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Bordeaux to launch first global marketing campaign to address falling sales

Published:  16 October, 2014

The Conseil Interprofessionel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) is launching its first global marketing campaign to help counter falls in sales by both volume and value. Its seven priority markets - China, USA, UK, Japan, Germany,  Belgium and France - will soon be flooded with new atmospheric images drawn up by leading British advertising agency, Isobel.

Blanket billboard coverage will hit New York on October 27. The campaign will reach London a week later, when the ads will appear at Underground and train stations, in the press and online. The marketing in China and Japan will be 100% online.

Well before falls in total Bordeaux sales of wine by volume (8%) and value (18%) to July 2014 had become apparent, the CIVB, which was expecting the bad news, wanted to change international perception of the region.  Above all, its aim is to show that the brand's wines are both approachable and affordable.

"This campaign is completely different to what we've done in the past," said Bernard Farges, the CIVB's president. "The key  is to discover the diversity of Bordeaux's wines. The more you look, the more you discover. And the Bordeaux bottle is the hero of this campaign."

The traditional Bordeaux bottle features in every one of the five imaginative images dreamt up by advertising agency, Isobel. In one, a Usain Bolt-like 'reach-for-the-stars' telescope/bottle oozes quality while, in another, red, pink and white butterflies reflect diversity. In arguably the most cerebral image, the root system of a vine spreading out from underneath a bottle highlights  soil and complexity alike.

"The drop in sales didn't surprise us," said Farges at the unveiling of the campaign at the CIVB's headquarters in Bordeaux. "We knew that the low 2013 harvest, down 30%, would not enable the sale of volume. China is experiencing an economic slowdown and has reduced its commercial trade with the rest of the world."

China, the biggest importer of Bordeaux's wines, showed a decline of 25% in volume and 26% in value from the region. Hong Kong, in third place, also recorded single digit falls for both, while the USA slipped 17% in value. The UK, the second biggest export market for Bordeaux, showed a 5% decrease in volume and a whopping 43% drop in value.

That final statistic underlines the British market's disappointment at the failure of producers significantly to reduce en primeur prices for the classed growths after three unexceptional vintages. Allan Sichel, vice chairman of the CIVB, admitted he did not know if there would be a correction in primeur prices next spring when the 2014 vintage is tasted.

Harvest boost

Initial signs for this year's harvest in Bordeaux are extremely encouraging. Yield is not expected to be above average but Farges said that "we haven't seen anything better since 2010" while eminent winemaker and consultant, Denis Dubourdieu, thinks this will be the best vintage for dry whites since 1996.

"The fear of a second deficit vintage was on everyone's minds, and that tension was tangible through to the end of August," Farges admitted. "Then in September, sunshine was 28% above normal, rainfall 70% lower than normal and the average temperature 3 degrees higher. Believe me, that takes the pressure off."

Dubourdieu explained his optimism. "It will be so good for whites because of the high sugar levels in the berries and the low pH," he said, adding that pHs were typically 3.1 compared to 3.3-3.5. That means much higher acidity, helping ageworthiness and allowing him to put 10-20% of his whites through malolactic fermentation. "Normally, you can never do that, and this will give greater roundness to the wines, which will have truffles on the nose after five years."

Anne Neuville-Mialocq, cellar master for leading Pessac-Leognan producer, Chateau Fieuzal, was similarly upbeat. "We are so pleased with the quality of the fruit, although we have only just started picking the cabernet sauvignon," she told Harpers.

"The Sauvignon Blanc is magnificent, and both the Merlot and Cabernet Franc have wonderful ripeness and concentration. Yield for both reds and whites is normal - that is to say between 40 and 45 hl/h. By the way, I really like the CIVB's new images, which point to modernity here and a desire to move with the times."

Her message was clear: Bordeaux is bouncing back.