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The importance of judging a wine by its cover

Published:  19 February, 2010

Consumed by the knowledge that spring is now round the corner I've been
doing everything I can to prepare for the new season.

Consumed by the knowledge that spring is now round the corner I've been
doing everything I can to prepare for the new season.

As has become tradition I spent 48 hours on a credit card melting séjour in Paris to treat my wardrobe, followedby a couple of days at the Salon des Vins de Loire to pick up tips on what I should be stocking on my wine rack this season. Let's face it, if you're going to spring clean then do it properly or not at all.

On the TGV to Angers sitting in my new Marc Jacobs skirt, I was already high
on the excitement I'd absorbed in one of the fashion capitals of the world. Glancing at the cover of the French glossy I'd picked up I read "Chic et Sexy - Le style qui nous va bien" and I couldn't help but hope it was a sign of the wines to come.

Ok, so a French regional wine trade fair isn't designed to get the blood racing in the same way as a new season catwalk show but it should certainly be the perfect opportunity for the wineries to show off in a big way. Or so you'd think.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a pure bred Francophile, so if you ask me the French
have things right in so many ways. Yet recently French wine has seen a dramatic fall in export sales, not least in the UK. Economists will tell you it's to do with the weakening pound but if you ask me it has something and everything to do with the lack of creativity of an ancient trade that just doesn't seem to be able to wake up.

Walking around the Salon des Vins de Loire looking for the inspiration I craved, it struck me that this was yet another wine show created under the guise of drumming up interest in the regions  while actually serving as a convenient get together for wineries that haven't seen each other for a while.

I visited several stands that weren't particularly interested in taking me through their range and I saw enough white labels with Times New Roman script and a gold border to make my eyes turn square.

I had to take a different tact, so I decided to only taste wines that visually caught my eye. I had a mixed result including one winery which refused to let me taste its range because I only wanted to taste the wine with a good looking label.

Arguably a superficial strategy to adopt, but how do wineries expect the end consumer to choose from the wall of wines if they're not already in the wine-know? Wine bottles are judged by their cover. Fact.

I became increasingly sombre as I walked around the temporary streets of the
event  and I felt the inspiration I'd gathered from the Parisian high street drain out of me.

Unquestionably surrounded by excellent wines but with so many unable to grab my attention, I couldn't help but lose hope for my favoured spring time wines.

Luckily, all may not be lost just yet as I'm encouraged to learn that Loire producers have recognised they need to do something if they're to save their sales instead of an all too familiar Gallic shrug.

As a region they've started a three year long Sauvignon Blanc de Loire Project which is a wine-making guideline designed for Loire Valley producers to adapt their
wines to the export market. I've been invited to taste their selected Ambassador wines on Friday this week.

This doesn't leave much hope for my beloved Muscadet Sèvre et Maine just yet, and Sauvignon de Touraine won't reap the benefits of the project for a couple of spring times to come. But I'm hopeful that if the ambassadors dedicate as much time to the packaging production then these wines will once again be en vogue and with a bit of luck it will be sooner than we think.

Miss Bouquet is a London-based wine blogger and columnist to The Notebook, Kensington & Chelsea.