Hit the road, Jack!By Ben Kennedy
Wine doesn’t sell itself – especially Bordeaux right now – so it’s time to go and see some customers for a couple of weeks.
A stop-off in the Rhône to pick some Grenache grapes and help out in the cellars at my favourite producer, Chêne Bleu, first though. I love to get my hands dirty and keep in touch with what’s happening on the winemaking side, and there’s no better place than in the fabulous setting of the Vaucluse, nestled under the spectacular Dentelles de Montmirail mountains, chez Xavier and Nicole Rolet. Their wines have been hailed as the first “Super Rhônes” and as well as offering my own range of Bordeaux producers I am helping them to distribute these couture beauties across Europe, a very exciting new departure for Rive Gauche Wines. Wednesday saw me in Switzerland for breakfast, back into France for lunch, dinner in Germany and then an overnight in Holland. Following a whizz through Belgium I’m writing this from the deck of a ferry, with the white cliffs looming into view!
So how is Bordeaux faring in these different markets? The French Swiss are still basically pro-claret but they are losing confidence at the top end, the general feeling being that very little 2013 en primeur will be needed, if any, while the Swiss-Germans have been moving away from Bordeaux for some time in favour of Italian wines. In Germany itself you really have to search for an importer who is still optimistic as regards anything but the top Parker-rated clarets, and the same goes in Holland: both countries have drifted towards southern French and New World as the prices in Bordeaux have steadily risen, and Italy is now joined increasingly by Spain as the preferred source of top-quality wines. Belgium is a better prospect for the travelling négociant, our friends here still swear by the traditional choices of the key French regions, as long as the wines on offer are up to date and up to scratch, and show great value for money. I was informed by a major Brussels buyer this afternoon that, in his opinion, good wines from the Bordeaux Supérieur appellation can be had for half the price of their equivalents from the Languedoc-Roussillon.
The coming week will be very telling as I call on some of the stalwarts the British claret-drinking establishment, although my list of appointments is not as long as I might have liked: you’d be surprised at just how hard it is to find a UK merchant prepared to give claret the time of day in 2013.
Rive Gauche Wines is a Bordeaux négociant which offers a range of wines for everyday drinking as well as Crus Classés and other Fine Wines. The company was established in 2011 by Ben Kennedy, formerly Bordeaux buyer for a leading St James’s merchant. The wines on our list are hand-picked on the key criteria of quality and value-for-money, and include numerous undiscovered gems that are exclusive to Rive Gauche.