What’s wrong in Bordeaux? Waiting for Bordeaux 2.0

“Bordeaux: The French are so proud of their wines that they name cities after them”

Wiet van Broeckhoven-
Bordeaux wines. Often blends of Merlot grapes and Cabernet sauvignon grapes.

The declining Bordeaux image

The Bordeaux wine region has been increasingly negative in the news lately. For example, I came across reports of a wine surplus that is likely to arise. The sale of Bordeaux wine in the lower- and middle price segments is disappointing and the new harvest is coming soon. According to Bernard Farges, the chairman of the wine association in France, the Bordeaux image is declining.


This is partly due to the frequent use of pesticides in Bordeaux. In the past year, this subject has indeed been in the spotlights in France. A court ruling was made a few months ago in which a winegrower was held liable for his employee’s health problems because he should have protected his employees more against the effects of pesticides. A commission of inquiry from the French Lower House also wrote an alarming report last year. In addition, studies were published by the INSERM research institute and also by a collective of troubled residents (CIMP) both demonstrating the link between the use of pesticides and health complaints. More and more Bordeaux wineries are therefore switching, either out of conviction or for commercial reasons, to Organic viticulture, in which more environmentally friendly organic pesticides are used. Chateau Latour and Chateau d ‘Yquem were already extensively in the news.

(Note: A number of traditional pesticides may still be used to a limited extent in Organic viticulture.)

In comparison with New Zealand and South Africa to give an example (95-100%), France (8%) is still considerably lagging behind in organic wine-growing. (Data from The Diva Network, an international coalition of wine distributors).


Another reason for the reduced demand for Bordeaux wines is fierce competition. Consumers can get wines of comparable quality much cheaper from countries such as Spain and Italy. The same also applies to the exporting country of China. There is fierce competition with cheaper Australian wines there. If you want to have the Bordeaux wine on the rise again, then definitely something has to be done to the price.

Taste of the consumer

Perhaps the most important thing for Bordeaux is to look at the preference of the taste of the consumer. The Bordeaux wines do not match the profile of current wine buyers. There is a great demand for easygoing, accessible, and fresh wines. Wines that have to be stored are not interesting for the majority of buyers. The Bordeaux winegrower is faced with a choice here. For decades consumers knew exactly what they would get when buying a Bordeaux wine in terms of the taste profile. On the one hand, it is an advantage to have such a recognizable profile. On the other hand, a sense of old-fashioned dustiness threatens. In this way, you will not attract a young audience and with it the future buyers. Bordeaux can choose to keep everything the way it was or go for less tough wines with more friendly tannins. This is certainly recommended for wines in the lower segment because unfortunately, they are not always a treat on the palate.

In the coming years, we will see what the winegrowers of Bordeaux are going to do and how innovative they are. In short: who or what will make Bordeaux hip again?

One advantage for us as a consumer in the short run: the Bordeaux wine will undoubtedly become cheaper.

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