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Trade ‘Dragons’ deliver verdict at inaugural Think France event

Published:  27 March, 2019

France should rally behind tourism to best promote its wines.

That was the verdict of a panel of ‘Dragons’ Den’-style judges at Harpers’ Think France event on Tuesday in London, during a lively session where members of the trade pitched ideas as to how best to drive greater engagement and sales of France’s diverse vinous offer.

The winning pitch was delivered by Anne Burchett, who argued that France’s proximity to the UK, plus its wealth of attractive tourist opportunities and gastronomy, could be better leveraged to help a new generation of wine drinkers discover the breadth and individuality inherent in the country’s wines.

The Dragons, comprising Andrew Shaw of Bibendum, Matthew Hennings of Hennings Wines, Paul Jenkins of Caprice Holdings and master sommelier Piotr Pietras, heard a series of rapid-fire, five-minute pitches before retiring to decide on which idea they would ‘invest in’.

Saying it has been “a tough decision”, Shaw described Burchett’s pitch as the most compelling in terms of raising the profile of French wines and tying the wines into the regions and cultural experiences that holiday-making Brits widely understand.

On the Pitcher side, Burchett was up against: Hal Wilson of Cambridge Wines, arguing that French producers should focus more on dealing direct with independent merchants to help deliver real value; commentator Robert Joseph, pushing the freedom of Vin de France wines over the strictures of AoP; Stefan Neumann MS, looking to sell a greater focus on Cremant as a great way of lifting French sales; and Raul Diaz, given the nod as ‘runner up’ for his convincing delivery that engaging millennials was the best way forward.

However, while the judges were deliberating, the audience was also invited to vote on the pitches, delivering a different result from the Dragons, with Neumann’s Cremant given equal first footing with Burchett’s tourism.

Despite being designed as a fun and interactive session – a klaxon was sounded to cut pitchers off that had overrun their allotted time – the Dragons’ Den-style debate had a serious side, encouraging serious ideas and discussion around how best to take France forward in the UK, and this from some of the more senior people in the British trade.

This was just one of the facets of Harpers’ newly launched Think France, which brought together extensive tasting, masterclasses, debate and a Brexit Q&A at London’s Glazier’s Hall, along with the announcement of the Think France Awards.

The Awards, below, had been voted on by the Harpers readership, singling out those companies and people that have done the most, by way of portfolio, promotion and education, to innovate and engage the drinking public with the wines of France.

Think France Awards:

Best Independent On Trade

(sponsored by Interloire)

Winner: Frenchie



Noble Rot


Best Multiple On Trade

(sponsored by CentreLoire)

Winner: Hotel du Vin


Corbin and King Group

D&D London


Best Independent Retailer of French Wine

(sponsored by CIVB)

Winner: Jeroboams


Berry Bos & Rudd


Lee and Sandeman

Best Supermarket / Multiple Retailer of French Wine

(sponsored by Cahors)

Winner: Waitrose





Best Communicator for France

(sponsored by Boisset)

Winner: Jancis Robinson MW


Victoria Moore

Suzie Atkins