French Wine: A Turn in the Tide

For a long time French wine has been the favourite choice to accompany a meal – whether at home or in a restaurant. Although France still enjoys the number one spot in the world of wine for its grand cru and premier cru wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy, and some châteaux still command high prices, the tide for entry level and medium price range wines seems to be turning. Supermarkets and multiples have been reducing shelf space available for French wine and are gradually reallocating it to wines from the new world which have become more appealing to the British palate.

Recently I attended the 5th Professional Wine Tasting at Vinopolis, London organised by the French Independent Wine Makers Association. The event had over 60 exhibitors from all over France and a wide range of wine to choose from, but the attendance was rather disappointing. I had the impression that this reflected how the general public perceives French wines – no longer in fashion or satisfying modern tastes. The trade, therefore, would not risk stocking products that they may not be able to sell.

Recapturing the Market

Some of the French independent producers are hoping to recapture the British market by making new world style wines à la francaise, which are pleasant to drink with food or on their own and one does not need to have a sophisticated palate to appreciate and enjoy them. What is more, the ordinary consumer is not willing to pay over the odds for their bottle.

Vive la Difference!
Many of the wines I tasted were, in my opinion, very similar to new world wines in style, texture, bouquet and price. The producers are aware that the competition is strong in the UK. However, changing style is perhaps not the way to regain former fans. What is the point in making wine which is almost like Australian or Chilean wine? Why not emphasise and celebrate difference? In addition to trade events, why not hold tastings for the general public and reacquaint people with the best traditions of French wine making? After all, it is up to the consumer to give French wine another chance.

More clear labelling with a description including the grape varieties from which the wine is made would also help. It seems that steps are being taken. A new board has been formed to advise the French producers on the UK market and do PR work and to boost sales in Britain.

French wine certainly has the potential to reconquer the British market. Among the wines I tasted some do deserve attention. My favourites in terms of style, quality and price ratio were:

Domaine de Fontlade – Provence
Cuvée de l’Hermitage white 2004
Cuvée de Saint Quinis white 2006

Domaine du Pourra – Rhône Valley
Girondas, La Reserve 2003

Domaine de Saint-Rémy – Languedoc
Cuvée Royale 2004

They, and some others, too, deserve more than a try. So why don’t we give them another chance?

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Fred KuMesu Fred is a graduate of Napier University and as an electrical and electronic engineer he has worked in industry in the field of sales and marketing. He is enthusiastic about wine and throughout the years has gathered considerable knowledge about the wine trade. Now he runs two wine related businesses. Fred's hobbies include stamp collecting and cycling. He has also been involved in fundraising for Scottish and overseas charities. Fred's wish is to be able to spend more time with his wife Kati and their 3 children.

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