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US palate sees a shift

The traditional distinction between a US and European palate is becoming less accurate, according to Louis-Fabrice Latour, head of Burgundy negociant and grower Maison Louis Latour.

“The trade in the US has become much more English-oriented,” remarked Louis-Fabrice in an interview with the drinks business. “They love the 2010 vintage when a few years ago they would have preferred the ’09.”

However, he clarified this perceived shift in the US palate by adding: “It’s the trade I’m talking about, not the final consumers.”

While preferences on either side of the Atlantic may be becoming more closely aligned, Louis-Fabrice observed that a difference in approach still remained between the two markets. Calling the US “cherry pickers”, he noted that the UK by contrast “is very open when it comes to vintages; they’re used to it.”

However, despite acknowledging this more open-minded approach from the UK, he added, “What you don’t like is the ‘global warming’ vintages.

Analysing France’s global export market performance, Louis-Fabrice, who is also president of the French Wine & Spirits Exporters’ Association (FEVS), stressed the ongoing importance of the US market, despite the current boom in Asia.

“Yes, China is the market of the future, but so far the US is far the biggest market by value.”

FEVS data released earlier this year placed the Americas as the number one export market for French wines and spirits in 2011, accounting for €2.1 billion of the country’s €10bn total exports.

However, much of France’s growth is being driven by Asia, which saw its total value rise to €2.5bn, still some way behind Europe’s €4.1bn total for the year.

In terms of other important emerging markets for French wine and spirits, Louis-Fabrice highlighted the positive impact “especially for Bordeaux” of a recent trade agreement between the EU and South Korea

In addition, he pointed to Brazil, with India strong but “more for spirits”. Given the strong historical links between the two countries, Louis Fabrice added: “Many people in France are also talking about Vietnam.”

As for the performance of Burgundy, he described his outlook as “cautious, but I think Burgundy should have a very good year.” Nevertheless, he added: “We’re not yet back to 2007 figures.”

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