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How young Bordeaux winemakers are leading the charge for accessibility and affordability

Published:  12 September, 2016

Organic Bordeaux producer and educator Laetitia Ouspointour is one of a generation young, dynamic winemakers who have made it their mission to debunk some of the most persistent Bordeaux myths.

A fifth generation grower of organic wines at the Chateau Vieux Mougnac, she visited the UK last week to push the Bordeaux diversity message - predominantly that the region offers more than just "expensive reds".

Despite the growing emergence of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon in the region, whites from Bordeaux as well as affordable reds have yet to fully translate into UK indies and supermarkets.

In a region as large as Bordeaux, where only 200 of the 6,400 producers come under the Grands Crus umbrella, a large proportion of the wine produced is classed "affordable".

But despite the wide availability, penetration for Bordeaux with an RRP of £20 or under presents the most challenges.

"The UK is the fourth biggest export market for Bordeaux - it's also the most competitive," said Fiona Juby, UK market consultant at Vins de Bordeaux.

"We definitely have to fight for shelf space, especially in the indies and supermarkets to get them to stock affordable Bordeaux."

The focus on accessibility is also moving inwards as well as outwards, in the growing focus on tourism to the area.

"Bordeaux is realising it needs to open up. A new tram system and growing park and ride schemes are getting people out to the wineries, and more wineries are open on a Sunday," said Ouspointour.

There is also a focus on education with new museum Cité du Vin which opened in May, and has since become a popular destination for school trips.

Although the museum focuses on the culture of winemaking rather than the liquid, its popularity with teachers and children - Ouspointour's own children included - provides a glimpse into the cultural differences between France and the UK.

In Britain, students' are first introduced to the possibility of a profession in the wine industry at the age of 18 - and often not even then. 

Ouspointour herself also plays a role in the history of diversity in the region.

She is not only a fifth generation winemaker, but is also one of many women in her family to take on the mantle of chief winemaker.

Her great-grandmother took over the running of the vineyard when her great-grandfather was taken as a prisoner of war in the 1940s, (during his time at the camp, he made wine for the Germans before his eventual release).

Her grandmother was also heavily involved in the winemaking and Laetitia herself now shares the responsibilities with her mother and brother who is 12 years her junior.

An accredited Bordeaux wine tutor, her passion for winemaking has taken her outside France and to the UK, where she lived and worked in Bristol and London.

She said the experience helped her to bridge the gap between Bordeaux and not just the domestic market but the international one too.

"It's great because it gave me an outsider's perspective," she said.

"I worked in Bristol which is twinned with Bordeaux and it was interesting to see what others thought about the region. Winemakers can become very narrow in what they're doing. I think it's important as winemakers to get out there and try something different."