You have Torres leading the Spanish category and Hardys leading Australia. They have the right profile, the right taste and the right price. It’s very simple. Each category needs a leader. With France there are plenty of interesting offers but nothing to say ‘this is the leader’.”
Bordeaux has been accused of relying too heavily on its historic reputation for quality while failing to engage younger adults who have been won over by New World producers.
“We need to do a lot to recruit new consumers,” said Koch. “People drink round and sweet and fruity New World wines, but the next step is to go up to a drier wine that fits perfectly with food – and that is where we want to position our wines.”
Mouton Cadet has launched a Sauvignon Blanc and a new rosé to target these younger adults.
“Sauvignon Blanc will be key for us,” said Koch. “We are cheaper than Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, which has increased dramatically, and we are fresh, crisp and modern and fitting with younger consumers.
“It’s in the on-trade but we are looking to go into the off-trade at £9.99, promoted to £7.99. The chains are interested in this.”
He added: “The message is that Bordeaux is sexy, young and friendly. The new Sauvignon Blanc is focused on customers aged 25 to 35.”
Koch was running the export programme in central Europe but was switched to the UK to spearhead a big push into the market. He aims to secure listings at most grocers and cash and carries.
“We have a business model where everybody makes money and the consumer is happy to buy this wine at this price and proud to pour it with friends and family,” he said.
Mouton Cadet, which is part of Baron Philippe de Rothschild, has also launched a Reserve Bordeaux– which retails at £12.99, promoted to £9.99 – to occupy the price tier above Mouton Cadet Classic.
Sponsorship of the Ryder Cup is part of the marketing plan to aid the push into the UK.