Desire for prestige damaging Bordeaux brand

The desire for prestige on the part of some of Bordeaux’s top châteaux is damaging the region’s image according to Bruno Eynard, chief winemaker for St Julien third growth Château Lagrange.

Bruno Eynard of Château Lagrange

Bruno Eynard of Château Lagrange

“Big companies like Chanel and LVMH are buying up Bordeaux châteaux for the prestige that comes with such an acquisition and are selling the wines at incredibly high prices even if the quality isn’t there,” Eynard told the drinks business on a recent visit to London.

“These châteaux are happy to sit on a lot of stock in order to sell what they have at a high price. It’s all about image nowadays and having a higher price than your neighbours.

“It’s a dangerous game they’re playing: Italy, Spain and other regions in France will quickly jump in and take our place if our prices become too high for consumers and the wines become pure instruments of speculation,” he added.

Eynard revealed that the divide between family-owned and company-owned châteaux in Bordeaux is becoming increasingly evident.

“Family companies have to sell their wine to survive, whereas company-owned estates can afford to sit on their wines. It’s not a case of greed but rather prestige,” he told db, admitting that he has faced pressure from Japanese owners Suntory to push up the price of Lagrange.

“If I followed what the owners wanted, the price of Lagrange would be much higher and there would be a lot less of it, but the best way to build a successful brand is to offer value for money,” he said.

In this vein, Eynard recently purchased 16 hectares in Haut-Médoc for the production of a third wine for Château Lagrange, which he plans to call Haut-Médoc de Lagrange in the model of Le Haut-Médoc de Giscours.

“There’s a place in the market for this kind of wine that offers the expertise of a top châteaux but the value of a Crus Bourgeois.

Château Canon is owned by fashion house Chanel

Château Canon is owned by fashion house Chanel

“It’s a great way to get new consumers interested in and enthusiastic about the brand, and hopefully in time they’ll move up a tier to our second wine,” he said.

The wine, set for release in 2014, will be priced at around €12 a bottle with 100,000 bottles expected for the first release.

“2012 is the first vintage we have produced but we bought the land in July so it was too late to do what we wanted with it. It will take five years before the wine is exactly where we want it to be,” Eynard admitted.

Having traditionally only been interested in Bordeaux’s first growths, Eynard believes Asian consumers are starting to grasp the value message, which sets to serve Lagrange well in both Hong Kong and mainland China.

Château Lagrange exports to China have already leapt from almost zero to 15% in the past five years.

“It will take at least a decade for Chinese consumers to really understand the importance of value when it comes to wine, but the education is beginning, which is very exciting for us,” he said.

Due to tense relations between China and Japan, on a recent trip to China, Eynard had to keep quiet about the fact that Lagrange is owned by Japanese drinks giant Suntory.

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