White wines are driving growth for Bordeaux in the UK as it looks to spread its mainstream appeal
The UK became Bordeaux’s biggest European export market as well as the second largest global export market for its white wines last year, importing more than three million bottles in the process, according to new figures released by its leading wine body the Conseil Interprofessional du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB)
In 2016 the UK imported 3.7 million bottles of white Bordeaux, making it the biggest European market for the region’s whites and only just behind the biggest market in the world, the US, which imported four million bottles in 2016.
However, all Bordeaux exports to the UK dropped by 10% last year, with reds experiencing an 11% decline, and whites a 6% dip.
Reds comprise by far the biggest proportion of UK imports, at 137,000 hectolitres compared to 28,000 hectolitres of white. Red Bordeaux comprises 41% of imports to the UK, while white Bordeaux makes up 14% of imports.
The CIVB also pointed out that the main white wine areas are Graves & Pessac-Leognan and Sauternes but that they only account for 2% of Bordeaux imports to the UK combined.
The big challenge for Bordeaux is one of perception. Allan Sichel, president of the Bordeaux Wine Council, said this week that too often the main image of Bordeaux was of a region only producing expensive wines out of the reach of the normal wine buyer. Not helped by the fact the en primeur campaign, taking place this week in Bordeaux, captures so much attention.
In reality the vast majority of Bordeaux wines are sold between £6 to £20.
Sichel said it was up to Bordeaux to do more to open itself and offer a more approachable image.
Its on-going More to Discover Bordeaux campaign is to be continued with more executions coming on to the market throughout the year to again demonstrate that Bordeaux wines are for all. This global campaign has proved particularly successful in spreading the same mainstream message in different key markets around the world, particularly in the US, the UK, Germany, Japan and Asia.
He told Wine Behind the Label this week that it was doing all it can to overcome what some in the trade even see as an out of touch perception of what is actually happening in Bordeaux. The majority of its younger winemakers are well travelled and would have done vintages around the world and learnt about different techniques and brought them back to apply in Bordeaux.
There is now much more of a switched on market first approach to winemaking in Bordeaux and listening and watching wider wine trends and delivering wines that suit the modern palate.
These new winemakers were very much the future and lifeblood of the new look Bordeaux which will hopefully allow the region to become much more well known and not just appeal to the higher end of the wine buying public.