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UK overtakes US as biggest export market for Bordeaux dry whites

Published:  11 November, 2020

The UK has overtaken the US as the biggest export market for Bordeaux dry white wines for the first time after years of the CIVB (Bordeaux Wine Council) focusing on promoting the region’s whites to Brits.   

Exports of Bordeaux white wines to the UK rose from 25,930hl in September 2019 to 28,917hl in September this year, while exports to the US dropped to 26,949hl from 30,317hl in the same 12 months, according to French Customs data shared exclusively with Harpers by the CIVB. 

The change, which marked the first time the UK has been the top export market for dry whites, was “historic” and should be noted as “very good news for our whites in a key white wine market”, said the CIVB. 

“Dry whites have been a focus of our marketing plan for at least the past four years so it's good to see it finally coming through and that it’s picking up pace,” Julie Rambaud, marketing director for the CIVB told Harpers.   

Belgium, Germany and Japan make up the rest of the top five export markets respectively.

In terms of overall volume exports of Bordeaux wines to the UK, Rambaud said the CIVB has seen a short-term positive turn around following on from a “very tough” start to the year [reflecting a global trend] due to both “structural and Covid-related” issues. 

Looking ahead, to keep the momentum of Bordeaux wines going, Rambaud pointed to the region’s new “less is more” marketing motto, and new “transformative pillars” implemented by the trade body.  

“After years of being more focused on image building we are focussing on three things, the first being demand, with the second pillar aimed at building on Bordeaux’s reputation via ambassadors – to have some advocacy marketing versus traditional advertising,” said Rambaud. 

Around 80% of CIVB’s marketing ammunition was now focused on ambassadors, she added. 

"Our ambassadors can be a different array of people from independent wine shops to bloggers and instagrammers – anyone who has a positive influence on the choice and the reputation of the wine.”

This, said Rambaud, signalled a shift for Bordeaux wine. “We used to speak more about ourselves but now the strategy is to really anchor in people's life, and let others do the talking.”

This was especially true for the white wines, which are more “lifestyle wines” and not “traditional or exceptional types of wines", she added.

The third pillar of its 2020 strategy was to focus on “building synergy with Bordeaux professionals”, said Rambaud. 

“In the past we used to have lots of activity that was run in parallel to the ones that our professionals and the appellations were running on the markets, but now we have started to work really closely with the board of professionals to increase our joint impact.”

Last month the CIVB declared 2020 a vintage with “excellent wines in prospect”.