Bordeaux producer launches ‘New World-inspired’ range

A Bordeaux producer is breaking from tradition and simplifying French wine with the launch of a range inspired by the New World, whose wines he says are continuing to grab market share from old world producers.

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Thomas Le Grix de la Salle, winemaker and export manager at Château le Grand Verdus

Thomas Le Grix de la Salle, winemaker and export manager at Château le Grand Verdus in the Entre de la Mer in Bordeaux, came up with the idea for Crosswinds having become frustrated with the complicated nature of French wines.

The Verdus estate, which has a history dating back to the Renaissance but which saw production take over following WW2, exports around 90% of its production, which Le Grix de la Salle means they have a “very direct interaction” with the market.

“I don’t know that we are pioneers, but I find that people think Bordeaux and French wines are very complicated”, said Le Grix de la Salle speaking to the drinks business at the HK Wine and Spirits Fair. “The grapes, OK, Merlot and Cabernet, but how do you get people to remember your château? We have 50 appellations in Bordeaux so how do you simplify the offer?”

The answer, at least for Le Grix de la Salle, is to take inspiration from New World wines, particularly in terms of the design of its labelling.

“It is completely different and takes inspiration from New World marketing, adapted to suit our wines”, he explained. “The most important thing for us is to be recognised. It’s difficult for Bordeaux as no one remembers your name and it’s complicated. We had the idea of going back to the New World model of marketing, mostly using the grapes”.

Crosswinds is a range comprised of four wines from the Verdus estate in Bordeaux and six wines produced by Vignobles Alain Maurel in the Languedoc. Its name comes from the winds that cross each region, from the west from the Atlantic in Bordeaux and from the east from the Mediterranean in the Languedoc, hence the name Crosswinds.

Untitled2The label itself is stripped back to the brand name and the grape variety, with a common theme across all bottles being a cartoon of a man holding and umbrella and struggling in the wind, rotated in the appropriate direction depending on the wine’s origin. The only indication of Bordeaux is an illustration of a French château in the background.

“It was the meeting of a common vision between the Languedoc and Bordeaux”, said Le Grix de la Salle. “The idea was to make the wine very simply. The common point was the little guy with an umbrella – something very simple and that has brought pleasure and emotion to people.”

Elaborating on the motivation for creating such a range Le Grix de la Salle returns to his belief that the French message on wine, including Bordeaux, can be very complicated to the average consumer.

“Bordeaux is so traditionally marketed”, he said. “We are young wine makers, we have new ideas and the New World wines are taking market share. We can’t say Bordeaux is the best anymore, we have to find new ideas and new concepts. This is a concept. We don’t know if this will work but it’s something to try that’s new.”

The range will primarily be marketed in the US and other New World markets including Australia. Asia is also a target, particularly Singapore, but the message to consumers in China “could be confusing”, concedes Le Grix de la Salle, with Chinese consumers preference for traditional French wines still strong.

“We could look at the UK but it’s difficult because of price and competition”, said Le Grix de la Salle of its potential in the UK. “We can try but it is so difficult.”

With an RRP of between $9 to $14, Le Grix de la Salle is targeting retailers having designed the Crosswinds range to be able to “sell itself”.

“We are targeting retailers because we don’t need a sommelier to sell it”, he explained. “You need a sommelier to sell something that’s much more complicated. We want the wines to sell themselves because you don’t have anyone advising you in the supermarket. We want people to think this is young and fun and it’s still French but it looks modern, lets try it.”Untitled3Untitled

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